Cultivating Commercial Laundry Accounts (Conclusion)

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(Image compilation: © iStockphoto/abadonian)

Bruce Beggs |

There’s room to grow as quickly as you want or can afford

CHICAGO — In Slow-Day Turnaround, we examined tailoring promotions and/or extra services to generate business when your self-service laundry business is sparse. One of the means suggested was to take on commercial accounts, i.e. doing the laundry for other businesses.

Stucky Sczotka, co-owner of New Wave Laundromat, Sterling Heights, Mich., says that his staff processes a few thousand pounds of commercial work each week to keep his wash wheels turning when walk-in business slows.

When the store didn’t produce the level of revenue he was expecting, and he understood that the average Laundromat’s four turns per day uses only a small percentage of its true capabilities, he began looking at commercial work.

After “trying lots of different businesses,” he and his partner, son Darin, found that plastic surgeons, massage therapists and party rental firms were the “best candidates.”

Making the decision to take on commercial work is one thing, but building the business is another. It takes time and energy to serve and keep clients and to sign new ones. American Coin-Op spoke to some store owners with businesses of varying size and scope to get a sense of how they manage and grow their commercial customer base.

‘FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED’

Robert and LeAnne Simard are the owners of Anytime Laundry, with locations in Onalaska, Texas, and Livingston, Texas. Offering commercial services at all three stores, Anytime serves local restaurants, fast-food businesses, dentists and a summer youth camp, just to name a few of its commercial clients. The equipment mix includes Maytag and Dexter washers and dryers.

It employs an attendant at each location, but more may be required during busier days. Commercial service is offered throughout the day, and is processed on a “first come, first served” basis alongside any self-service customers.

After 5½ years, Anytime’s commercial business accounts for 15% of its annual revenue.

The couple chose to pursue commercial accounts as part of their business model because there is “more repeat business through a commercial business,” says Robert Simard.

Anytime has marketed its service offerings through the occasional bulk mailing, advertisement through local RV parks, the chamber of commerce, local law enforcement posters, and school activities.

The business places great importance on referrals, Simard says, offering a “$10 coupon to the person that is being referred and a $10 coupon for the person doing the referral.”

‘STRETCHING THE SPACE’

Bjorn Wisecup opened the Laundry Basket of Norwalk (Conn.) some 4½ years ago with brother Eric Wisecup and mother Nancy Tar, and had hired its first attendant after about six months.

He noticed downtime on the attendant schedule when they were not processing wash-dry-fold business or cleaning the store. Using his connections with friends working in the restaurant industry in Norwalk and Fairfield County, he asked if servicing commercial accounts was a possibility.

In speaking with them, he found their chief complaints about the commercial services they were using were poor service and high prices.

With guidance from equipment manufacturer Dexter and distributor Metro-Chem, “I found the ability to adjust the cycles in my larger machines to be able to do (laundry for) a couple of restaurants … and then I started picking up hair salons, gyms, sports therapy, physical therapy shops … and then we grew to having a couple more employees and really stretching the space.

“I was lucky enough that there was 1,200 square feet adjacent. All I had to do was cut a door in. I set up an ironer and a couple of 180-pound washers to where we could do the commercial accounts. Then we pushed it harder and started seeking restaurants, solid accounts that have been around, well-established, and kept growing it slowly from there.”

While the physical “plant” is near the Laundry Basket, he operates the commercial business separately as “LBN Linens.” It represents 25-30% of its annual revenue.

“One of the dry cleaners we are partners with does wash-dry-fold accounts for local universities. They bring it in, we process it, and send it back out.”

While many smaller commercial laundry services process primarily customer-owned goods, Wisecup says LBN Linens owns the rental linen used by 90% of its commercial accounts.

He says he didn’t “push marketing” and has relied primarily on networking and word of mouth to grow the business at a manageable pace.

“If they want to start small, I would start with physical therapy, the spas, the salons,” says Wisecup. “If they don’t have the service, you can offer the service. I’ve actually just gone with no contracts, it’s my word and a handshake; everyone has my cell phone number.

“We built some flyers and were going to do a mass mailing, but you have to be careful. … You can grow as quickly as you want, as you can afford, or as slowly as you want and get comfortable with it, and that’s what we did.”

Miss Part 1? Read it HERE.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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