By Jennifer Meek
For this series of blogs, we sat down with some of Charlotte’s team members to talk to them about their work and what drives their passion for creating healthier spaces. This week we had the chance to speak with Charlotte CEO Matt Strano about what drew him to the cleaning industry and what inspires him about the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career path up until now?
I was born and raised right here in Peterborough (which is where Charlotte’s office is), in an entrepreneurial family. It’s funny because my father started his own food distribution business at the same time that the Ambler family was successfully running their business, which includes Charlotte Products, during the 1980s and 1990s. It was a small town, so we were very familiar with the Ambler family and their business when I was growing up. I went away to school and worked in commercial banking and food distribution. Meanwhile, my father sold his business. I got married and raised my family in London, Ontario, and then the opportunity to come full circle and work in a family-owned business back in my hometown arose.
What drew you to come to Charlotte?
My background is distribution, which in many ways is very different from manufacturing. After so many years on the distribution side, I was motivated to be in an environment where we would be supporting distribution by innovating new solutions for customers’ pain points, investing in research and development and problem-solving. For me, after working on the side of the business where you don’t have control over the actual creation of the products, it was a really exciting opportunity.
How has the transition to the cleaning industry been for you?
The cleaning industry is very exciting, satisfying and essential. What I love about this industry is that everyone needs it. Plus, it’s never going to go away. And it’s at the root of people’s health and happiness in their lives. For example, if you become an investment banker and go to work in an indoor environment that is unhealthy, you’re going to be sick a lot, and probably unhappy at your job. We make it so people can do the jobs they want and be safe and healthy doing them. I also love it because everywhere you look, we have a purpose. Whether it’s the workplace, school, public spaces or healthcare, the cleaning industry has a role in that experience. And if we are doing our jobs and providing cleaner, healthier spaces, everyone has a better chance to succeed.
How do you define a healthier cleaning solution and how does that contribute to safer and healthier lives?
That’s the heart of this company. We wake up every day and know that the work we do is impacting people. One of the crucial elements to consider when you’re thinking about a healthier cleaning solution is process. While we are a manufacturer that puts out healthier products, we are also always thinking about process and how we can improve productivity with those products. The number I always come back to is 90%. That’s the percentage of any cleaning budget spent on labour. So that means 90% of the cost of creating a healthier space is also labour. If we can truly innovate to provide solutions that make the end user’s job easier and more efficient, that takes less time, eliminates tedious, back-breaking tasks, and that minimizes exposure to harmful chemicals, then that’s going to go the longest way toward creating a healthier and safer place for everyone.
Is there something you’d wish to see changed in the industry or the way people clean buildings that would lead to significantly improved health and safety?
We try to answer this question every day. We sum up our value proposition in three circles. Number one: For our company to be successful we have to understand industry trends, that’s understanding customer pain points and being passionate about working closely with our customers. Number two is innovation. When we innovate, we want to innovate best-in-class products that will perform and help customers with productivity savings. The third circle is the challenge of knowledge transfer. If we can do this, we’re helping the industry because we are combining our industry knowledge with innovation and we are educating the end user to use it properly. That is what allows those frontline workers to do the work to create healthier spaces. And that’s the most difficult thing to do in the cleaning industry, but also the key to making all spaces healthier and safer. Whether the knowledge transfer happens through simplified programs, processes or products that are easier to train on, if we can perfect that knowledge transfer then we can pass that value onto the industry.
Charlotte supports a lot of this work with the values of expertise, passion and trust. Can you talk about how you came by these values?
I have to give credit to the company’s founders, the Ambler family. They’ve set the culture here for decades, and that culture is ingrained in the company DNA. As we talked about earlier, our mission is to help people everywhere live safer and healthier lives, so when people join our team they must believe in the mission. When we are hiring people with those same beliefs, it becomes exciting to work together to innovate. We’ve been lucky because once you have that strong culture as a company, it’s easy for people to come on board, flourish and add value to the team.
Can you share a story about how you have seen these values play out in the work Charlotte is doing?
There’s one example that really sticks out. Last summer, we started our Charlotte Cares program where our team went out into our local community to perform deep cleans in places that didn’t have the resources to afford commercial cleaning services. Some of the places we cleaned were new Habitat for Humanity homes, the Good Neighbours Care Centre Food Bank, Canadian Mental Health offices, and the local homeless shelter, The Warming Room.
Our team and their family members worked hard deep cleaning these places, and it’s not always a glorious job, but at the end of the day, the clients’ happiness and joy was enough for us to see the benefits of this important work. We contributed to making their spaces healthier and safer, and when you see the power of that, it bonds the culture of your organization and team.
What are you most excited about for the future at Charlotte?
I’m excited about the team we have, the passion we have and the innovation we are bringing to the market. We are working on some new innovations right now that can significantly change the way people clean. When we talk about innovation we really want to make an impact—it’s radically changing and disrupting the way people clean, to better the industry.
This interview is part of a series of expert interviews we will be conducting with the passionate team members here at Charlotte. If you’d like to learn more about what we are doing or to connect with one of our experts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org