CHICAGO — The start of a new year offers a fine opportunity to revitalize your coin laundry business for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Here are eight easy steps you can take now to simplify your life, lower expenses and pump up your net income in 2014 and all the years to come:
SLASH YOUR COSTS FOR KEEPING IN TOUCH
As for keeping yourself reachable, you’ve never had it so good. With your cell phone, pager, broadband Internet access and regular telephone service, you’re never far from anyone you want to reach (or anyone who wants to reach you).
Unfortunately, you’re probably paying a lot more than you realize for all that techno-communication. Contact your primary provider to see what bundled plans are available in your area. You may be surprised at how much you can save by giving all of your communications business to one company. In addition to saving you money, dealing with one supplier will greatly simplify your bill-paying procedures.
If you are already dealing with only one communications company, give them a call and ask for an analysis of your account. Companies are constantly coming up with new bundling plans and one of them might save you a bundle. But don’t expect them to come looking for you; you’ll have to ask.
GIVE YOUR ACCOUNTANT A PAY CUT
Sure, you hate all that paperwork and record keeping that have become part of your life. Don’t we all? Nevertheless, if you find yourself scrambling to find receipts and other records for your accountant at tax time every year, you’re probably costing yourself some real money.
Hopefully, your business records are well-organized, but that may not be true for your personal tax records. Certified Public Accountant Tom Normoyle, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., says that even the simplest of systems, one file for income and one for deductible expenses, can be a money saver.
“When clients present me with a shoebox full of unsorted papers, I have to charge them for the hours it takes to make sense of them,” says Normoyle. “A simple filing system that separates records of different types is one sure way to reduce my fee.”
SAVE MONEY EVEN WHEN PAYING BILLS
No one enjoys paying bills. That’s why we sometimes postpone that unwelcome job to the point of risking late-payment fees and blemishes on our credit reports. Paying bills may never be fun, but technology has made the task quicker, easier and less costly.
Nearly all banks are online these days, and most offer free online bill paying. Once you sign up and choose a password, you log on to the bank’s website where you enter the payee’s name and address, phone number and the amount to be paid. The bank takes over from there, either by mailing a check to the payee or by making an electronic transfer of the money.
You need enter the name and address of a payee only once. Each entry is memorized so that the next time you need to make a payment, you need only to click on the payee’s name and enter the amount. The system will enter the rest of the needed information.
You save precious time, the cost of postage—now nearly half a buck for every check you mail—buying checks, and trips to the post office. What are you waiting for?
SLAY THE CREDIT CARD MONSTER
Life as we know it today wouldn’t be possible without credit. However, credit has its dark side as well. Credit cards have been compared to drugs; they offer short-term pleasure in exchange for long-term pain.
Saying “charge it” is quick and easy, but that habit, uncontrolled, can lead you and your self-service laundry business down the road to financial oblivion. Once you become hooked on credit cards, it can be painfully difficult (and sometimes impossible) to free yourself.
Independent studies continue to show that the more credit cards you carry around, the more likely you are to dig yourself into a bottomless financial pit. Equally important, if your wallet heavy with plastic is lost or stolen, the risks of identity theft skyrocket.
If your wallet or purse is bulging with plastic, now is the time to relieve yourself of that hazardous burden. Perhaps you have one of those “reward” cards for personal use, and a separate card for business. That’s all you need. Dump the rest and your wallet will be bulging with the money you’ve saved instead of all those plastic squares.
Caution: Avoid cancelling several credit cards all at once as that could affect your all-important credit score. Instead, cancel them over a period of months, and be sure to keep the two cards that you have had the longest. The credit scoring companies like to see a long history of good credit performance.
DIG YOURSELF OUT FROM UNDER ALL THAT PAPER
With all the paper you’re required to slog through for business purposes, you don’t need to add to the burden by hanging on to reams of paper because of the worry that you might need it someday. Most of it will never see the light of day.
If that sounds like you, organizing guru Maria Gracia (www.getorganizednow.com) suggests some guidelines to help end the nightmare of out-of-control paper. Use the 4 D’s:
- Do it
- Delay it (File it in an action file or archive file)
- Delegate it
- Dump it
Open your mail right over the wastebasket. Immediately get rid of mail you don’t need, such as catalogs or advertising offers of no interest. Then, use the 4-D system on what’s left.
GET RID OF INSURANCE YOU DON’T NEED
The cost of insurance is a major burden for business owners these days. That’s why it’s important to cut through the smog generated by the insurance industry. In addition to business liability insurance, there are only five types that you must have: life, health, disability (as long as you’re working), homeowner’s and auto.
Life insurance on your kids is a classic example of insurance you don’t need (unless you’re raising a future Shirley Temple).
Never agree to credit life insurance or to car rental insurance. Your own auto policy or credit card will probably cover that base.
Once you’ve pared things down to those five types, look into consolidating some of the remaining policies with one company. That’s often a money saver.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
Never forget that a complaint from a customer can easily be turned into a valuable asset. Some years ago, a major retail marketing study revealed that customers whose complaints were satisfactorily resolved became better customers of the company than they were before the incident that triggered the complaint.
Some of the most successful companies in the world have been built on a foundation that revolves around the principle that customer complaints provide a valuable opportunity to build the business.
When L.L. Bean, founder of one of the world’s most successful catalog order firms, was starting out, he suffered what could have been a disastrous setback. Shortly after he began shipping his first waterproof, hand-made boots, complaints that the boots leaked started coming in from customers. Determined to fulfill his promise of customer satisfaction, Bean returned the full purchase price to every customer. Then, he set out to correct the flaw in the boot’s design. That was the beginning of the customer loyalty that helped to make L.L. Bean what it is today.
Sometimes, satisfying a customer complaint calls for measures that you may feel unreasonable. When that happens, think of the cost in time and money as an investment in your future.
Once you’ve sold yourself and your employees on why your self-service laundry business is the best choice for customers, it’s essential to focus your marketing efforts on ways to promote this image to both customers and prospects. In short, make customer satisfaction the hallmark of your business.
ADOPT A MARKETING MENTALITY
If customer satisfaction is the mashed potatoes, marketing is the gravy.
But keep in mind that marketing involves far more than an ad in the Yellow Pages and a sign over your store. Marketing is a complex challenge, especially for a business operating in a specialized niche such as yours. If you are to achieve optimum success in marketing your coin laundry, you must be willing to spend time studying, reading and analyzing your market and your competition.
Keeping your business healthy and profitable requires an ongoing marketing program. There is no other way. While they are essential to optimum performance, competitive prices, clean and dependable equipment, and clean stores alone won’t do it.
Marketing embraces all facets of your operation. To be an effective marketer, you must nurture and promote your business image, sell yourself as well as your business, and concentrate on making your store the best choice for discriminating customers.
While any time is a good time to adopt business-building strategies such as these, the fresh start of a new year presents an especially opportune time to strengthen your management skills.