PASADENA, Texas — The vast majority of the vended laundry business is comprised of single-store owners. We’ve always been viewed somewhat as a mom-and-pop industry. However, many of us in distribution ask the same question: For how long? We continue to see current owners adding second and third locations to their business.

We are also seeing a change in the new investors coming to our industry. The retirees who came to us with a plan to open a store and run it to supplement their income are more frequently being replaced by well-capitalized new investors who are planning three to five stores out of the gate. With all this activity ramping up, particularly, as our industry reinforced its recession resistance as an essential business during the COVID-19 crisis, how should investors approach scaling?

BASICS UP-FRONT

The best advice I can offer to business owners looking to scale quickly is to simplify the process. Opening one laundry can be an undertaking; opening three to five just amplifies the challenge.

I recommend selecting a partner who can offer a variety of services. Having one point of contact that can help not just navigate the permitting process and do the installation, but assist with financing, layout and design, equipment selection and location analysis speeds up the process.

Don’t shortchange that final element in the list above. While scaling for many is about speed, I always caution that the key to success of any laundry doesn’t change with the introduction of doing several stores. The numbers have to work, and for the numbers to work, it’s about location. Investors want to make sure their partner is committed to both quantity and quality. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad location; take more time, if necessary, to find the right fit.

Another key component to scaling the business with multiple locations fast is developing a formula. This is why new investors may opt to become franchisees. The franchise model is engineered for fast scale with designs, décor, equipment, layout and a variety of other decisions already made. It also enables the investor to leverage an established brand that customers may be familiar with. It’s as close to plug-and-play as you can get, and for many, it’s the preferred route.

TECHNOLOGY

The argument against scale and large multi-store owners becoming more prevalent in our industry has been largely operational-based. Technology bridges that gap. Whereas before, stores may need to be within an hour of each other for an owner to effectively manage them, technology expands that radius to even several hundred miles.

So, as owners/investors consider scaling the business, their world is opened up, provided they are leveraging quality technology. Advanced laundry management systems that enable owners to gain at-a-glance views along with more advanced data are of paramount importance. Again, technology must be easily accessible and well-supported. We all love our technology … until the day we encounter a problem.

I recommend owners chat with other laundry owners about their experience and ensure they will be well-supported in the event of an issue. Equally important is a system that enables the laundry to continue to operate, if Wi-Fi goes down — thus the importance of system redundancy. Think streamlined — embracing one system, one ecosystem that monitors all facets, including payment and operations as well as an integrated CRM for marketing, makes scale even simpler.

Rewards programs and app-based payment systems should work in all locations. Renters frequently move several times before settling. Having a system in place that protects them from losing rewards points or dollars on their accounts will bolster their loyalty to your business.

The bottom line is that technology has advanced to the point that 10 stores can be as efficiently managed as just one. It’s important to select a system that puts all components of the operation under one umbrella — this is the foundation of scale.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!