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Staff Training in Today’s Self-Service Laundries (Conclusion)

Cross-training employees proves useful for multi-store owners

CHICAGO — If you own an attended or partially attended vended laundry, then you understand the importance of hiring and retaining good employees. They represent you and your brand on the front lines through their interaction with customers and their ability to keep your operation running smoothly day after day.

But attendants and other laundry staff aren’t born with those skills — they have to be trained.

And while there are similarities among all self-service laundries no matter where they’re located, a small-business owner likes to run their operation in their own way. Training staff is necessary to ensure that they perform to the business owner’s satisfaction and they’re able to run things properly even if their supervisor isn’t around.

American Coin-Op spoke with some laundry business owners and managers this month to learn how they go about training their staff.

SCRUB-A-DUDS, INDIANA

Wayne Meyer co-owns a pair of fully attended Scrub-a-Duds locations in Lafayette, Indiana, with son Chris and daughter-in-law Chris; day-to-day management is handled by the younger generation. Besides walk-in and pickup/delivery service, Scrub-a-Duds processes laundry for commercial clients, including the local Subaru automotive production plant and Purdue University. Meyer opened the first store in 1992 and the second three years later.

Scrub-a-Duds employs six people full-time and six people part-time. Employees are able to work at either store. They can work their way up from basic attendant to senior attendant and then to what Meyer calls a shift manager entrusted with collecting and handling money; Scrub-a-Duds currently has four.

“These are people who, through our training, have shown that they will take on (added) responsibility,” he explains. “If our employee demonstrates that they have the ability to be a shift manager, then we make them a shift manager. We don’t go out and hire someone specifically for that.”

Meyer worked as a management consultant before taking on laundry ownership, so he was quick to implement detailed guides for opening and closing the stores as well as cleaning them.

For Meyer, training is essential to communicate management expectations to new hires: “They have to know what’s expected of them. You can’t just hire somebody and say, ‘Here it is. You take care of it.’ They have to know up front what is expected of them. … How can you criticize somebody who’s not doing their job unless you let them know what their job is?”

When a new employee arrives, they spend the first week working with somebody else, he explains.

“They owe allegiance to the person that hires them. That’s typical. I try to have my daughter-in-law do the hiring because she’s there on the front lines all the time, while my son is doing other things such as repairing equipment and stuff like that.

“She does initial training during the first shift, then we turn it over to one of our senior shift managers, who goes through the rest of the training and what they have to do. Some people catch on immediately, others you have to give a little nudge along the way.”

The final step is working independently, understanding that management visits each store multiple times each day. Through the process, a checklist is used to indicate what they’ve been trained in. That information is maintained in their personnel file for reference later if needed.

Scrub-a-Duds’ training process hasn’t varied greatly over the years, Meyer says. The only adaptations have involved learning the functionality of new or upgraded equipment or meeting the specific needs of commercial accounts.

LAUNDRY WORLD AND OTHER STORES, SOUTH DAKOTA

James (Clark) Sowers owns four Laundromats in and around Rapid City, South Dakota, including Laundry World, Belle Laundromat, Spearfish Laundry and Dry Cleaning, and Sturgis Laundry and Dry Cleaning. Three of the stores are attended and offer wash-dry-fold and drop-off drycleaning services. Also, there is pickup and delivery service for commercial customers such as hotel/motels, plus a route service to the southern Black Hills communities.

His son, Randy, is chief operations officer: “Everything runs through him, either down from me or up from our managers,” Sowers says. “He is taking care of accounts payable/receivable and payroll with our accountant, repairs, and general business operations.”

Each attended store has a manager. There is an “overall” manager under Randy who covers operations in Rapid City, and the manager of the Belle Fourche drycleaning plant oversees the Sturgis and Spearfish stores.

Attendants, when trained, generally work by themselves, with possible overlap if they are busy, Sowers says. Each are considered shift managers, because he expects them to manage themselves.

“(Training is important because it’s about) customer service,” says Sowers, whose Laundromat attendants also check in and tag in clothes for two drycleaning plants. “Does the candidate treat customers the way they want to be treated? Do they understand billing and charging the correct amount for the service? … Understanding use of cleaning products, understanding care labels, inspecting pockets all need to be understood.”

As for the training itself, new hires are trained as attendants in a drycleaning plant for a week.

“If they can learn this, then we will send them to the Laundromat to be trained in operations there,” Sowers says. “We suggest they bring their own clothes and get them cleaned for free so they can understand pricing; the value of good, tight wash/dry/fold packaging; making sure packages are complete; our policies on WDF service, and to prioritize. There are store cleaning lists to complete as well and that is an integral part of training.”

He says they tell attendants “it will take several months to be good. But a full year to understand exactly what it takes.”

As the business group grew, it became necessary to adapt training to keep things running smoothly: “Where before I could visit my stores during a morning round trip, with the acquisition of the Rapid City location and tripling the number on the payroll, adapting was a requirement.”

Sowers says training and learning are never-ending in his businesses: “The secret is and will always be hiring good people who want to do good work. Who respect the effort it takes to get a business to the point where we can offer a job to someone.”

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.