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? (For me, it was mostly collecting the money, and emergency calls.)
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.
There were times when I had visited my mats for the day and was just about to sit down for dinner when an emergency cropped up. The call was rarely good news. It could have been flooding, a fire, loss of a utility, an armed robbery, or something far less dramatic such as a jammed change machine. I never appreciated the early-morning phone call from police saying that my mat had been broken into or from a fire captain getting me out of bed because there were some stores burning and my mat was near one of them!
I had no one to help me. No one in my family, and no partners. I had managers for a few years but found it hard to find a great manager I could trust with the keys to the machines. So I dealt with every emergency myself. Going on vacation was hard for me; I’m reminded of the TV repairman whose store was next to mine and had to leave his family vacationing in Spain to return to New York City after a break-in.
CRISIS EVENTS, AND WEIGHING PROS AND CONS
What’s a “crisis event,” you say? It’s an unplanned event that essentially shuts your mat down. For instance, any utility interruption, surprise inspection, serious crime, a fire, flood, or serious customer fight.
Some crises can be minimized, but some can’t. For instance, when you build your mat, it’s best to have your own utility access to the street if you can, rather than having your mat branched off your shopping center. If it’s the latter, then you risk getting shut down whenever anything goes seriously wrong with any other tenant’s utilities.
The very nature of laundromats is that they contain lots of equipment. This equipment can fail. If your mat has a total of 100 machines, there are bound to be machines failing frequently. You don’t worry if one of your 20-pound washers goes down on a Tuesday, but you might worry a lot more if your change machine goes down on a Saturday!
Let’s look at some pros and cons of mat ownership related to demands on time:
Mats offer the owner a higher-than-average ability to operate when the owner is absent at least part of the time.
Mat owners have less need for employee labor (which requires oversight).
Mat owners deal with hardly any inventory. While other retail stores scramble for supplies and products made scarce due to today’s supply chain issues, mats are mostly supplied by utilities that have so far been immune to supply issues (if not rising prices).
Some mats—usually in low-crime areas—are operated fully absentee.
Problems can come up at any time. There is no way around this. The mat is always there, whether you are there or not. It’s a public cash business that’s always a target for criminals. Being the owner of a cash business makes you a juicy target as well.
Mats are always at risk for interruptions. If you have employees, there’s always at risk of them quitting, stealing, or causing an issue that requires your immediate attention, such as a confrontation with a customer. Pray that the street your mat is on, doesn’t get shut down for a protracted re-paving project.
However, there are ways to handle some of these stresses.
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.
Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].