Other Industries for Ideas

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Look to Other Industries for Ideas, Solutions (Part 1)

Maintain an awareness to take note of smart concepts

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Retail businesses and even some non-retail businesses have much more in common with the self-service laundry industry than we may think.

Great business ideas and solutions to problems are around us every day. Some of our issues have already been solved in other industries.

All you need to do is maintain an awareness so you can take note of them. Here are just a few that I’ve taken advantage of.


Want to attract and retain new customers? Just look at other successful retailers. What do they do? What attracts you to these stores?

The best ones put money into a quality image. Their building, parking lot, website, reviews, storefront, signage, sales, promotions, customer comforts, and great employees are usually the things that attract us.

We don’t always see that some of the things that attract us to their establishments could also be duplicated in our own mats. The ideas and solutions are out there. We just need to start recognizing which ones can be used in laundries.

Have you ever noticed that big, successful retailers will offer “sales” and “deals” several times a year? Why would they go through so much time, money and effort? Because it works. It creates excitement and motivates people to give the business a try.

The majority of mats that I’ve seen will rarely offer any kind of deal for their customers. Maybe we should rethink that. Just make sure that your basic pricing is not too low. A good friend once told me, “Paul, when a store offers a sale, that’s the real price.”

Many retailers offer “loss leaders” (a product or service priced below cost just to get people in the door) but most products/services are fully priced, no markdowns.

Have you ever seen a car wash that never had a sale? Not me. The ones I’m familiar with offer lots of promotional packages or deals on certain days: a ladies day, senior day, 25% off on Mondays, etc. And don’t forget about all the pricing upgrades/packages that successful car washes offer.

Have you ever seen a retailer park their truck in their parking lot, close to the street, to catch the eyes of passing motorists? Some will even hang a banner on the truck to advertise a special. That’s a great idea that might work for you all day long.

I’m sure most of us have seen stores that position a worker wearing a sandwich sign or holding a spinner sign on the closest busy street corner, hoping to catch passing cars. I think this works well if you are offering a really good deal. If you Google “sign-waving robots,” you can find moving mannequins for as low as a couple hundred dollars.

How about looking back in time to the laundries of years ago that offered cloth diaper service? Guess what? They’re still around! I bet there’s a nice niche market for that (if you can handle dirty diapers).


When we see the rare company that has great employees, we have questions: What are they doing? How are they doing it? And how does their hiring process work?

Do you know anyone who is happy with their boss? Yes, they are out there.

Trader Joe’s, the highly successful retailer of unique foods with over 500 stores, floats an anonymous survey twice a year asking employees how their bosses are doing. This obviously keeps managers on their toes, and shows employees that “corporate” has their backs.

Some businesses will create a fund that employees can only access after five years of service. Some companies offer free gym memberships to keep their employees healthy. Costco offers all kinds of perks for its employees.

Many companies issue policies indicating behavior such as sexual harassment will not be tolerated. This may help women feel safer working for you if they know the boss has their backs.

Many also give employees a paid day off on their birthday.

When I was still running laundries, I took a great idea from a hospital I used to work for. It posted the names and photos of the nurses at the nursing station to make it easier for families to identify which nurse was taking care of their loved one. I made up similar “photo boards” of my employees so customers could see who was doing their laundry.

“I want the woman with the black hair to do my laundry,” one customer asked.

I pointed to the photo board. “Well, we have five women with black hair working here. Do you see the one you like on our photo board?

“Yes, her name is Lucita. Thanks!”

The board makes it easy for customers to request a crew member they like or steer clear of one they may have a problem with. This easy identification helps workers who work hard to please the customer to receive tips and also helps keep employees in line for fear of being named in a complaint. Plus, you’ll no longer need to issue ID tags, which always seem to get lost.

So, if you know the rare person who loves who they work for, ask them why.


How does your local drugstore chain deal with burglaries? How do they prevent holdups? They probably use cameras, but what kind and how are they deployed? Are they hidden from view? What brands are used?

Do they utilize time-lock safes? Post warning signs for criminals in more languages than English? These precautions are common to all retailers.

What does your bank do to protect everyone? I know they place red dye packs in with a robber’s booty, but did you know that a lot of them now sneak a homing device in with the money?

I know a big national jeweler that designed its parking lot almost like a maze. It makes it harder to get out and slows down robbers hoping for a quick getaway, which is a deterrent to anyone casing the place.

If you have a fear that your mat is vulnerable to crime, the next time you walk into a jeweler, observe what it does to protect the store.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!


Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].