LA PORTE, Ind. — The rearview mirror is a key component to safe driving, but what about for your business? Often, we are too busy and wrapped up in the day-to-day elements of running our laundries to take a peek at where we have come from. It’s no wonder, our days are packed: employee management, accounting and reporting, machine maintenance, customer relations and marketing, the list goes on. Plus, for some, there’s a full-time job in addition to the store activities.
However, as business owners, we have to evolve or face being left behind — that is, if we are truly building a business and adding locations.
I’m sure we all know owners who have been content to run their only store the same way since the “Open” light was switched on during the Jimmy Carter administration — same equipment, same management style, same way of addressing problems. The rest of us evolve. We learn from mistakes. Each of us, I am certain, could point to mistakes we have made along the way and just shake our heads. I know I have.
So, the rearview mirror not only gives us a chance to see how far we have come in this business as vended laundry owners, it also reminds us to be flexible and grow. This column is my list of changes I might make if I had those early stores to do over again.
STREAMLINE MARKETING AND OPERATIONS
Now it may seem counter to what many owners might say, but if I had it to do over again, I’d invest more into really good signage and be very selective with marketing campaigns.
All my stores are in prime locations with high visibility. A prime location is the best marketing tool. Good signage is the main tool for drawing customers in, and signage that pops to those driving by is my main marketing thrust.
In terms of management, I would have locked in on my processes earlier. While arguably this is really the natural flow of things, as we develop stores and expand our businesses, I would love to have had my operations manual crafted for employees at that first store.
The document takes a page from the McDonald’s restaurant empire, in providing step-by-step instruction on every activity an employee may be asked to perform at the store. I could pull someone off the street and, with that manual, they could do anything asked of them. It has simplified training greatly and ensures all employees are operating the same way. Having this document earlier in the business evolution would have been a huge plus.
And then there’s technology. If I had it to do over again, I would have embraced technology sooner to streamline management.
Management technology is worth every dime I spent on it. My stores are within a 50-mile radius, which means tons of traveling to keep track of operations. However, the reporting capabilities of today’s systems make management far easier and are a catalyst to expand further outside that range. Remote monitoring opens up greater expansion distances, and the addition of cashless payment systems will only make it simpler to manage from afar.
No doubt that any owner probably has a few thoughts on the “do-overs” they would like on that first store. Our industry, however, is filled with great people willing to share with those just starting out. This can help save store owners from making any big mistakes that could truly jeopardize their investment.
While there are few absolutes — a location has to have the right demographics, ample parking and visibility, and a footprint that makes sense for equipment layout — many other variables can shift by market.
I believe the key to my success over the last 15 years has been to build on the things that worked and learn from those that didn’t. If you are doing things the right way and providing great service, demand a higher price for your services than that store down the street. And don’t forget to embrace technology to simplify store management. Having data on store operations will make your decision-making that much easier, in addition to saving management time over the long haul.
If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.