GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some mat owners have a strong network of people they trust to help with running their mats. Either family, a good partner, or a great manager. This column is for those who don’t have people who can fill in to help.
There is a natural conflict of time between work and home, whether you want to get ahead in a career, or you want to get ahead with a small business. Simply put, getting ahead in our society requires sacrifices of your personal time. Being on top of your game requires even more sacrifice. After all, your competitors are also trying to get ahead, sometimes at your expense.
So where does one draw the line between work and home? Ask yourself, what keeps pulling you back to your mat? How do you deal with technically being “on call” 24/7, yet still have time for fun and family? What if you get sick, need an operation, or simply want to go on vacation? How do you find balance? It’s a personal choice. As the owner, you can tailor your time to suit your needs as long as you don’t risk neglecting your mat.
Starting out, expect to spend more time at your mat. After you’ve gained experience, you can loosen the reins and have more personal time.
In Part 1, I discussed the crisis events you may have to react to as a store owner, and weighing the pros and cons of mat ownership as they relate to demands on your time. Let’s conclude:
FREE UP TIME FOR PEACE OF MIND
Here are some things you can do that will help reduce the amount of time working on your store after you’ve “clocked out”:
- Keep on hand a good supply of parts, especially for important equipment like change machines.
- Keep all lint out of your mat’s dryers to help avoid fires.
- Keep your security up to date. Cameras are great, so make sure you have enough, and that your security system is top-notch and can’t be disabled if someone cuts your phone or cable lines.
- Hire and keep good employees. They are your greatest asset, so treat them well to minimize problems and turnover.
- Keep an extra change machine/VTM. Expensive, yes, but a little redundancy never hurt anyone.
- Keep a safe onsite. If you have a combination safe, you can give a trusted employee the combo over the phone in an emergency, then change it afterward. For a key lock safe, secretly stash a key in a well-hidden spot and tell your manager where it is when needed.
- Hire a good drain mechanic and have them clean your drain lines on a schedule. (For me, having all the drains cleaned out just once a year stopped all my drain backups!)
- Keep as much information and as many “tools” on your smartphone so you can manage your mat from a cruise ship, if necessary.
- Keep an emergency manual. Before you do something like take vacation for three weeks, prepare a manual that details instructions for your designee to keep your mat running while you’re gone. Make them either virtual or in book form. (All of my mats had such a manual. Employees could always call me but the manual helped blunt the need for emergency calls while I was away.)
- Always reward the person or persons—manager, attendant, family member, or good friend—whenever they take care of your mat in your absence.
DON’T ‘BRING’ CRIME HOME
Try to buy or build your mats not too far from your home. Obviously, as the owner of a cash business, you don’t want to put yourself or your family in danger, so you don’t want to locate too close, either.
I never let anyone know my home address, and I always took a convoluted way home from the stores to avoid be tracked and robbed in my driveway. I kept my work car in my garage, never on the street (in the event a person with bad intent somehow found out what street I lived on). I even blocked out my garage windows.
As for collecting while you’re on vacation, that’s your call. For me, years ago when I was running three mats before computerization, I decided to give a trusted employee the keys to my coin boxes and change machines – along with a nice raise to make them value the job enough to not do anything stupid. But I still had to find a way to verify I was getting all the money.
I could buy impulse counters for my washers, where a digit would register with each push of a coin slide, or wire a hair switch to an impulse meter to also count each coin that sent a pulse.
There was nothing on the market at the time to validate how much money was dropped into dryer coin boxes. One day driving to work, the light bulb in my brain popped on: “Maybe I can measure the time each dryer is on in between collections.”
So I bought small 110-volt-hour meters and wired them to come on whenever the dryer came on. Easy, and it worked! It required some simple math, but wasn’t that hard. The hard part was reading all the meters. Eventually, we did meter readings every two months.
All my people had already passed a psychological honesty and integrity test before working for me, which gave me a nice pool to pick from. The woman I chose had already proven herself many times by returning money and/or property to customers. She was even known for picking coins up off the floor and putting them in the register.
On the flip side, it’s said that longtime employees can screw you the most because they know all your weaknesses. And you can turn a borderline honest employee into a cash skimmer with just a couple off-the-cuff remarks that the worker may find insulting.
But I had a lot of employees who were very trustworthy. I would send in friends at different times to do their laundry, observe my crew’s behavior, and report to me. I couldn’t be there all the time, but I had ways of gathering intelligence. Sometimes, a customer would pull me aside with a comment about an employee. Years later, surveillance cameras helped me out.
This collection job required my most honest employee, but even at that, I made sure they had no other jobs of trust, such as being a manager. My managers had no access to the coin boxes. You don’t want to put all your trust in just one person.
When you need to be away from your store for whatever reason, you could try making a deal with another mat owner to fill in. I never tried that; I thought there were too many risks. But it might make sense for some owners. I had a good relationship with one of my direct competitors. He once had five mats, then sold them all and decided to do tub bearing jobs. He helped me out with repairs on a few occasions.
And you could ask your distributor to be on call while you’re away.
At some point, you need to take time off, either a weekend or a longer vacation. People need to be refreshed, which helps performance.
If you can’t get away—and even if you can—consider joining a gym to de-stress and stay young. Consider taking a nice yoga class to refresh both mind and body. After all, you want to stay healthy and vibrant so you can enjoy life at home, as well as be better prepared for the stresses that come with owning a laundromat.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].