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Improving the Industry Roundtable: What Responsibility Do You Bear?

Implementing best practices, giving back to community presents positive image

CHICAGO — With the last calendar page flipping to reveal another year has passed, how would you rate your self-service laundry operation? Do you think it has improved, has gotten worse, or is about the same?

The self-service laundry industry, while well-established, is still subject to internal and external influences. The basics of your laundry operations are largely unchanged but there are factors at play when it comes to building your business.

American Coin-Op invited representatives from several manufacturers and distributors, along with some store owners, to size up the industry today compared to five years ago, to identify opportunities for stores to improve, and to establish the manufacturer’s, distributor’s and store owner’s roles in moving this industry forward.

Q: What responsibility does an individual store owner have to the vended laundry industry as a whole? Or are they responsible only to themselves and their business?

Brian BrunckhorstMulti-store owner based in California

It may not seem like one person or one company can make a difference in an industry like ours, but that is simply not true. Each Laundromat is a neighborhood business servicing the community in which it reaches. As store owners, each of us can help change the public perception, within those communities, of how our industry is perceived simply by implementing industry-leading best practices and giving back to the customers who support us.

Michael FinkelsteinMulti-store owner based in Virginia

I believe you have to serve your community and you have a responsibility to give back to both the industry and the community. … The better operators are the ones involved in the (Coin Laundry) Association … If the better operators are involved with the community and in the Association and the industry, then maybe there’s something to be said for that.

Gary GauthierNational Sales Manager, Vended LaundriesPellerin Milnor Corp.

Any business owner’s primary responsibility is to the health of their business. I will suggest that a properly managed vended laundry should be able to positively benefit the owner, its customers and the industry as a whole. Take care of the business and the business can take care of the rest!

Kevin HietpasDirector of SalesDexter Laundry

The marketplace is a very powerful thing. Owners who might be short-term thinkers or just internally focused might be able to have some success in the short term, but the market always seem to have a way of correcting such situations. If any business isn’t taking care of customers the way it should, there are other businesses that will recognize this, and they move in to take advantage. We think that being responsible to the industry and one’s community is not just being a good citizen, it’s also smart business.

Chad LangeSales DirectorMaytag Commercial Laundry

Operating a vended laundry in an efficient and friendly manner is one of the most important things an owner can do to create a positive perception of the industry as a whole. Owners are the lifeblood of the industry — their work with customers has a huge impact on shaping its reputation.

Beyond ensuring that their operations are optimal, getting involved in local and national laundry associations can help owners network, share successes, and find ways to provide a great experience for customers.

Don’t forget that a successful, attractive and safe laundry is an asset to any community. Laundries are, at their core, neighborhood businesses. A healthy neighborhood helps everyone. Owners can consider providing support to local charities, sports team sponsorships or sponsorship of a school team. Show your community your support and they will be more incentivized to support your business.

Cathy NeilleyStore owner based in New Jersey

In terms of what? If you mean in terms of industry advocacy; business tax policies, via participation in associations, then my answer is “some,” because those activities help all of us prosper.

Kathryn RowenNorth American Sales ManagerHuebsch

Each of us carries a responsibility to create the best image possible for our industry. With the activities through the LaundryCares Foundation and those of progressive-thinking owners, we are changing perceptions of what a vended laundry can be. It is possible to be profitable and also make a positive impact in the communities we serve.

Q: Are there any other comments you’d like to share about improving the vended laundry industry?

Andy WraySales ManagerACE Commercial Laundry Equipment

I know it’s the 800-pound elephant in the room, but given the pricing in our market vs. that across the nation, something must give. Operators here (in California) must start pricing their services according to their costs and replacement that will come down the road. Many laundry owners have become complacent and are slow to adjust prices with the ever-increasing costs in utilities, rents, equipment, taxes and their time!

Brunckhorst: As long as there are people who need a place to clean their clothes, the vended laundry industry will be around. It is ultimately up to us, the store owners, to adopt changes that will improve our industry for the better.

Finkelstein: Be aware of what’s going on in the industry, be informed and read trade publications, and be active in the industry. Get better and get involved. Focus on being the best you can be, and learn as much as you can from others.

Gauthier: A recent study asked participants to rate skills and behaviors necessary to be effective in the modern digital world. The top two items on that list were: an ability to embrace change and an ability to spot opportunities and adapt strategies quickly. We’re seeing some fairly fast-paced change in our industry right now and leveraging change for the better will take open-minded thinking and careful decision-making on the parts of all of us.

Neilley: Image change! Get some coverage in mainstream about the changing face of the industry in newspapers, social media and magazines. Let’s be in the conversation!

Rowen: This industry is more competitive than ever before. Those who embrace technology and put the customer experience at the forefront of their business will be successful. Those who neglect their infrastructure and don’t respect their customers will be left behind.