Scandinavian Building Services


Maintaining a spotless reputation of excellence in the industrial janitorial service industry since 1956.
By Leah Kellar

Scandinavian Building Services

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Second-generation, family-owned and operated Scandinavian Building Services— a leader in retail cleaning, commercial cleaning and maintenance solutions since 1956 and based in Edmonton, Alberta— maintains a spotless reputation of providing the best client service in the business.

In 2013 the company once again received recognition on Deloitte’s list of the Best Managed Companies in Canada for excellence in Canadian-owned and managed companies with revenues over $10-million. Scandinavian has come a long way in its growth since the Hay family took over the helm from the original partnership of owners, including the Scandinavian company founder interested in selling the small business. CEO, Terry Hay bought the business that he recognized to have a proud history and stellar service offering for growth and took it from a small $300,000-revenue-per-year producing company into the multi-millions annually with more than 2000 employees.

“What we have really built is a culture of service with the application of our innovative programs. That is one of the biggest things that gave us the impetus to apply and to be fortunate enough to receive this national recognition,” said CEO, Terry Hay of Scandinavian’s place on the list of Best Managed Companies for the past year.

Scandinavian’s success in the industry really took off when Hay’s career took an unexpected turn in May of 1982 from the property management business to the janitorial and industrial cleaning industry. Routinely, Hay noticed problems in the quality of industrial cleaning services upon entering buildings as a property manager at that time. He recognized a need for better quality systems solutions in the janitorial industry overall, and that a change in protocol would be required to find solutions, rather than just continuing to sweep the problems under the carpet.

“It became a real change in the protocol of our organization and in the industry to say, ‘How do we fix it? Scandinavian became open to understanding what the problem and concerns were instead of sweeping them under the carpet in hopes no one would notice.” said Hay.

The family hasn’t wasted any time in developing these solutions. Scandinavian cleaning services fall into six categories: retail, public sector, commercial, construction cleanup, arts venues, sports & entertainment venues, and special services. Primarily servicing the retail industry, the company provides a wide range of services that can be customized to serve a client’s specific needs such as, window cleaning, pressure washing, high dusting, concrete polishing covering all types of flooring (including hardwood), all kinds of carpet, retrofit cleaning, shopping cart cleaning, bulb replacement, litter pickup, day porter services, and mold restoration. Services it provides in the category of special services include, but are not limited to: pressure washing, parking lot maintenance, disaster recovery, high dusting, litter pickup, steam cleaning, snow removal, stone care and restoration, construction cleanup, window cleaning and yard cleaning.

“There’s really not a lot that we don’t provide,” said Hay. However, the company does not provide services beyond janitorial and maintenance services, such as plumbing or electrical work.

The strongest sector where Scandinavian receives most of its business is in retail. The company started in the early 80’s by primarily working in downtown high rises, which required cleaning services during standard hours, generally between 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with weekends off. Hay discovered that there was more business and thus a stronger profit margin in taking on the retail sector, which he says is the hardest sector because of the hours and high volume of traffic. Cleaning services are required seven days a week, 24 hours a day. There were not many companies servicing the retail sector in those days, now however, the market is flooded with competition. Developing effective systems standards requiring new technologies is key to staying ahead of the pack. Scandinavian is able to stay innovative with a new control system and a quality assurance system that can control the inspections and the level and quality of cleaning necessary within a building.

To meet the unique demands of cleaning in the retail industry, Scandinavian designed an innovative quality assurance program more than 15 years ago calledScandiTRAC, which is a system that grades the cleanliness of a store. All inspections are completed and confirmed with an on-duty manager and Scandinavian operations manager. ScandiTRAC tells the client how thoroughly the store was cleaned by a percentage system that also indicates improvements and confirms cleaning performance. The customer is provided this information via historical inspection records with easy to read summary charts, which represent inspection history and satisfaction ratings of job sites. This system also provides customers with real time status updates on work orders, along with the ability to review completed work under order requests.

Another innovative quality control program that works hand-in-hand with ScandiTRAC is the 10-1-24 promise, which means that if anything is missed, or something was not cleaned to the client’s satisfaction, then the client can inform Scandinavian immediately through Scandi-TRAC and a Scandinavian representative will get back to the client within 10 minutes, provide a solution within one hour of receiving the notification and have the problem fixed within 24 hours.

“It’s been tried by others and we’re still the only group that does this kind of system because it’s a culture that’s been built up throughout our organization. Our national average is 4 minutes. So if there’s a client that calls in and has a problem, within four minutes we respond so that they know we’re looking after them,” said Hay.

Scandinavian is a leader in using sustainable environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and products that meet quality industry standards. With CGP certification, all of Scandinavians cleaning products pass all rigorous investigation and testing to ensure that they are environmentally friendly. To take their green program initiative a step further, Scandinavian is in the process of testing ozone to literally clean effectively with water only. The company is currently testing it on different job sites, and so far it is working very well. Scandinavian was also one of the first cleaning and maintenance companies primarily serving the retail industry to have an independent safety professional on staff to monitor and examine any product or chemical before it is used in Scandinavian cleaning. Besides innovation, Hay says that Scandinavian owes much of it’s success in part to being a family business with his son, Russell Hay, as president, his daughter Melanie as director of human resources and his daughter Candace who manages safety insurance.

“I’m very blessed to have a family business with his wife Wilda and three children who are interested in the organization and supporting it to bring it all together,” said Hay.

He also has a great reputation of service, not only with clients, but employees to thank.

“The way our organization is set up is that we partner with employees so that they can end up on a project or two making a very strong and comfortable living, and have consistent time at home with their families,” said Hay. “We get a lot of people coming in to talk to us here in Alberta for that reason, even though it is a competitive environment with the oil sands being here. Our reputation helps us dramatically in that respect.”

Scandinavian has one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry and the recent recognition as being a Best Managed Canadian company has helped to attract new employees and maintain loyal relations with people who have worked for the company for years. Scandinavian Building Services has locations in B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and the Maritimes, head office residing in Edmonton, the company is now looking to expand into Quebec and just across the United States border. The short-term plan for Scandinavian is to continue to strengthen its training, and quality control systems programs. Not a company to rest on its laurels, Hay’s attitude defines the company’s humble philosophy of continuously improving, “We’re only as good as the last night’s clean.”