RIPON, Wis. — Choosing the right distributor to partner with is an important factor in the success of your laundry business.
A good distributor will provide extensive industry knowledge, durable equipment and reliable service; a great distributor, however, is a trusted partner who goes above and beyond to build and maintain a lasting personal and professional relationship.
Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate a distributor and ensure they meet your requirements will save you from the disappointments that can come with working with a less-than-exceptional distributor.
You shouldn’t—and don’t have to—settle for less. Great distributors are out there—here’s how to identify them and ensure they are willing and able to foster a mutually beneficial partnership for years to come.
COVERING THE BASICS
At the very least, a good distributor will have numerous years of experience at a brick-and-mortar location, which allows them to understand the area they serve, provides a storefront where customers can find them, and a home base that all staff can work out of together.
They will also have a wealth of industry and equipment knowledge, giving them the expertise to advise customers on viable store locations; Laundromat layout and design; demographic information and financing options.
However, a solid customer-distributor relationship is built on much more than the basics.
When separating a “good-enough” distributor from a great distributor, it comes down to their ability and desire to go above and beyond the standards.
A great distributor will also offer original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, several service technicians, a showroom of equipment and the ability to perform installations.
According to Karl Hinrichs, president of HK Laundry Equipment, Armonk, N.Y., a great distributor will have at least 10 years of experience, a proven track record of industry success and a portfolio of references and testimonials from satisfied customers.
When it comes to key personality traits, a great distributor is honest; technologically and industry-savvy; organized; and can multitask efficiently.
Great distributors can also provide performance and revenue estimates, evaluate sites and locations, respond with CAD drawings and demographic studies, as well as walk customers through an acquisition process.
A full-service distributor with plenty of staff is what you should look for if you desire a true business partner.
Independent distributors may be good distributors, but many of them work alone, without the support of the right team members.
“If a one-person independent distributor goes on vacation, there’s no one to cover for them,” says Hinrichs.
“They have very limited capabilities by not being able to handle multiple customers at once. Choosing a full-service distributor is important when it comes to choosing a partner that can provide everything you need for your Laundromat—beyond just equipment.”
Industry knowledge is another key distinction between a good distributor and a great distributor. When choosing a distributor, think of it as partnering with a laundry business consultant, rather than a salesperson.
Your distributor should be a strong and reliable source for industry knowledge and act as a resource at your disposal, able to provide advice and help you make intelligent decisions for your individualized business.
According to Marc Katzman, president of Metropolitan Laundry Machinery, South Richmond Hill, N.Y., experience is knowledge, and great distributors have plenty of it.
Great distributors also stay up-to-date on the latest equipment and technology by attending trade shows, visiting Laundromats and reading industry publications to maintain their expert status.
Hinrichs agrees, adding that distributors should have extensive knowledge surrounding the following areas:
- Selecting a location or building a store, including insight on nearby competition and vend pricing
- Designing the layout of a Laundromat
- Orchestrating all details that go into opening a Laundromat
- Technical specifications of a Laundromat
- Marketing insight based on laundry industry trends
- Operational knowledge on how a Laundromat runs
- Equipment, maintenance, ancillary services and store policies
- Other services available to the customer that come from having a strong relationship with the equipment manufacturer, including financing options and access to OEM parts
Check back on Tuesday for the conclusion!