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Spic & Span leads with the heart to transform its business

Spic & Span is moving towards becoming a cleaning technology business, with the launch of its proprietary antibacterial coating that disinfects and protects surfaces for up to six months. Such technology not only benefits the business, but the staff
Spic & Span is moving towards becoming a cleaning technology business, with the launch of its proprietary antibacterial coating that disinfects and protects surfaces for up to six months. Such technology not only benefits the business, but the staff hired as well, as they are able to work towards multiple career pathways such as being a cleaning technology coach. PHOTO: SPIC & SPAN

The cleaning company develops new technology to open doors for both the company and its staff

Mr Benjamin Chua left a promising career in the public service because he wanted to help a group of older, retrenched hotel employees find new jobs as housekeepers. He thus started a seven-person housekeeping service for service apartments.

Three years later, the social enterprise has grown into a building management and cleaning service that hires more than 50 people, mainly marginalised and vulnerable Singaporeans.

Spic & Span works with over 60 social service agencies to provide stable employment opportunities to ex-offenders, persons with disabilities, single parents, victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.

Today, the company is moving steadily towards becoming a cleaning technology business, with the launch of its proprietary antibacterial coating that disinfects and protects surfaces for up to six months.

The impetus for the shift? Mr Chua’s firm and unchanging desire to uplift the marginalised. The 30-year-old recognises that the cleaning industry is highly competitive. He highlights that there are over 1,400 competitors in the sector.

“My industry is one of the most undesirable industries to enter,” he says. “The bottom 10th percentile of income earners in our society usually comes from my sector, and I feel that there has to be hope, progression and a better quality of life for my people. What can I do to uplift and improve their quality of life?”

This simple question led to the development of the patented cleaning technology that not only boosts staff morale by offering new career prospects for the workers, but also breathes new life into the company by enabling Spic & Span to expand their network of business partners and attract new talent.

“With this technology, our scope of application becomes much bigger because our special coating (Speco) kills bacteria, mould and even viruses that cause diseases like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Now, we are not only able to do the cleaning for condominiums or offices, but we can also expand our customer base to hotels, pre-schools, transportation providers, food and beverage factories and even homes,” he says.

Under the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map, the Government encourages cleaning companies to offer their employees some form of job progression, such as from general cleaner to supervisor, operations manager or coach. But Spic & Span aims to do more.

“With our new proprietary technology, we’ve created multiple career pathways where a team leader can become a specialist and move up to become a cleaning technology coach and even have regional opportunities,” he says. “This introduces a horizontal pathway where they can transition towards a new business unit, rather than a sole vertical pathway where employees always have to wait to be promoted.”

Apart from better job prospects, his staff gets to earn more too. A general cleaner earns about $1,200, while a cleaning technology specialist earns $1,800 and above.

Spic & Span is moving about 10 per cent of its workforce per year into its new cleaning technology business unit. It also aims to equip 30 to 50 per cent of its workforce with the know-how on how to use the product.

“My staff get very excited, and our clients tell us that this is something that could propel us to the next level.”

This year, Spic & Span has signed a strategic memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a big player in the facilities management market — a company that is more than hundred times the size of Spic & Span.

Mr Chua believes many good things, such as the MOU signing, have happened to his company because his company’s “heart is in the right place” and the small steps along the way have created what he termed “an ecosystem of good”.

“There has to be a group or entire system of people that really believe in what you do, that have an open mind and dedicate themselves to a relationship with you, integrate and bounce off new ideas you may have to take incremental steps in the process of doing good.

“Our network partners are more than happy to help open doors, and it’s an eye-opener because the spirit of giving isn’t just about beneficiaries or donations. It’s for companies too. That is why National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC's) Company of Good is so instrumental in building this ecosystem where every company’s efforts in doing good is multiplied. It is also a driving factor behind why we are able to keep on the good fight until today,” he says.

The company’s strategic partners include raiSE Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise, the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union and NVPC.

Mr Chua also sees bright students wanting to join his company because they believe in what Spic & Span is doing.

“We find that millennials place strong emphasis in finding fulfilment at the workplace and our company has seen interest from brilliant undergraduates. The work that we do is something that allows us to attract good talent to the company, and this is very important for a small and medium-sized enterprise like us to grow,” he says.

Despite the achievements of his company, Mr Chua is not resting on his laurels; he continues to think of ways to increase the social impact of his business.

“I see us moving into the space of social services, to be a service provider for social service agencies, especially hospices, elderly homes and sheltered workshops. Many of these places require a higher level of sanitation and our social service agencies are spending a lot of money on disinfecting or sanitation. We want to serve them too,” he says.

“Our social impact is not just measured in terms of hiring or beneficiaries, but also in being able to serve the pool of agencies that are already currently creating and delivering social good.”