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Archive for March, 2008

Who did What, to Whom, and How and When?

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

 Norman; 

There is an old, somewhat raunchy, limerick which uses a variation of the above for the last line. It is a bit too politically incorrect to post up here, but the phrase does pertain to the laundry industry and many others as well. And life in general.

Along with that is the old admonition from our mothers. “You would not care so much about what people think of you, if you knew how seldom they do.” In other words, everyone is so wrapped up in their own woes that they really don’t care what you do, so long as isn’t to them!

We all get our heads down, plugging along with our own day-to-day trials, and seldom look up to see just what is going on around us. It’s not that we are being selfish, or uncaring, we just aren’t aware of anything outside our own immediate concerns. Maybe, once in awhile, it may help us keep our own problems in perspective, perhaps see some solutions we may not have considered, and even see some things coming, if we stand up and look around to see what is going on around us.

For example, you have seen me post information about recent increases in materials cost. They make gasoline increases look tame. Imagine if you will, if you suddenly went from $3.00 a gallon to $9.00 or $12.00 per gallon! That is what many raw materials have done. So being aware that manufacturers are going to have charge more for their machines and repair parts, allows you to plan on paying more for replacements in the future. And of course, it means you have to be prepared to put more dollars into your capital equipment fund to be prepared. Keeping your head down will mean you will not be prepared for the inevitable sticker shock down the road.

Everyone should be aware by now that the economy is not doing well. We can set around and wring our hands, and cry about it, or we can try to find ways to roll with the punches. How is it going to affect each business? Will your distributors be stable enough to survive and continue to service your needs? As noted above, they are under considerable pressure too. Coin laundry is a mature market, a very saturated one. So where do they put new higher priced machines? The manufacturers need to move machines to keep their plants open. How can they move more machines, at the higher cost that materials have forced upon them, in a saturated market? Directly or indirectly, all of these factors affect YOU!

Will people stay away from laundromats or use them more frequently when their own machines fall apart and they cannot afford to buy new ones? Or will Wash” N” Fold decline when they save a bit by doing the laundry themselves? There is no one answer to this, as each area will differ in how people will respond. But the possibilities and the options that the customer has must be considered. Once considered, are there any opportunities to grab more customers? These require a lot more thought than just thinking about mopping the floors.

You have to interact with the customers and the community at large. And you must LISTEN to what they have to say. Not just about what is directed at your business, but listen to what they are talking about in general. You may find some facet of local life that you can turn to your advantage. Some ridiculous ideas may turn into a way to be a part of their lives and so a part of your business. How about hosting reading club? Sounds dumb? What does it have to do with a laundry? Well, think about it, you have a few people (or hopefully more) setting around, staring at the walls. What if, and I know it is a big “what if”; they all were discussing some book they have read, while the jeans go through the washer? Maybe a little coffee/soda while they are there. And others see this neighborly interaction and want to be a part of the community too. Sure, that example is a big stretch, and not applicable everywhere, but that is where YOU come in. What else might you try? Do some brain storming, and don’t automatically discard what seems ridiculous at first. You never know where a strange idea can lead you.

What will rising gasoline costs do to the customer’s ability to drive to the laundromat ? Will they make fewer trips and do more on each trip or will they just choose the one closest? If you rely on the nearby locals, this may not be a consideration, but for many operators this may be more important than they know. What can you do to persuade the customer to drive an extra mile or two? Are there any incentives to draw them a little bit further? A monthly drawing for a $50 dollar gas card? Or discounts on multiple loads, the more you do, the less it will cost per load? Again, this will require some thought, and again, there is no one universal answer that addresses every operator. It is up to you to stand up, look around and see what is going on in your area.

Innovation and success come from bringing new ideas from the outside. Doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results is a not a productive approach. In some circles that is the definition of insanity. To get new ideas, you are going to have to look outside the areas where you are so focused and see what other things you can do. 

We all look forward to seeing what innovation YOU can bring to the forum!




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