RIPON, Wis. — The New Year is here and individually we are all setting personal resolutions. As a small-business owner, it is just as important to set business resolutions, or goals. These short-term and long-term goals are a vital part of ensuring business growth and measuring success.
There are several different categories Laundromat owners should consider when setting goals to create a well-rounded and comprehensive plan for 2014.
When considering equipment goals, owners can begin by answering one simple question: What keeps you up at night?
Start by prioritizing which equipment should be maintained and which equipment should be replaced. Analyze which machines, if any, require frequent maintenance, then consider if it is more cost-effective to repair or if it makes the most sense to upgrade the equipment.
Next, store owners should evaluate if their equipment mix is still correct or if the demographics of their customer population have changed, requiring new equipment. A reputable distributor should be able to work with store owners to answer these questions.
Distributors can also help store owners develop a five-year plan to modernize their facilities. By creating this long-term plan and implementing changes over time, owners can alleviate the burden of a major overhaul. For example, machine efficiency may no longer be up to par, leaving room for a competitor to gain an advantage.
A distributor may recommend an advanced control system, which can help Laundromat owners with revenue-generating add-ons and the ability to adjust and measure how efficiently the equipment is operating, information that can help decrease utility costs and increase revenue. New equipment can also provide longer warranties and features such as leak detection in valves and drains.
Finally, replace unappealing equipment. Tumblers may last forever, but today’s modern tumblers are quieter, more efficient and do not suffer from drums that blacken with age, which may cause customers to seek out cleaner-looking machines at a competitor’s store.
RENOVATIONS AND STORE UPDATES
Gone are the days of multiple loads based on colors and fabrics. Customers are now flocking to larger machines where they can combine loads to save time and money.
When planning a cosmetic change to the store, consider equipment placement. In the past, larger machines were hidden in the back of the store, with smaller machines located closer to the entrance. Today’s trend is to move larger equipment to the front of the store, making the machines easily accessible for customers who are willing to pay more to use them. Since larger machines increase revenue because of higher vend prices, owners may want to consider investing in additional large-capacity machines.
Store owners can also increase convenience for customers with larger loads of laundry by installing automatic doors; providing a plentiful supply of clean, easy-rolling laundry carts; and ensuring that the store can be easily accessed with those carts.
We are a society that demands constant, immediate information. Providing wireless Internet and multiple TV screens and channels is a relatively inexpensive way to improve a customer’s store experience and overall satisfaction. In addition to upgrading technology, consider reducing coin dependency in 2014. We live in a plastic-dependent world—install card or credit card equipment to eliminate a customer’s trip to the bank and/or the hassle of finding quarters.
Surprisingly, signage is not something that owners generally think about when upgrading their stores. Some Laundromats sport old, poorly lit and uninviting signs. Upgrading an existing sign can be as easy as refreshing it, or it might involve completely overhauling it in favor of an eye-catching, more energy-efficient new design.
Also, if 2014 is a year to renegotiate a lease, don’t forget to ask for additional signage space and more convenient designated parking.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in Laundromats executing effective marketing campaigns. Store owners are realizing the value in Internet-based marketing, such as social media and tablet/mobile apps. As customers are getting much of their information on handheld devices, it’s important to make sure that a store’s website is mobile-friendly.
In addition to a social media presence, store owners are seeing the value in e-mail blasts and in-store promotions. Put together a year-long marketing plan that utilizes 2-5% of annual income. Strategically schedule holiday specials, customer appreciation days, giveaways and e-mail promotions, and make sure to plan additional in-store promotions to collect customer data.
For example, a store owner in Florida gives away a bicycle each month. Customers are required to enter the store to submit their name, e-mail and phone number to enter to win, helping to increase the store’s customer information database and foot traffic.
Also, consider utilizing the multi-vend pricing option available on new control systems to encourage retired customers to do their laundry during slower daytime business hours. Historically, seniors may have done their laundry on Saturdays. Try moving this customer base to weekday mornings. By decreasing the vend price to incentivize retired patrons to switch their laundry routine, a store owner can gain room for incremental growth on weekends.
A highly successful multi-store owner once said, “If store owners take care of their employees, their employees will take care of the business.” This year, work with employees to increase training and customer service skills. Encourage improvement by creating incentive programs that reward your best workers.
Help customers to identify employees by providing uniforms. Encouraging something as simple as a branded T-shirt or aprons will help customers more easily identify store employees when seeking assistance.
Finally, include local community events in your plan for the year. Being an active member of the community can provide a significant increase in store recognition. One recurring customer is worth $500 per year, so consider handing out coupons or other incentives at community events to get new customers through the door. This can be especially effective in college towns during registration.
After finalizing the year-long plan, determine how you’ll measure success; this will, in turn, help identify 2015 goals. Aside from revenue, success benchmarks can include the number of replacement machines purchased, e-mails captured, gift cards used, and new recurring customers, to name a few.