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Going the Commercial Route (Part 3 of 3)

Paul Partyka |

When it comes to generating extra revenue, one’s thoughts often turn to extra services. Have you ever considered taking on commercial accounts? Like anything else, there are pros and cons, but operators are doing it, and with some success, according to recent surveys and interviews.I think it’s always best to hear from the people who are doing this type of work to get a better feel for the challenges and benefits.SMALL OPERATIONS HAVE AN EDGEJim Fingerman can handle commercial accounts on two levels — he operates Pilgrim Cleaners, a self-service laundry/drycleaner, in Richfield, Minn. The two-story business is about 9,000 square feet. On the laundry side, the largest equipment is two 80-pound washers and five 75-pound dryers.Fingerman handles a good number of towels and dentist’s coats (the coats are drycleaned). He admits having some good fortune — some of his business just came to him. He credits the appearance of his large store with attracting attention. He also says that “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”If you’re investigating the commercial world, keep in mind that the large commercial laundries have set things up carefully, he says. “It’s difficult to get hold of any of the business geared toward them. People are locked into contracts with commercial laundries. To get out of those contracts, people really have to be motivated.”Recently, Fingerman launched a website that mentions his business is seeking commercial accounts.Designated workers handle the commercial work. “I have a person in charge of [the commercial work] who also works the counter. I don’t just let anyone oversee this, although there are aspects of the commercial work (such as folding towels) that can be handled by anyone. This way, you get better value for their time.”Deadlines exist, he says, but since he’s been doing commercial work for 12 years, deadlines are no longer a major concern. “However, anytime you take on a project, you always worry about what you have got yourself into. You can’t know all the variables at once. There are time constraints that have to be dealt with.”Soliciting business can take different forms. “Get more out of your existing customer base. Talk with customers. Many of them are my friends. Take an interest in them, and you can stumble across business leads.“A good friend came in about seven or eight years ago, and saw me washing car mats. He asked, ‘Do you wash car mats?’ And then he asked, ‘How would anyone know this?’ An advertising program was born from this.”If you believe commercial accounts are the way to go, ask for a sample or two from a potential client to see if you can handle the work rather than boasting that you can handle everything, he advises. “We turned down accounts because we couldn’t handle some things. It can take a lot of work to process some garments. Realize what you are good at, and what your limitations are. And make sure that your work is satisfactory with what the client wants. Once we know what we can do, finding the price-value ratio that works is the next step.”Fingerman is optimistic about the future of commercial accounts. “My commercial customers are getting smarter every day. They investigate alternatives in the marketplace. The economy will force them to look things over, and they may take a closer look at laundries. They may want better relationships and better value than they are getting from large commercial firms.“Small guys have the advantage of providing quality and service that can’t be easily obtained on a large scale.”Click here for Part 1.Click here for Part 2. 

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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