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Team Building in Today’s Labor Market (Part 1)

Finding, motivating employees to stay dedicated to your laundry business

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. — It can be difficult to find and retain good employees in today’s labor market, and the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) recently presented a webinar suggesting how laundromat owners can build an effective team and what they can do to keep their managers and attendants motivated and dedicated to their business.

A trio of laundry business owners described their operations, their personnel, and how they have gone about managing this most important of assets.

Patrick Dreis of Empire Laundry Service owns three laundromats and a commercial plant where his staff processes fluff and fold orders. Located in Southern California and the Inland Empire region, his service area includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties east of Los Angeles.

His laundromats are open around the clock, and he has about a dozen employees right now.

“At the laundromats, it is friendly, customer service-oriented people that, for me, are bilingual. Gotta speak Spanish and English,” Dreis says of his business culture. “And just gotta be a nice person. You can talk to people. I tell the gals just clean, walk around and chat people up, just be nice to people. It’s not rocket science, it’s not that hard.

“At the commercial plant, it is a little different. … We have a wholesale shirt business and the dry cleaners are quite picky about the quality, so I like to get people at the plant that used to work at a dry cleaner and have a little bit of experience in the business. We’re not doing dry cleaning, we do the wet laundry, but we do finish the shirts. We have shirt machines and presses and we do all the wash and fold, about 20,000 pounds a month. We do pickup and delivery. It’s a big process. It’s a lot more work than the laundromat is.”

Ed Ellis and his wife own 1 Clean Laundry. They’ve been in the industry since 2009. They sold their first store in Winter Park, Florida, to build one closer to their home in Saint Cloud. The operation does about 70,000 pounds of wash/dry/fold (WDF) each year.

There are three full-time employees, including a “lead” who’s worked for 1 Clean seven years. Ellis has his staff do their WDF work “right out in the front,” which can help convert self-service business.

“I don’t hire anyone with laundry experience … Those that I have in the past, never really made it out of training before I had to let them go. They bring what I consider mistakes or bad habits from prior laundromats … So, I like a fresh piece of clay, so to speak, that I can mold into my perfect employee, and they get along quite well.

“And when I do the hiring, I try to look for someone who's friendly, customer service-focused, a little bit on the older side that has some work experience, and not a lot of gaps in their résumé. I like to see longevity, not someone who’s a job hopper. That helps build the team.”

Tyesha Offiong and her husband own two A&Q Laundry Room locations in New Jersey and have been in business since 2015. Their store in South River measures about 1,300 square feet and the other in Runnymede is roughly twice that size.

They employ eight people, all part-time, and they have no managers as of yet. The usual upkeep of the laundromats and wash-and-fold customer service are the primary responsibilities.

“The culture of my business is more of a family-oriented environment,” Offiong says. “We try to stay as positive as possible and try to incorporate, or strive for, excellent customer service. But most importantly, we wanted to be a comfortable, family-oriented environment where (customers) can come socialize, do laundry … The team that I have is also along the family-oriented mind. We want them to be as friendly as possible. We engage with our customers. We have a lot of regulars that come in every day just to see who’s working on shift to socialize and keep up with the latest gossip, if you will.”


What do you do to recruit good employees, and then how do you onboard and train them?

Offiong posts ads online and uses social media and word-of-mouth in her search for workers. Sometimes, she’ll sit and chat with customers in her stores where she may learn that they or a family member are looking for part-time work and may be interested in her openings.

She does much of the employee “101” training one-on-one because she wants to ensure all operations and protocols are in place and everyone is on the same page.

“And after doing that one-on-one, I will overlap a schedule of the potential person with some of my team members just so that they can see different shifts, different customers, different time, different washable quantity, so they'll get a feel of what it's like on the morning shift versus an afternoon shift versus the midday shift.”

“We use Indeed, Facebook and the old ‘Help Wanted’ sign in the window,” says Dreis. “Usually, that combination will get me somebody that’s halfway decent. And I’m the one that does the onboarding and training because I want everyone trained the same way so that we’re all doing the same process the exact same way. And I know that they’ve got all the information when they’re cut free on their own after five days of training.”

Specific to identifying management prospects, Ellis says he looks for someone who strives for more.

“Has the motivation behind them. Asks a lot of questions. Wants to learn more about the business itself, and if they do have some leadership abilities. How are they talking to their other team members? If they are trying to coach them up, that’s someone I’d be looking toward. If they’re trying to put other team members down, probably not going to make out as a good manager.”

To find that needle in the haystack is someone that definitely shows more interest, is eager to learn and elevate themselves,” Offiong says. “So the more I can encourage and empower that, the more you can probably find someone that would fit that position.”

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion

Team Building in Today’s Labor Market

(Photo: © New Africa/Depositphotos)

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