CHICAGO — It can be difficult to find and retain good employees in today’s labor market, and the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) recently presented a webinar suggesting how laundromat owners can build an effective team and what they can do to keep their managers and attendants motivated and dedicated to their business.
A trio of laundry business owners described their operations, their personnel, and how they have gone about managing this most important of assets.
Patrick Dreis of Empire Laundry Service owns three Southern California laundromats and a commercial plant where his staff processes fluff and fold orders. The laundromats are open around the clock, and he employs a dozen people.
Ed Ellis and his wife own 1 Clean Laundry in Saint Cloud, Florida. The operation does about 70,000 pounds of wash/dry/fold (WDF) each year. There are three full-time employees, including a “lead” who’s worked for 1 Clean for seven years.
Tyesha Offiong and her husband own two A&Q Laundry Room locations in New Jersey and have been in business since 2015. They employ eight people, all part-time, and have no managers as of yet. The usual upkeep of the laundromats and wash-and-fold customer service are the primary responsibilities.
How would you describe your management style, and what do you do to motivate your team?
“I view myself more of a coach rather than a boss,” Ellis says. “I believe a coach is going to try and develop the employee into the best employee that they could possibly be with their own skill sets.”
If his workers meet certain criteria—do good work, provide customer service, don’t arrive late, and don’t call off sick—they earn a bonus of 10 cents per pound of the WDF volume they produce.
“That motivates them to bring in more WDF and do a good job at the same time,” he says.
1 Clean also uses what Ellis calls a “love card.” The card with a $2 off coupon is attached to each WDF order and reads, “Your order was provided with love by...” and is signed by the employee.
“So when someone puts their name on a piece of work, it kind of motivates them to do a better job because they’ve signed off on it and we know exactly who did what,” he explains.
“I like to be the coach of the team and not necessarily the boss,” Offiong says. “I like to be fair, flexible. I like to encourage and empower my staff. I don't like to micromanage. That hasn't really worked out well for me. I like to give them the autonomy to work. I’m very transparent with them. I set expectations, you know, ‘This is what needs to be done.’ That’s right up front, there’s no questions or problems with regards to that. And I express my gratitude and appreciation.”
At his laundromats, Dreis entrusts the manager on duty “to run the place. In some sense, their shop.” At the WDF plant, team leaders are in charge of the shifts. There is an incentive program that generates end-of-month bonuses when comparing sales with labor costs.
“That seems to be the biggest thing, just paying people,” Dreis says. “Cash is king. People do a good job, give them some extra money. Let them do what they want with it. That’s like the universal thing.”
If you had just one piece of advice to build a strong and effective team, what would that be?
“My right-hand guy has been with me for about 20 years and … is getting ready to retire. So I know the next couple of months, it’s a big hole that is not going to get replaced right away,” Dreis says. “I know my life is gonna get busier but yet you can ask people to do stuff, but I like to do it with them the first time. … I’m not going to ask you to do anything that I can’t do, or haven’t done before type of thing. I’m asking you to do stuff I don’t want to do anymore. … Be nice to people and pay them.”
“My best piece of advice is never ask your attendants or your employees to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself,” Offiong says. “Once you show them that you’re willing to do it, and you have done it, they’re more inclined to be right on board and do things with you.”
“Before you can build a strong team, you need to improve yourself,” Ellis says. “So, never stop reading. Read books on leadership coaching. And the more you can learn, then you can help develop your team that much better. … Train your people well. Give them the tools they need to do the job correctly, and have your open door and listen to your people.”
The Coin Laundry Association frequently offers webinars covering topics such as marketing, store operations/management, and new investor education. Visit www.coinlaundry.org/events/webinars to learn more.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Eric Meyers, general manager of the North America laundromat/on-premises laundry segment for Alliance Laundry Systems, defines the term and explains its importance to laundry success.
Michael Finkelstein, whose Associated Services Corp. operates a large chain of laundries in the Southeast, discusses techniques for hiring and keeping good laundry attendants.
Carl Graham, VP of sales for distributor Scott Equipment, compares and contrasts the two approaches to store creation.
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