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100 Years of Clean — Bradley’s Journey to Leading Washroom Tech

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

100 Years of Clean — Bradley’s Journey to Leading Washroom Tech

Jon Dommisse is VP of business development and strategy for Bradley Company, the 100-year-old global manufacturer of commercial plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, emergency safety fixtures, and electric tankless water heaters, now a division of Watts Water Technologies. For over 25 years, Dommisse has led Bradley’s marketing, research, international sales, and product innovation disciplines.

Jon Dommisse received his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of DeVry University in Ill. and continued his studies through executive education programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MIT. In January 2024, Bradley Company conducted its Annual Healthy Handwashing Survey in which over 1,000 American adults were queried about their handwashing habits, concerns about seasonal viruses, and their use of public restrooms.

Today, Jon will share insights into Bradley’s journey, its focus on product innovation, and the recent findings from the Annual Healthy Handwashing Survey, offering valuable perspectives for entrepreneurs in manufacturing and related sectors.

Jon Dommisse

Background and Strategy

SBS – Can you share the journey of Bradley Company over its 100 years and how it evolved into its current position in the market?

Jon – Bradley’s story begins 100+ years ago with an unusual invention that was meant to save time for factory workers. Made of concrete, the Washfountain ended up forever changing the way people wash their hands, giving birth to a company that would create hundreds of innovative products that solve customer pain points for years to come. 

In 1917, wasted work time was a major issue for Harry Bradley, owner of Allen-Bradley Corp., a Milwaukee-based manufacturing company. He noticed his factory workers spent too much valuable time waiting in line to wash their hands during breaks. He developed a fountainlike product design with a foot pedal to allow multiple individuals to clean their hands at one time — while conserving water and floor space. In 1921, the Bradley Washfountain Company was formed to take this innovative product to other manufacturing companies nationwide. The Washfountain is still manufactured today.

In 2024, Bradley leads the industry with solutions that make commercial washrooms more hygienic, functional, efficient, and safe, as well as comprehensive solutions for emergency safety and industrial applications. Our products serve the needs of architects, specifiers, contractors, and owners worldwide. Bradley is now part of Watts Water Technologies’ family of brands.  

Role in Innovation

SBS – With your extensive experience in product innovation, what key factors do you consider when developing new products for Bradley Company?

Jon – Bradley has a dedicated focus to problem-solving, which has led our company’s product innovation efforts. We spend time researching the washroom or safety environments where our products go, and we listen to our customers about what works well or what doesn’t work well. We want to hear about the biggest issues, hurdles, quality issues, pain points — whatever those may be. We do a lot of research and surveys and collect a lot of data. If we’re focused on a problem we can solve, that turns into new product innovation to help fill that void. 

We know that companies survive and thrive by being proactive in trying to determine what the market wants. Solving problems is bred into our culture. Bradley is full steam ahead in our quest for another 100 years of innovation to make public environments hygienic and safe. 

Market Research Impact

SBS – How has conducting the Annual Healthy Handwashing Survey influenced Bradley Company’s product development and marketing strategies?

Jon – Bradley has conducted the annual Healthy Handwashing Survey for the past 15 years. The goals of the survey are to underscore the health importance of good handwashing habits and provide insights for businesses that provide public-facing restrooms. Over the years, our survey has identified key trends, shifting attitudes, gender differences, and behavioral idiosyncrasies relating to these topics. Bradley has been a supplier of commercial handwashing equipment and restroom furnishings for over 100 years, and this survey helps us keep a pulse on handwashing habits and intel that helps us continue to innovate our washroom product lines. 

Survey Insights

SBS – From the 2024 Healthy Handwashing Survey, what were the most surprising findings about adult handwashing habits?

Jon – Among the most surprising findings is how much people skip handwashing!

While 89% of Americans say they always wash their hands after using a public restroom, we learned that 70% see others leave public restrooms without washing their hands. In fact, men see this much more often (79% men vs. 59% women).

Also, most parents believe their kids cheat on handwashing because they also did it as children! Only one in four parents believe their children wash as much as they say. Why? Because 63% of parents admit they “pretended” to wash their hands as children — just let water run (especially fathers, at 71%). 

As for public restrooms, it’s eye-opening to see how people avoid skin contact in these spaces. In fact, 70% use a paper towel as a barrier to avoid touching flushers, faucets, and doors. Others employ sheer physicality to steer clear of germs (46% use their foot to flush toilets, 34% hover over the toilet seat, and 29% open and close doors with their backside in hopes of avoiding contact). Women are significantly more likely than men to employ these actions.

Applying Survey Results

SBS – How can entrepreneurs in various industries utilize the insights from the Handwashing Survey to enhance their customer experience?

Jon – Our survey shows that people associate a hygienic restroom experience with health, safety and wellbeing. We learned that 68% of Americans had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the facilities. When asked the most important improvement they’d like to see in restrooms, respondents overwhelmingly said, “Clean them more regularly and keep them better stocked.” Next on the wish list is making everything touchless, followed by always providing paper towels — even if there are dryers.

While there are a variety of restroom maintenance issues that turn off patrons, the most common ones include clogged or unflushed toilets, an overall appearance that is old, dirty, or unkempt, unpleasant smells, and empty or jammed dispensers for soap, toilet paper, and hand towels. 

Beyond maintenance, lack of restroom privacy has also emerged as a user pain point.Based on the survey findings, 70% people believe that toilet stalls don’t provide sufficient privacy. The majority of Americans believe that eliminating gaps around stall doors or where the stall walls meet would help improve the sense of privacy. Also, 96% believe occupancy indicators on stall doors would be helpful. 

