CHICAGO — No matter their industry, many business owners aspire to see their business grow.
Though business owners can use many different metrics to measure this, one way those in the coin laundry industry strive for growth is through the acquisition or building of multiple stores.
And being able to effectively manage more than one coin-op is an important topic, as evidenced by the Coin Laundry Association’s (CLA) educational session titled The Keys to Successful Multiple Store Management at the recent Clean Show in New Orleans.
With the various responsibilities that come with owning a coin laundry—from the day-to-day operations of cleaning and handling customer concerns, to managing staff and bookkeeping duties—how can a store owner ensure that he or she is effectively managing the multiple locations?
For many store owners who own multiple locations, having a checklist of things to inspect is paramount.
BUYING IN BULK
What is the most cost-effective way to budget for supplies?
For Dave Menz, owner of Queen City Coin Laundry, buying items such as vending and cleaning supplies in bulk not only allows him to save money, but also affords the opportunity to enhance a store’s overall customer experience.
“We believe in buying the best supplies and keeping our stores as clean as we can, but...we try to keep those costs under control,” he says. “We do that so that in other aspects of the business, like equipment purchases and renovations…we can afford to do those things so we can give the customer a positive experience.”
As with other aspects of his business, Bob Schwartz, owner and founder of SuperSuds Management, and a Speed Queen distributor, systematically buys in bulk and organizes his supplies.
He has established a central office warehouse where his suppliers ship items such as cleaning and vending supplies. From there, his staff and service crew are able to ship supplies directly from their own stock to whichever store needs replenishment.
“We know where we need products, so...we’re in control of it,” says Schwartz. “Once it gets shipped to our warehouse, for example, we can store this stuff, so we’re never out of product.”
EXPANSION CONSIDERATIONS AND BOOKKEEPING
With a coin laundry business up and running, how can an owner determine if it’s the right time or place to establish the next location?
Michael Finkelstein, owner of Associated Services Corp. in Danville, Va., addressed the topic during CLA’s panel discussion.
Owners can’t look only at the location of their next store in relation to proximity to other amenities, according to Finkelstein, but should consider the overall infrastructure of the building, its rent and what kind of debt they may be getting into.
“At the end of the day, you don’t just want to work for your landlord,” Finkelstein tells the Clean Show audience. “You need to see a return at some point in time. Be very careful where you want to expand...and make sure that you can at look at it to make that return based on that investment, and look at the timeline you can expect to recoup the investment.”
In terms of keeping track of the financial aspects of an owner’s multiple stores, John Henderson, owner of Liberty Laundry in Tulsa, Okla., spoke during the CLA discussion of utilizing bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks.
He explained that through such software, he is able to keep track of things such as turns per day, average daily revenue by store, payroll to gross percentage, and even spikes in the cost of operating supplies.
“The flexibility that that program gives me really helped me when I first started,” says Henderson. “With everything in there, you know where every dollar is flowing, where it’s coming from, where it’s going to, and its ability to generate reports based on that has really made managing the business [easier].”
IS IT WORTH IT?
Despite the stressors that can come with managing multiple locations, is it really worth it?
For Henderson, owning multiple stores “opens up all kinds of opportunities.”
Finkelstein believes that owning more than one location can safeguard an owner from losing his overall business in rough economic times.
“One of the greatest advantages of having [multiple stores] is that if your stores are diverse and you’re over a greater geographic area...it somewhat insulates you from an economic downturn,” he says. “You can minimize that downturn, so you’re basically not putting all your eggs in one basket.”
Schwartz echoes that sentiment.
“I think there’s more financial risk in having one or two stores than having 15 stores,” says Schwartz. “It’s diversification. People think it’s riskier to grow, [but] I would contend it’s just the opposite. I think you need to grow.”