CHICAGO — A day doesn’t go by that today’s laundromat owners aren’t competing with other small-business owners to hire capable, dependable workers.
With unemployment rates reaching record lows in various locations during the last few years, the competition for workers has intensified. Even as laundry businesses offer competitive wages that are frequently well above their local minimum wage, they can find it increasingly challenging to attract and retain good employees.
Job seekers may be “all about the money” but the average small business can devote only so much budget to labor. It can take some creative thinking by the laundry owner to come up with ways to incentivize attendants and managers beyond their wages.
STAFFING TACTICS (CONTINUED)
So what kinds of tactics can a laundry owner use to make their openings attractive to job seekers and to strive to hire the best people available?
“It’s easier to keep good attendants when stability of having work and a regular schedule is always consistent,” offers Kenny Majers, who manages a small staff at his Majers Coin Laundry in the Los Angeles area. “During the heart of COVID when business was way down, my attendants kept their same hours. It was some pretty trying times during that period. But we came out stronger and better than before because of us having different perspectives.
“I try to compensate my employees fairly for the work I ask of them. I would never ask something of them I wouldn’t do myself. At the end of the year, they receive bonuses if the numbers exceed the previous year; the percentage they receive is larger. For that, (providing good) customer service is in their best interests.”
“We find that great company culture, leadership, training and compensation are the keys to success over the long term,” says Dave Menz, who operates the Queen City Laundry chain of four full-service laundry centers in and around Cincinnati.
“We have tried placement services, but we usually get our best employees by asking current good employees to recommend someone they know (who) would be good for our business,” says James Radovic, who owns two fully attended stores in the Florida communities of Jupiter and Stuart.
To staff her Spin Doctor Laundromat in Hamilton Township, N.J., Cathy Neilley offers referral bonuses for hire, coupled with sponsored ads online.
2ULaundry Operations Director Mark Vlaskamp says his company treats hiring like it treats marketing to customers, using the same funnels and communications that engage customers to engage employees.
“On the day before their start date, did they receive a digital orientation? After their first day, do they have any questions? After their first week, can they pass a basic pop quiz on standard operating procedures? These need to be automated or they won’t get completed. It’s too much for a manager or general manager to keep up with. We can support everyone by automating the process.”
“Be sure to include everyone to ensure your team is functioning well together,” suggests Travis Unema of Washington state's Brio Laundry. “Setting clear expectations for what they are responsible for and holding everyone equally accountable. Don’t play favorites or treat anyone different (except to praise someone!). Be proud of your team and make sure that customers know you appreciate your team. If a customer tells you that a team member was just awesome, get the team some coffee and pass the compliment along.”
“We have some benefits, retirement, limited health,” says James (Clark) Sowers, who co-owns four South Dakota laundromats with son Randy. “We offer a $2 an hour bonus over and above their wage if they make simple goals that once were expected just to get hired. But we try to promote a healthy culture and climate.”
And as much as you’re willing to sweeten the pot to land a needed worker, you also have to be ready to cut someone loose if things aren’t working out.
“Base wage plus soap sales commissions plus loyalty card commission plus shared gratuity on WDF orders plus Aflac insurance plus SIMPLE IRA plus phone bills are what I do to increase wages,” Unema lists. “Paid vacation days for team leads and managers. Take care of them and they will take care of you.
“And if they don’t reciprocate back to you by being on time, in uniform, performing by your standards, or (they have a) detrimental attitude toward team/customers, make sure they move on quickly. Don’t let a bad apple bring the team down.”
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].