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.
SCHEDULING STORE VISITS
With a checklist in place, what is the best practice for actually making visits to each store?
“Probably the best advice I can have for [others] is I try really hard to make the best use of time management,” says Dave Menz, owner of Queen City Coin Laundry.
“There are some weeks I go to both stores in the same day,” he adds. “Some days, I’m working on another project and I don’t go to either store that day.”
For Bill Rhodes, owner of Rhodes Enterprises, ensuring that equipment is properly maintained helps to reduce the frequency of store visits.
“Keep your equipment running really well [and practice] good maintenance so you don’t have to go there a lot,” he says.
Rhodes also utilizes devices that include coin counters and scales, and cash counting machines, to help expedite the collection process during visits. “Have your money processing...as streamlined as possible,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to spend the money to get the right tools to do it.”
Bob Schwartz, owner and founder of SuperSuds Management, utilizes a unique approach to gauge how well his staff is tending to the checklist he has implemented.
“We go unannounced, so it’s a really good checks and balances when you operate remote stores or multiple stores,” says Schwartz about his store visits. “You have to do it unannounced, I believe. They can’t know that you’re showing up, because you’re never going to get an accurate evaluation of how [well] the store is performing.”
But because of the number of stores he owns, he explains that he is only able to make quarterly visits. Despite this, he is still able to gain a consistent perspective of how his stores are operating through the help of several staff members.
“Between our service guys and our collection people, and my managers, we’re in these stores all the time, multiple times a week,” says Schwartz. “They’re my eyes and ears, so to speak.”
Another strategy that multi-store owners employ to effectively manage their businesses is hiring effective employees.
Roger Idler, owner of Superior Laundries, operates five coin laundry stores in the Aurora, Westminster and Arvada, Colo., area. He’s had extensive experience managing multiple stores, previously owning four other laundries in the San Luis Obispo, Calif., area.
Currently, Idler has four managers who also serve as attendants at four out of five of his stores. He relies on their help to manage his stores whenever he has other obligations.
“[The managers] work the mornings during the week, until 3 p.m.,” says Idler. “And then, I have part-time people that will come in and work from 3 p.m. to close.”
In addition to his roster of managers and part-time employees, Idler also employs a cleaning crew at one of his locations.
Because of the number of stores he owns, Schwartz has a more structured process to how his employees are assembled. One general manager oversees sub-group leaders who are in charge of four to five stores in a specific region.
But despite the intricacy of how he manages his employees, the effectiveness of hiring good employees lies in empowerment and knowing how to delegate, he says.
“The whole trick to this [is] hiring good employees, empowering them to do a good job, but also learning to delegate,” says Schwartz. “It’s all about creating a culture in our organization that we want to empower our employees, so [they can] take ownership of these stores.”
TENDING TO CUSTOMER CONCERNS
There’s only so much an attendant can do, however, when it comes to handling customer concerns. “I really truly believe that as a business owner, you can have a great staff and you can rely on them, but at the end of the day, everything starts at the top,” says Menz.
That is why Menz has made the effort to post his cell phone number around his stores so that customers can have a one-on-one interaction with him whenever an issue arises.
“When I decided that our stores were going to be open 24 hours a day, I realized that it was cost-prohibitive to have attendants there 24 hours a day,” he says. “And if an employee is not there, and a manager is not there, [the customers] have to be able to reach someone. At the end of the day, the buck stops with me.”
He never turns off his cell phone, he says, and is willing to help a customer out, no matter the time of day. “If someone’s in one of my stores at 3 o’clock in the morning doing laundry, and they have trouble with something…and no one’s there to help them, I’m the person that helps them,” says Menz.
“If you’re going to run a business 24 hours a day, you have to provide customer service 24 hours a day,” he adds.
Rhodes takes a similar position as Menz in terms of his availability to customers. “My phone number, and my cell phone and wife’s cell phone, are on the wall and we get calls every week. Sometimes I might go four days [with] no calls, sometimes I get two [to] three calls a day…and I can always handle them over the phone.
“I always give refunds almost without exception.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!