A Little Help to Find Good Help

Jim Kell |

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W. Va. — Designing, building, financing and opening a coin laundry is certainly a major undertaking. It can take many months of careful planning, and more designing, working with contractors and subs, and, in the end, you should have a great-looking and profitable store.Then what?Your laundry must have good management to ensure continued success and, of course, profitability. How does management do this? It may start with hands-on ownership, but what about when you’re not there? Carefully chosen and well-trained employees are essential.PICKING AND CHOOSINGManagement must be diligent in taking the time to choose and then motivate an employees who have no vested interest in the business. It begins with good hiring practices. Start by writing a job description listing exactly what duties are vital for the job. The job description should include personal qualities needed such as a great smile, an outgoing personality, ability to speak English (Spanish as a second language can be helpful), a desire to help customers and understanding what “clean” means.There may be a temptation to rush the hiring process — don’t. Careful interviewing of more than one applicant (don’t simply grab the first warm body that comes through the door), and if time permits, a second interview will save management the time and expense of finding a replacement because “things just didn’t work out.”When hiring, give proper weight to personality and first impressions versus previous experience or job knowledge. You can train someone with a good attitude to do this job, but personality does not change. Remember, this is a people business. When customers feel valued and find staff to be courteous and generally pleasant, they come back.WHAT DOES IT PAY?Once you’ve decided on an individual, now there’s the matter of compensation. Management needs to know two things that factor into the decision on payroll expense:• What can the business afford (hence the need for a budget)?• What is the going rate for that service level in the area?Remember, if you pay an $8-an-hour individual $15 an hour, most likely he or she will still have an $8 mentality and thus, the same results but at a higher cost to you. And if  you can “steal” someone from a competitor for 25 cents more an hour, ask yourself why your competitor didn’t do something to keep that person.If the store offers drop-off service, an incentive of some sort may be a motivator for the employee. Based on productivity and results, the incentive should be a benefit to the employee only when there is a return for the owner.Some store managers make the mistake of giving the employee all the drop-off revenue — thinking of it as a small piece of the overall business. Most soon realize this is a mistake when the drop-off grows exponentially. Then it is difficult and damaging to renegotiate this arrangement.An incentive should be based on the employee receiving 10 to 20 percent of something their efforts generate, while the store receives 80 to 90 percent. The more the employee makes, the more the store makes. This is only reasonable because the owner has made the financial investment and has taken all the risk.MAKE YOUR SELECTION COUNTEmployee turnover is expensive considering advertising, time interviewing, hiring, training, uniforms, etc. What is also lost is the customer recognition that has already resulted between customer and employee. This relationship builds customer appreciation and repeat business. Again, consider this before rushing the hiring process and training.What about uniforms? Are they really necessary? Should management require them and provide them? Yes to all those questions. A nice T-shirt or polo shirt with the store logo and name denotes professionalism and identifies whom to ask for assistance. Providing the uniform guarantees consistency and lets management control the “look” of the store.Training is vital! Management cannot expect an employee to know what he/she knows unless they are trained. And training is relatively simple. Think about what you would expect and appreciate if you were a customer spending time in your store.THE WRITTEN WORDYou want employees to address their job with professionalism, even going as far as providing uniforms to portray this image to customers. So it’s only reasonable to create an employee manual to reinforce the store’s (and management’s) commitment to a professional work environment. It’s always beneficial to have a plan illustrating what is expected of employees and what they can expect from their employer.Putting instructions in writing makes good sense because the employee has a reference source, and management has a written back-up plan if things don’t work out.An opening and closing list for the employee is advisable for everyday duties, i.e.:• unlock store• set A/C thermostat• turn on all lights including sign• check for trash around entrances• check water heater• clean and line up carts in the proper place• check bill changer for proper operation, and• wipe down equipment and door seals.Careful design and construction are important for your laundry to look and operate as planned. But the management of pleasant and well-trained employees will assist the storeowner to maximize his/her profits and return on investment month after month. 

About the author

Jim Kell

Laundry Equipment Services Inc.

Sales Manager

Jim Kell is sales manager at Laundry Equipment Services (LES) in Berkeley Springs, W. Va. Kell handles OPL sales and the development and rehab of coin laundries. He's spent more than 30 years in the hotel, food service and casino business as a general manager, director of operations and owner. For more information, check out


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