MANTECA, Calif. — There once was a popular misconception that the vended laundry business was great because it required little time and effort on the part of the owner. We all know that’s not really the case. Success in this, or any, business requires effort on the part of the owner.
Today’s vended laundry is far from an absentee venture. It obliges owners to have a plan. They must be tuned in to operations to make tweaks to the way things run. Marketing and pricing alone necessitate the owner to be plugged in to how customers are interacting with the store and equipment. Time and again, others in this column have mentioned the “experience” that today’s modern Laundromat offers (and customers have come to expect). That requires effort on the part of the owner.
Bottom line is that owning a laundry is work. Now what if you want to, or already own, three, four, five or more? It’s all about scaling and that starts with processes, engaging today’s cutting-edge technology and the owner understanding it cannot be done alone; attendants, quality attendants that owners trust, can carry the weight.
TECHNOLOGY IS MANDATORY
With staff taking on a variety of tasks and having a procedure manual to walk them through other situations that might otherwise mean a call to me, I’m able to focus on growth and management. This is where it’s imperative to have systems that enable me to manage the store remotely.
The foundation of that is rooted in networked laundry equipment. The cornerstone to my management is logging into my Quantum system at 10 p.m. daily to look at overall sales, turns by machine and revenue by machine and identify any trends. But it’s not enough just to have a handle on the data if you aren’t acting on it.
For example, upon opening, I noticed my top loaders were getting the most turns. Using this data, I promoted my Horizons to spur usage of the more efficient machines and followed up by adding credit card payment systems on my higher-capacity washer-extractors. Today, my 40-, 60- and 80-pound washer-extractors are carrying the most turns. All this was the result of making changes from the comfort of my home office, miles from the store. This is a system I can scale as my business grows to multiple locations. Being able to monitor, make changes and basically run a business remotely truly is the foundation of scale.
Knowing the importance of all this technology to not only managing my business, but ensuring continuity of it, I’ve taken steps to ensure connectivity is not lost. At my Spin Cycle Laundry Lounge, I have two internet providers serving the location. The system is configured so that in the event that one provider goes down, the internet traffic is automatically rerouted to the second service provider. Obviously, the goal is to keep machines turning, so I throttle down customer Wi-Fi traffic to keep the store operations moving.
This type of dual-internet connectivity design will become increasingly important for owners of modern Laundromats who embrace technology and even more important for owners like me who will manage multiple locations from hours away. The key is scalable management.
While it seems like a simple item, I’ve also brought technology into my TVs as well. This was after tuning into my store’s camera system and finding that my attendant had not turned the TVs on. I opted to add Chromecast, which enables me to turn the TVs on and off as well as change up programming if I need to. Again, my goal is to leverage technology in a way the keeps me from having to be in the store to perform these functions.
This dovetails nicely with similar systems that lock and unlock doors, and Kasa Smart Plugs that manage lights.
For phone service I use Google Voice and direct the calls to a local telco-provided phone line at my business. Google Voice allows me to monitor incoming calls from my home, and I can listen to customer voice mails and make sure the staff is following up on them.
Scaling a vended laundry business and managing from afar can be done. Owners can, indeed, provide the high-quality experience that customers expect without needing to be in the store every day. The best advice I can offer based off my first store and pursuing this course with stores number two and three: technology is your friend; leverage it as much as possible.
Set up reliable internet connections with backup capabilities, in the event one goes down. Install a universal power supply that gives customers extra time to complete cycles if there’s a power failure (this goes directly to that quality customer experience point).
With technology on solid footing, the second piece of the equation is empowering staff to run the day-to-day operations. Get them to invest in your commitment to customer service, and processes, as well as understand what their priorities are. Once you have confidence in your staff, you are in the best position to manage the business and scale it to multiple locations.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .