Effectively Managing Multiple Stores (Part 2)

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(Photo: © iStockphoto/ bowie15)

Bruce Beggs |

Multi-store owners take advantage of technology to oversee operations

CHICAGO — Developing a self-service laundry requires a singular focus on creating the best store for your community and its potential customers. But do you think you could maintain that kind of vision when you pursue Store No. 2? How about Store No. 3? Or No. 4?

Yes, adding more stores to your portfolio means more revenue-generating options for you but it may also place much greater demands on your time and resources. Indeed, you could find yourself spread too thin should you fail to recognize if/when you need operational and managerial help. It can take a lot to keep all those juggling balls in the air.

Depending on the scope of services you provide from multiple locations, it could require you to employ dozens of attendants and even hire managers to oversee things onsite. Based on interviews with four owners from around the country, standardization and technology may be the multi-store owner’s most important tools for success.

TECH SAVVY

Technology continues to strengthen a person’s ability to manage their business, and the multi-store owners polled take advantage of those tools as much as they can.

“It’s very important to me,” says Paul Hansen, owner of five Su Nueva Lavanderia stores and a Mr. Sudsy store in Chicago, of technology. “The card system allows me so much flexibility. The advent of the latest camera technologies allows me to monitor and see what’s going on just about any time. And there’s the internet stuff, as far as our pickup and delivery service, it’s been huge to have that. We offer a free shuttle service to our stores, a couple vans that do shuttle service, and we use software for that as well. Receptionist takes calls, shoots numbers out to the drivers and keeps track of everything.”

“It plays a huge role and most of it costs hardly anything,” says Brian Henderson of Liberty Laundry, a three-store chain in the Tulsa, Okla., area. “What we use is very cheap or free. … When a company grows, the needs for communication is actually like an exponential growth. … It gets a lot more complicated.”

He explains that Liberty’s adoption of technology evolved quickly but “didn’t happen overnight.”

“When we went from one store to two, I switched from using QuickBooks desktop for accounting to QuickBooks online,” describes Henderson, who recently stepped away from Liberty operations to focus on building his own company that provides point-of-sale systems for Laundromats offering drop-off laundry services. “Back in 2010, that was relatively new. That allowed us, whichever location we’re at, to easily access our books. Then we needed a way to be able to access our company files and stuff on the administrative side, so we starting using Dropbox, to be able to access them from wherever I was at. We used a free account for many years and now I think we’re paying like $100 a year for a terabyte of storage. That’s more than sufficient.”

Through file sharing and a password-protected website that he created using WordPress, Liberty managers can easily direct applicable files and correspondence to employees at any store in this way. Likewise, employees can log in at their store to view their work schedule, make time-off requests, etc.

Each store has a Wi-Fi printer to which each week’s work schedule is sent for posting there: “It’s such a simple little thing but it’s helpful.”

Other examples of management tools used by Liberty include training videos shared online and an equipment problem log that attendants use to note out-of-order machines so that managers can schedule service or repairs. Managers also have access to a separate log section where they can record attendant performance notes, etc.

“All of our stores now, the new ones and the ones we’re retooling, we’re going with DexterLive, which is a really good tool from a management standpoint,” says Key Ramsey, president of 15 Keyway Supersudz locations in Mississippi. “To give you an example, we have a manager in Vicksburg that handles Vicksburg and Natchez. Both my stores are on DexterLive, so when we have a customer sitting there and it shows an error on one of the machines for drain, a slow fill, or whatever, my son can tell them to move their clothes to the next machine and he’ll start it up on his iPhone.”

“The service techs use an app to organize service and open projects listings for each location,” notes Hank Walter, owner of 10 Whale of a Wash Laundromats (and three car washes) in West Virginia. “It eliminated the need to have a service ‘manager’ at least until we reach a larger stage. … An eight security camera system at each location in real time app allows the on-duty technician to be in contact with the customer and stabilize most issues by return call.”

In Tuesday’s conclusion: Understanding when it’s time to get help

Miss Part 1? You can 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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