MSN’s Interview With Incoming ISSA President Matthew Schenk

Matthew Schenk, president and CEO of Midlab, Athens, TN, will be introduced as the new ISSA president at ISSA Show North America 2023, scheduled for November 13-16, in Las Vegas, NV. Following is an interview with Schenk, who discussed his background, past involvement within the jan/san industry and ISSA, and his vision for the association’s future.

MSN: Please provide your background as it pertains to your company and the jan/san industry.

Schenk: “Midlab was formed in 1984, became an ISSA member the following year, and I joined the business in 1991 as plant manager. Since then, I have worked throughout the company in just about every department — from the lab to operations to sales to finance. I have been in a leadership role at Midlab for a number of years, helping develop a broad range of experiences. You learn to wear multiple hats while working at a family business like Midlab, which manufactures cleaning-related products.

“One area of business that we take great pride in, at Midlab, involves the company’s focus on innovation. That includes innovation through better chemistry, better packaging, and better intellectual property. We are also proud of the company’s sustainability initiatives. For example, Midlab’s entire plant is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. We work hard on having a sustainable business platform. Innovation, sustainability, and solid customer experiences are the pillars of our business.”

MSN: How long have you been affiliated with ISSA? What made you decide to seek the ISSA president’s post?

Schenk: “I started attending ISSA shows in the 1990s, and served on the ISSA board as a manufacturer director from 2011-2013. I also served on the ISSA Show Exhibitors Committee from 2016 to 2018. After the pandemic, I felt the need to again become more involved in helping the association and industry continue to grow.

“I am at a point in life where I feel my experiences and vision can be of value. I also believe change is an important part of evolution, and as our industry evolves I am happy to participate in that change. As the pandemic taught everyone, our industry is very important. It’s therefore critical to understand how to better harness change within the industry for a better future. ISSA plays a key role in making that happen.”

MSN: What personal qualities will make you an effective ISSA president?

Schenk: “As stated, I have gained much experience by serving many different roles at Midlab. I also understand that as an ISSA board member and president, it’s important to provide strategic counsel, which includes making sure we are following a set strategy and helping ISSA staff with that strategy.

“ISSA has an incredible staff. As president, I see my job as helping our association remain aligned with its goals.”

MSN: What, from your perspective, is the role of ISSA in the cleaning/maintenance industry?

Schenk: “It involves two basic functions: providing advocacy with the industry’s best interests at heart, while also helping to improve commerce. ISSA is the leading resource for the industry in terms of education, training, commercial opportunities, networking, and advocacy.”

MSN: Now that the COVID pandemic has been declared over, what lessons have been learned when it comes to proper cleaning and disinfection?

Schenk: “The pandemic proved that ISSA’s Value of Clean® platform was, and is, very timely. There remains a lot of value in that program, as well as the association’s brand promise, ‘Changing The Way The World Views Cleaning.’ The pandemic may be over, but there is still much work to be done.”

MSN: What are some of the most prominent challenges and concerns in the cleaning/maintenance industry today, and how can those issues be addressed by ISSA and its members?

Schenk: “I think a big challenge involves getting more people to truly value the importance of ‘clean.’ It’s also important to attract the younger generation as it relates to making a career in the industry. That involves the entire spectrum — from people running a distribution center to front-line cleaners.

“It’s important to stress that selling such products as cleaning supplies and toilet paper is a cool thing to do. People in our industry provide an important service, such as a school custodian who works to protect the health and welfare of students and teachers. It all goes back to elevating the importance of ‘clean’ in people’s minds.”

MSN: Please discuss the importance of ISSA properly reacting to ongoing industry challenges, changes and needs.

Schenk: “One of the areas that I am really pleased with, and have witnessed over the past couple of years, is the growth of ISSA’s advocacy efforts. Representatives of the association are spending a lot of time working on key issues and lobbying the government. The end result is introducing new ways to conduct commerce, produce better products, and speed up EPA registrations.

“That is a big reason why I believe every manufacturer in our industry should have a booth at the ISSA Show, and that every distributor and building service contractor attend — because such involvement supports an organization that is advocating for their needs at the government level. It’s an important part of our industry.”

MSN: Please discuss key events planned for this year’s ISSA Show in Las Vegas, including the association’s 100th anniversary celebration.

Schenk: “I am especially excited about the ISSA Big Bash & Centennial Celebration (6:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 14), taking place at the Hakkasan Nightclub, which is part of the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. It should be a very good event and a lot of tickets have already been sold. Many people from the industry will be there, providing a great place to network with customers and vendors.

“There will also be an ISSA Show Spotlight Session (9 to 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, November 14) that will pay homage to the association’s past, celebrate industry achievements, and provide a glimpse into the future.”

MSN: What does it say about an association that is able to remain active for a century?

Schenk: “Number 1, it’s been very well run. Staff members, over the years, have been true professionals and continue to do a really good job. Number 2, such longevity shows the importance and need for such an association. ISSA continues to serve a crucial role in the industry.”

MSN: What plans do you have, as ISSA president, for the coming year? What would you like to see accomplished?

Schenk: “The next wave of strategic planning involving ISSA will take place during this period. As a board, we will ask, ‘What do the next 10, 15 and 20 years look like for the association?’

“I am excited about the coming year and working with the staff to develop a strategic plan that will help lead our association’s direction over the next decade and beyond.

“Additionally, I would like to see more young people and individuals with diverse backgrounds join the industry. Plus, I encourage women and male allies join the ISSA Hygieia Network, which has done a phenomenal job advancing the careers of women in the cleaning industry. The more diverse and inclusive the industry and ISSA membership is, the stronger and more sustainable it will be in the future.”

MSN: Do you have anything to add?

Schenk: “I would like to invite all members of the industry to either join or renew their ISSA membership, attend the association’s different events, and take full advantage of all available ISSA training and educational programs. I feel without ISSA, our industry would not be as vibrant.”

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