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?
Throughout my career, I was approached by people from all walks of life who were interested in the laundromat business. Some just wanted to earn a little extra income. Others were looking for a way out of their jobs because they always dreamed of being their own boss. Still others were retiring from their careers and looking for a semi-retirement business.
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. I’ve seen people buy a mat solely as an investment and not plan on paying much attention to it because their “real” job was somewhere else. Those mats tend to gradually go downhill, but there are exceptions.
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.
Keep in mind that mats are a work in progress. Maintenance is extremely important. Just like a new car, your mat will begin to wear down from the very first day, so you know that you will need to maintain it over the years. It will require time, planning, and money set aside for future equipment purchases.
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.
I have to tell you, when you go through all the steps to get a mat open, and on opening week you walk in to see it packed with customers, it’s a thrill!
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. You’ll need basics such as:
Some Technical Ability — Do you need to be an expert in computerized, electromechanical equipment? No, but a store full of equipment can have malfunctions quite often. You can call a repair tech each time but you’ll burn through lots of money. Usually the issues are cheap to fix (even free in some cases) but you must know how the equipment works so you can easily and quickly diagnose and repair them.
Your distributor can help with repair classes/videos for you. Most distributors will offer free parts and labor for a specified period of time. This is when you should be “glued” to the repair tech when he/she comes in.
You can look up your brand of equipment online. Manufacturers often create and post repair videos online. You can also find lots of individual YouTube videos on repairs done by industry veterans. By relying on these or other sources, you may learn enough to not have to pay for every repair, which can be unsustainable.
Check back Thursday for Part 2!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].