GLENDALE, Ariz. — I’m a few years retired and speaking to you straight as a mat owner of 41 years with no allegiances to any manufacturers or distributors. In this column, I aim to provide the unvarnished version of my experiences, good and bad.
So, are you well suited for this career or not?
If you’re thinking that mats run themselves and you can just sit back and empty the coin boxes, then no, this business is not for you. A laundromat is a business that must be managed properly, just like any other.
First, you need to think real hard if this is something that you really want to do. There will be times when it can be stressful and challenging: a new competitor arrives, rent goes up, there are employee issues, you’ve been robbed a few times, flood or fire impacts the place, etc.
It helps greatly if you are dead serious about opening a mat, and not just playing around. It also helps greatly if you are the type of person who can take a few high-stress hits, then get back up and do what’s necessary to make things right again.
Here’s the good part: If you do your due diligence, come up with a logical business plan, learn everything you can about laundromats, find a great mat with potential and make it greater, then you can have many years of a nice, steady income ahead.
No matter what your personal situation, you’ll need some specific basics to help you have a long, successful career.
Small-business owners must wear many hats to succeed. Laundromat owners require a couple of more. Continuing what I started in the earlier parts of this article, you’ll need basics such as:
A Network of Backups — One person can’t do everything; you need others to help. Family and friends can help, but I caution you to choose the “right” family and friends. Sometimes they can make assumptions and take liberties that are counterproductive. Jealousy can also be a factor with some family members. Once hired, a friend or family member can be hard to let go without repercussions.
That said, if you have good, honest people who truly want to help, then you may have something.
A Strong Inner Drive to Succeed — This, to me, is the greatest strength any business owner can have!
If you have the hunger, the drive, the determination to succeed, then you will automatically do what needs to be done to make your mat a success! Whenever there is a setback (and there will be plenty), you brush yourself off and redouble your efforts. The fact that you are reading this right now shows at least some personal drive.
If you don’t have a strong inner drive to succeed, you may not want to get back up when a bad stressor comes round.
Time — In the beginning, your mat will require a lot of your time and attention.
Even after doing great due diligence, putting enough money into it, and getting help from a great distributor, you’ll still be learning as you go. Mistakes will be discovered, it’s inevitable, but hopefully you will have already handled the more costly ones before opening.
After you gain some experience, you’ll be better positioned to manage the mat, and therefore be able to spend more time away from it.
Good Health — Your chances of success are greater if you (or someone close to you) is healthy and agile. There will be quite a few times when someone has to go up on the roof, squeeze behind the washers, climb on a ladder, etc. If you have a bad back, do you really want to be lifting heavy bags of laundry?
Lots of Contacts — Being born and raised in New York City, I knew a lot of people there. I also knew contractors, electricians, plumbers, etc. If you don’t have a list of good contacts, start building one now, before you need to scramble for help. A good distributor can assist.
Understanding Government Regulations — There will be tons of regulations to follow when you build/renovate a mat, and rightfully so. Are you OK with them? Make sure you are aware of them before you pull the trigger. I believe mats should be built safely from day one, but will also admit that ongoing regulations can be stressful … and even downright dumb!
The NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs drove me nuts at times. Your local government may come up with violations you never dreamed of. How about getting ticketed for cigarette butts on your sidewalk only an hour after you swept? Or being required to sweep 18 inches out from the curb into the street (because all litter from passing cars works its way to the curb). No excuses that a car was in the way or it’s a windy day.
You need to be OK with a little government “harassment.” I reconciled any petty fines as simply a tax that I could not control. They were inevitable, so why get upset every time?
There you have it. I hope this column will help you decide if you have what it takes for a long and successful career in self-service laundry ownership.
Miss earlier parts of this article? You can read them HERE: Part 1 – Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].