That two-day, hands-on session was open to new purchasers and current owners of the On-Site drapery and upholstery cleaning equipment and was attended by an inaugural class of 17 students with either a window coverings or a dry cleaning background. On-Site president Ben Weller's goal is to establish a national certification program that would train students in wet or dry cleaning of every type of window covering product on the market today and to get a head start on new or developing products introduced by industry manufacturers in the future.
On-Site University is held at the company's headquarters, a structure that had been especially designed to accommodate the needs of up to 24 students working in six training bays. Each bay contains a sample of window treatments students are mostly likely to see in a customer's home: pleated shades, fabric vertical blinds and horizontal and vertical window shadings that feature soft vanes between sheer fabrics.
Opening On-Site University has been a dream of Weller's for some time. When it came to the hands-on instruction portion of the session and the students set off in groups of three and four to began working with the equipment, Weller stood back and watched for a minute. "Wow, I can't believe it's happening," he said.
The first, full day session was spent on step-by-step instructions for cleaning window coverings. Jeff Berkowitz, On-Site vice president of research and development, led the class. After 20-plus years in the dry cleaning industry, Berkowitz had been using the On-Site system for four years and was highly qualified and experienced to teach the best methods for cleaning each type of alternate window treatment presented throughout the morning.
During the lunch break students were asked to take a fabric sample swatch provided by On-Site to use as a napkin. Afterward, the class focus was spot removing using the same swatches, now stained with coffee, ketchup, lipstick, cigarette smoke, ink and even grease.
The afternoon session also covered draperies, swags and various top treatments before moving on to upholstery cleaning. The class wound up with a general question and answer session, although students were encouraged to ask questions throughout the day.
The second day of the course covered sales, promotions and marketing. Weller encouraged students to become the first to establish a cleaning business in their markets, and to go after bigger business. "Don't think big, think real big," he said.
Berkowitz covered the importance of creating a price list, estimating jobs, marketing using radio, newspaper television and direct mail, and lead tracking, often providing examples from his own business. On-Site provides its equipment owners with a multi-media promotions package that includes 30- and 60-second radio spots, flyers, in-store signs, ad slicks and a sales letters.
Weller encouraged the students not to give up too easily because window treatment cleaning is a service home owners are asking for. "You've got the equipment and now the knowledge to do the job," he told the class.
Upon finishing the course, students received a certificate of completion and a photo-ID badge to wear on jobs that recognizes them as certified cleaning technicians.
On-Site's first graduating class included students from California, Oregon, Missouri, Indiana, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Students from Australia and Asia are due to attend upcoming sessions. Anticipating concerns by prospective students about traveling to northern Idaho for the class, Weller has been negotiating a lease on property in the Norwich, CT, area for On-Site University's East Coast campus. He plans to make an announcement on the new facility this month.