SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As an entrepreneur in the laundry business, you’ve either invested, or plan to invest, a significant amount of capital toward opening a Laundromat. You want a high return on your investment, and the first step toward accomplishing this goal is to select the right distributor partner.
There are specific skills and experiences that a distributor should possess in order for them to qualify as an optimum partner. Making the right decision today could mean the difference between profitable outcomes and financial losses.
When choosing a distributor, make sure that the company has an established history of providing equipment and services to Laundromat owners, and is financially stable. Most company representatives will start their sales process with a download of the business’ history. Usually, if a distributor has a long history of experience, it is financially stable and will be there to support you long after your store has been open.
Besides knowing when the company opened, it’s important to ask, “How many vended laundries has your company sold or rehabbed within the past five years? You’ll learn whether the company is more product sales-driven or a full-service shop. You’ll want to choose a distributor with a lot of experience in building new stores and total rehabs rather than one with a focus on one-off machine replacements.
These full-service distributors will be able to offer you tours of existing stores, which will allow you to see their work product and talk to their clients about the business relationship.
Before entering into a contract with a distributor, make sure you know the full spectrum of services that will be available. Remember, you’re looking for a partnership – someone who can help you not only build your Laundromat, but also provide maintenance services and post-sales support.
Before you build a Laundromat, your distributor should conduct a full analysis of the market where you will be providing services. An experienced company will provide information on demographics, competition, location options and revenue potential.
If you’ll be financing your Laundromat, it’s critical to ensure you have the right financial partner. Distributors often have commercial laundry manufacturing partners that provide in-house finance programs. Their financial teams have decades of industry expertise and are dedicated to providing high-quality, laundry-focused financing. They will act as a full-service lender, with progressive programs, resources and services designed to support you as you build your laundry business.
The best in-house financing services control the underwriting process and, in many cases, can provide a decision within 24 hours or less. Some will process applications for loan requests under $100,000 online, offer low rates, waive prepayment penalties for full or partial prepayment, and require little or no security deposit.
A preferred laundry professional should personally manage your account from the beginning to the end of your loan, and online account management should be available at your convenience. Those making refinancing and acquisition financing inquiries should expect to receive personalized attention.
A distributor should have access to laundry design services if you require some assistance outside of your architect and general contractor. This service is sometimes provided by the equipment manufacturer, and is available to assist you as you prepare to build out your store with several timesaving design and planning tools.
A laundry design service can bring your vision to life, from the general layout of the space down to the details, including the location of tables, coin changers, service counter and seating. Designers can use anything from a quick sketch or a few rough notes to create a professional and polished preliminary drawing that envisions the future of your laundry facility. Top design services will develop a 3-D rendering to offer a clear, accurate representation of the height, width and depth of your laundry design, painting a clear picture of what your project will look like.
Using the specific model mix, designers can create an organized and easy-to-read utility schedule that enables you see at a glance the requirements needed for electrical, drain, gas, exhaust/venting and water, which better allows for pre-planning of equipment installation.
There are also opportunities to develop dimensional drawing packages that will help any architect, engineer or design-build professional prepare permits and construction drawings quickly and accurately, as well as a virtual tour option.
RELIABLE, DURABLE EQUIPMENT
A distributor should offer commercial-quality vended laundry equipment. Make sure you do your due diligence to ensure the equipment offers superior product design and is performance-tested, both in the lab and the field.
With advances in technology, there are sophisticated control platforms available that can help increase profitability with multiple cycle modifiers, time-of-day pricing and multi-level pricing.
Equipment should be backed by warranty. Top manufacturers offer a 10-year, transferrable extended warranty on cabinet hard-mount washer-extractors with 20-through-80-pound capacities that cover the frame, outer tube, cylinder, shaft, bearings and seals, and the bearing house.
You’ll want to select a distributor that has factory-trained service technicians strategically placed within its territory for the fastest response to a service or maintenance issue.
These technicians should have immediate access to commonly replaced parts on their service vans, and the distributor should have a warehouse stocked with genuine parts to provide immediate replacement service.
When you have a distributor partner, the relationship doesn’t end once the store is open. Your partner should be there to answer any questions post-sale, as well as provide advice on how to host a successful grand opening, market your services, increase profitability, and learn of expansion opportunities in the future.
Other essential services should include an in-house installation team, owner/operator training, and direct access to an equipment manufacturing representative.
Knowing what to look for in a distributor will help you select the right partner for your business venture. After all, you’re getting into business to generate a profit, and you want to make sure you maximize your opportunities.
So choose wisely. Do your due diligence, and don’t be afraid to demand excellence.