DENVER — Most all of us in this industry love technology. Each day, I get to see this firsthand in the new investors and vended laundry owners I work with. Networking, live machine data reports at your fingertips on a mobile device, and cashless payment systems, these are all technologies that are simplifying business management and are sought after by the entrepreneurs I deal with.
Now, the Clean Show in Las Vegas is almost upon us, and the latest and greatest in laundry technology will be rolled out in one grand event. Take it from someone who has attended some 16 Clean Shows, the sheer volume of new products and technology to take in can be daunting, if not just plain overwhelming. My advice? Have a plan.
I bring my entire sales staff to the event to collectively increase our learning about the industry and new products. But we definitely have a plan. On day one, I’ll walk the show and take it all in, carefully noting booths, products, and new technologies that may make a difference for our clients.
The next day, I’ll lead the sales team through the show, highlighting those key stops from my pre-walk. By doing things methodically, I have filtered the show down to highlights and ensured that, by walking through these highlights together as a group, we are all hearing the same story. As a result, we will speak that common message to our customers.
TIPS FOR NEW INVESTORS, FIRST-TIMERS
If you are working with a distributor, now is the time to set up a time to meet with them at the show and use it as an opportunity to also chat with the factory personnel behind the brand you are considering. Discuss plans and equipment mix. Talk with their finance folks. Check out and interact with the equipment models on display. Get to know the technology.
Pay attention to how your distributor interacts with members of the brand team. Remember, if you run into an issue, you need to know that your distributor can work closely with the manufacturer and bring them into the fold on your behalf. What is their support level in terms of parts, warranty, and customer service?
Visit as many ancillary services booths as you can at the show. This is how you uncover new ideas for how to pull in extra income for your business, while creating a unique identity for your store.
For years, I have offered the same advice to newcomers to our industry: change it. By this I mean, don’t build a vended laundry in someone else’s image. Create a laundry that is unique to your market. The heavy lifting of this task happens at Clean. There will be a ton of store owners at this show. Chat with them. Pick their brains and get ideas of what worked/didn’t work in their businesses.
My biggest newcomer tip if this is your first Clean Show? Do not make a buying decision in Las Vegas. Meet with your distributors and manufacturers. Take the information and observations home to digest, and then decide.
THE VETERAN EXPERIENCE
My best advice for veteran owners? Attend the show! Too many may assume it’s the “same old” and that neither they nor their businesses can truly benefit from a visit. If you come in with an open attitude, I’m confident every store owner can come home with at least one good new idea … if not a few of them.
I know many store owners are brand-loyal. If you’re one of them, I encourage you to make a point to at least visit the main equipment manufacturer booths to stay up to date on the amount of new technology hitting the market. You never know which equipment manufacturer may be bringing to market the technology that helps manage your store the way you want.
It’s not about which high-G, 40-pound washer do you replace with, it’s about how can you retool your store with the technology that will make it better. Be open to kicking the tires with sincerity. You can either hit all the distributor shows in your area this spring or see all this technology in one spot at the Clean Show. The answer seems obvious.
Even after 40 years in this business, I am still excited to attend the Clean Show. My staff and I always pull a wealth of information from the exhibitors, whether it’s in the form of cutting-edge technology or new ancillary offerings. Having a set plan, however, is an integral component to getting the most out of your experience.
Above all, don’t make any final decisions at the show. There’s just too much pressure. Focus on getting information in the areas your business is planning to address in the coming year. Examples might be equipment retooling, payment systems, ancillary items, or additional profit centers. Take your notes home, generate any follow-up questions you have since the show, and get them answered. From there, make your decisions on the technology that will help your laundry stand out in your market.