Adapting to Changes

SBS – In the context of recent global events, how has Bradley Company adapted its strategies to meet changing consumer needs and preferences? 

Jon – Like the iPod forever changed music and 9/11 changed air travel, COVID will forever change public bathroom design. People want clean, well-stocked restrooms that they don’t have to touch. In fact, in 2024, 80% of Americans say they are now more conscious of germs in restrooms because of COVID.

Based on elevated germ sensitivity, Bradley continues to innovate products and technologies to support a hygienic environment. That includes optimizing technology for touchless fixtures to ensure they have a reliable, smooth operation. For washbasins, smooth and nonporous materials with seamless construction, like solid surface and natural quartz, are hygienic, sustainable, and very easy to clean and maintain. 

Not only do maintenance indicators give facility staff advance notice when something needs to be refilled, restocked, or addressed in some way, but this smart technology also gives building occupants confidence in knowing that the restrooms will be regularly stocked and cleaned.

Leadership Philosophy

SBS – How has your MBA and executive education influenced your leadership style and decision-making processes at Bradley Company?

Jon – Through learning best practices from leading academic institutions, I’ve been exposed to executive thought leaders from top companies across the gamut. Collectively, these experiences have informed my strategic approach to business and commitment to innovation. Looking back on it, these connections and opportunities inspired my appreciation for and commitment to bringing new and fresh ideas to the company. This has helped my work at Bradley in terms of NPD, business development, and even the Healthy Handwashing Survey. It’s important to have an outside focus rather than continuing to do the same thing the same way. 

Sustainable Practices

SBS – With increasing emphasis on sustainability, how is Bradley Company incorporating eco-friendly practices in manufacturing and product design?

Jon – Bradley is committed to the environment and sustainability. Since 1921 Bradley has been designing and manufacturing plumbing products that save water, use fewer materials, and require less energy — all while providing user comfort and efficiency. We take pride in implementing many internal procedures recommended to reduce waste and conserve resources as a part of our manufacturing process. We also are continuously working to introduce products that count towards LEED credits. 

Many of our products are GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold certified as low VOC emitting products, ensuring that our products uphold the highest health standards for public buildings.  

Customer Relations

SBS – What advice would you give business owners on leveraging customer feedback and research to improve their services or products?

Jon – First and foremost is to keep your restroom clean at all times. Even if that means investing in an additional staff person, our survey responses tell us you should make restroom cleanliness and proactive maintenance a high priority at your business. Case in point: 60% of respondents say that they will willingly spend more money at a business with well-maintained restrooms and make a point to stop at a business they know has “good” restrooms when they need to use one.  

Second but equally important is to have touchless fixtures if at all possible, because 86% of Americans believe it’s important that restrooms are equipped with touchless fixtures. In fact, 70% are more likely to return to a business with touchless fixtures in its restrooms. The top touchless restroom features considered most important are faucets, flushers, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers.

Emerging Trends

SBS – What emerging trends in the commercial plumbing and washroom accessories industry should entrepreneurs be aware of? 

Jon – Fortunately, new solutions are available to support restroom cleanliness, infection control, and reliable handwashing for building occupants while optimizing maintenance and driving efficiency. For example, restroom products with maintenance indicators, IoT connectivity, and A/C power (vs. batteries) simplify maintenance capabilities. 

Bradley innovated the industry’s first and most specified WashBar multi-function touchless handwashing and drying fixture. This completely touch-free “all-in-one” handwashing design combines soap, faucet, and hand dryer into one component, making handwashing hygienic, accessible, and convenient.  

In addition to supporting maintenance and hygiene, Bradley has been focusing on developing products that elevate commercial washroom designs in terms of functionality, aesthetics, and uniformity. Coordinated washroom products, like our Elvari Washroom Accessories Collection, are helping facilities create complete and cohesive looks with carefully curated and matching product styles and finishes to visually tie spaces together.

Global Market Dynamics

SBS – How does Bradley Company approach international sales and marketing, and what challenges have you faced in different markets?

Jon – Our international sales strategy is driven by large US customers who have a sales footprint in foreign countries. They specify and/or buy our products in the US, and we ensure they have access to them in the countries where they do business. We have several product lines that have various international certifications as well as global distribution, enabling easy access for continued use of the products they trust and rely on.

Future Vision

SBS – Where do you see Bradley Company in the next decade, and what are the key areas of growth and innovation you’re focusing on?

Jon – IOT (Internet of Things) is charting a new course for the future in restroom fixture design. We’re seeing IOT’s influence in everything from water temperature to consumables to lighting and more. In terms of materials, we’re starting to see the trend moving away from stainless and laminates toward solid surface and natural quartz. This shift may be driven by the preference for a more natural aesthetic, along with greater durability, sustainability, and longer product lifecycles.

Advice for Entrepreneurs

SBS – Finally, based on your extensive experience, what key piece of advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs in manufacturing or related industries?

Jon – There is a positive ROI associated with providing good restrooms. I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure your restrooms are in good condition. Based on our survey findings, the majority of Americans believe a poorly maintained restroom shows poor management (58%), causes them to lower their opinion of the company (56%), and vow not to return or think twice about doing so (50%). 

Restroom maintenance may seem like a business no-brainer, but limited budgets and facility staffing issues mean that companies are doing more with less staff and resources. Nevertheless, customers seek out — and spend more — at businesses with good bathrooms while canceling businesses with messy ones. It’s incumbent upon business owners to prioritize regular restroom cleaning and make sure that everything is in good working order. 


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100 Years of Clean — Bradley’s Journey to Leading Washroom Tech