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Working on the Outside

Howard Scott |

Most people probably like the fact that they leave work at 5 p.m. or so and forget about it. But not entrepreneurs. Sixty- to 70-hour workweeks are not unusual. That’s because they’re driven to succeed. And working 12-hour days is no big deal. Which brings me to the topic: What can you do outside of your laundry to build business?REFERRAL CARDSHand out discount referral cards. Such cards might offer $1 off of a load or $3 off wash, dry and fold. Everywhere you go, every person you meet is an opportunity to promote your business. Don’t brag. Don’t sell. Simply inform the prospect of your service.Who is a prospect? Don’t think small. Think big. Every person who wears clothes and periodically cleans them is a prospect. And unless you operate in a nudist colony, that’s 100% of the population.You might say something like this: “Here, take this coupon. I own My Laundromat on Main Street. It’s across from the fire station. You never know when your washer and dryer will conk out. Plus, we offer wash, dry and fold, combined with free delivery. We could save you all that drudge work for just what you spend on weekly snacks.”What’s in this nonpitch? It reminds the individual of the existence of your laundry. It informs the person of your connection to the business. It gives them an option when a washer or dryer breaks down. Plus, it introduces them to the concept of wash, dry and fold combined with pickup and delivery.Most homeowners probably don’t even know about such offerings because they haven’t been inside a coin laundry in quite some time. You might’ve just planted a seed that will germinate into a customer. After all, reasons the prospect, time is money, and if I can be freed up from this repetitive, mindless task, my attention will be more focused on important matters.Of course, if you aren’t proud of your self-service laundry business, it will be harder to deliver the message. So be proud. Make your laundry into a showcase. Make sure traffic flows in an organized manner. Maintain equipment. Enjoy your clientele. Be forthright with vendor relationships. Become involved in neighborhood associations. Appreciate the big picture — how your operation contributes to the economy, how the coin laundry is a community asset, and how your service makes life easier for customers. When you talk, be proud.TALK IT UPSpeak at organizational gatherings. The Lion’s Club, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, environmental organizations, and women’s groups are always looking for guest speakers. You probably won’t be paid, but you will be given the opportunity to enlighten and entertain your audience.What should you talk about? Discuss the fine art of cleaning clothes — how to prolong life, how to remove stains, why some garments need to be drycleaned, the difference in treatment between cleaning with water and cleaning with solvent, how to churn out full-bodied garments, that sort of thing. End with a pitch for your business. Better yet, hand out coupons.You can also talk about interesting or unusual stories in the trade, like the time a customer tried to entertain everyone with his joke-telling ability. The key is to be entertaining. Making people laugh goes a long way to winning over the audience.Of course, few of us are natural speakers. Therefore, you must practice your speech beforehand. When I give a talk, I make an outline, condense the outline into notes on 3x5 cards, and carry the two or three cards everywhere, practicing the speech in my mind. I run through the talk while driving. I deliver the talk when jogging. I practice the talk when doing my weekly housecleaning chores. By the day of the talk, I have the material pretty well memorized and am confident that it will go over well. By following this process, a less-than-natural orator can turn himself or herself into a polished speaker.RIGHT AROUND THE CORNERWalk around your neighborhood. Your goal is to find apartment houses that don’t have reliable washers and dryers. You might have to knock on doors. There might be projects that don’t have reliable equipment. Senior housing could have ancient equipment. On the other side of town, you might spot heavy drycleaning service penetration in well-to-do areas. You’ll spot their trucks stopping to make deliveries. Make notes of these findings.Aim marketing to the neighborhoods where it will be most effective. Send flyers to complexes with substandard equipment. Send notices to upscale areas about a new wash, dry and fold service coming.There is also door-to-door canvassing. Who better than the boss to pitch the offer? Family by family, tell people how they might benefit from your service. Notice the word “benefit.” Everyone wants to know how he or she might benefit.For a busy family, there might be a savings of five hours every week from doing laundry (the average family of four might do their wash two-and-a-half times a week, two full loads each time). The home provider can forget about this task. The family can enjoy freshly folded, clean clothes.CHECK THE COMPETITIONVisit other coin laundries. When there, keep your mouth shut and your eyes, ears and mind open. Look at the way the operation does business. Evaluate the cleanliness. Take note of the state of the equipment.Is there a high out-of-order rate? Evaluate signage as to clarity, helpfulness and attractiveness. Assess the staffing. Are they neat and presentable? Do they appear to be helpful? Is the wash, dry and fold area organized? Do the staffers process clothes efficiently? Is the store’s atmosphere friendly? Is the storefront attractive? Are prices low, average, or high?Take notes on your findings. Later, in the quiet of your office, evaluate what you saw. Is there something to be learned? Try to take one thing you can put into your business right away that will improve operations.By doing the above, you will be making good use of your time out of the store. So when they ask how many hours you work, you can say, “I’m always working.” 

About the author

Howard Scott

H&R Block

Industry Writer, Drycleaning Consultant, and H&R Block Tax Preparer

Howard Scott is a longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant, and an H&R Block tax preparer specializing in small businesses. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359.

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