This blog is edited by Arthur Lapon, the President and Founder of ADL Consulting Services, Inc.and an international expert on the buying, selling, remodeling and construction of both new and existing commercial laundries, coin laundries, card laundries, and laundromats of all sizes. He has advised both current and future laundry owners from all over the world.
He is also the author of the soon to be published, How to Buy, Build, Sell or Operate Your Commercial Laundry Business© . A comprehensive and easy to understand guide for the coin laundry, card laundry and laundromat business in the 21st century. “After either owning laundries or constructing, remodeling, selling, designing and advising more than 400 clients in the past 20 years, I am happy to not only offer our much sought after services (ADL Consulting Services) and assistance in this world wide industry, but I intend to use this Blog as an outlet to, both, distribute some personal valuable knowledge, as well as to solicit some equally valuable knowledge from laundry owners”.
We hope that you will also take advantage of the “Ask The Expert” aspect of this blog by sending him your questions. All reasonable questions can expect to receive a personal response from Arthur and the better ones will be posted on this blog – don’t worry, your name will not be included in the posting. Please understand that this is not a venue to attack your competitor, distributor, manufacturer, or your next door neighbor. We are looking for constructive advice and criticism that will benefit others in this industry.
You can send Arthur your comments or questions on this page or use the contact us form.
Things a Laundromat owner can do to make 2011 a much better year
As most of us enter 2011 we begin to think about how we can better our lives. Lose weight, workout more; make changes or additions to family and friends. Or maybe just catch up on some important tasks we have neglected for one reason or another. For those of us who own a Laundromat this can mean doing whatever is economically possible to either fix, change, add or eliminate anything or anyone, with the goal of making 2011 a measurably better year than 2010. The following is a TASK LIST, or a THINGS TO DO LIST, to make life better for the Laundromat Owner:
First the easy stuff:
- Clean out all the dryer filters, and either fix or replace broker filters
- Clean out the dryer vents. This on its own will greatly improve costly dryer efficiency.
- Clean out the lint trap and fix or replace the lint screen(s).
- Snake out the drainage lines for all the washing machines.
- Clean the HVAC or Heat Exchanger coils and lint filters.
- Touch up any dings or scratches to washers or dryers
- Paint or touch up the walls, doors, and molding around the store. Give it a very clean and cared for look.
- Change out any old or stained ceiling panels. Either clean, replace or paint them where needed.
- Change out old worn florescent or other bulbs. Brighten up the store.
- Clean, buff, or refinish the flooring.
- Blow off the accumulated lint behind each dryer.
- Systematically take off each of the dryer front panels and remove any accumulated lint or other accumulation of dirt or damaging debris.
- Repair chips or damage to counters and cabinets.
- Maybe think about giving a tired looking store a clean and refreshing new look with paint, patching, decals, tiles, refinishing or replacing folding tables, and bulkheads.
- Adding or replacing laundry carts. Or just fixing the ones you already have.
- Do preventative maintenance to the Washers and Dryers….maybe replacing belts, or motors, replace old water valves, or high and low temperature limiters, clean out any sediment in the water pumps, check for loose fittings, clean and lubricate coin mechanisms.
- Fix or replace signage
Then the harder stuff:
- Reassess your employees. Which ones are assets to the business, and which ones either require more training or need to be replaced. Poor employees can cause the storeowner a lot of trouble and loss of customers.
- If you are currently using propane gas, is there any way to convert to natural gas if it is being offered in your area?
- If you have a lot of top loaders, consider buying the new and very efficient small front loaders being offered by your equipment distributor. The cost associated in making this change may be much more economical than you think due to the very significant saving in water, hot water, gas, and electric. Definitely something to consider.
- Look at the value of changing out old gas guzzling dryers for new and more efficient units.
- Analyze each washer in your store and determine if any of them need to be replaced because of high repair costs, and very inefficient use of utilities. Many of the distributors and manufactures are offering some very attractive financing of new equipment. You should also take into consideration some very generous tax advantages for purchasing new equipment now rather than later.
- Put a plan in place for promoting your newly refreshed Laundromat. Maybe a direct mail campaign, or flyers handed out as well as doorknob hangers.
- Contact a local web designer and put together a Website that will promote your store and all of your services.
- Put together a new Business Plan for 2011 with goals for both increasing income as well as decreasing expenses. Then monitor it very closely for the whole year.
Feel free to contact me to help you with any of the ideas discussed in this Blog. That is what I am here to do. Let us all make 2011 a happy, healthy and more profitable New Year. Thank you all for your continued support and patronage.
ADL Consulting Services, Inc.
The importance of Employee training and Employee attitude in an absentee owner Coin Laundry/Laundromat
For those of you who own a self-service unattended Laundry/Laundromat, this discussion does not really apply. Except for the fact that whether attended or unattended someone, at a minimum, must be making periodic visits to the store to keep it in good repair, clean, trash removed, and free of loiterers.
The owner(s) of an attended store has made a conscious and costly decision to provide a level of service that is greater and more visible than the unattended store. The employees who work in these stores are much more than “warm bodies”. They are, in fact, the owner’s visible representative to all the store’s customers that they are either valued customers, or nothing more than an intrusion.
As an owner in the U.S., you are making between a $47,000 – $70,000 per year investment or maybe even more, to provide a high level of service to your customers between 16 hours per day to as many as 24 hours per day. If an average customer is going to spend approximately $8 per visit, you are looking at between 5,875 to 8,750 customer visits per year just to pay your annual payroll. In the end, those costs can and will be higher if you pay for any additional employee expenses or benefits.
After reading my First Blog, you understand the importance of marketing, you also understand the time and expense involved in marketing your store. But do you also understand that your choice of employees and time invested to train your employees result in a direct reflection of your marketing efforts and dollars spent on those efforts. All the stores owner’s best intentions to provide a clean, well equipped, multi-service, and attractive store to his customers will be wasted if there are any employees who do not provide to your customers the level of service, clean appearance, and customer friendly attitude they expect and you deserve for your investment.
At all times, you should feel that your employees have both your and your customer’s best interests as their top priority. From welcoming your customers to your store, to keeping the machines, and floors clean, keeping bathrooms clean, and properly supplied, taking in Wash-Dry-and Fold, Dry Cleaning, peacefully resolving customer issues and complaints, and having that all important “good attitude”. Rest assured that a poor employee in your store can and will destroy any attempts that you make to build your business. Monitor your employees closely and fix any employee problems immediately. It wont take too long before you financially feel the effects of a less than acceptable employee.
Welcome to the first issue of Arthur’s Coin Laundry and Card Laundry Industry Blog. This will not only be a forum for my thoughts or ideas, but it is also an opportunity for you to speak out with your own thoughts or ideas as well as any appropriate information that you would like other coin or card laundry owners to read. This can be both entertaining and informative for whoever wants to write or read these words of wisdom.
I would first like to have a discussion on the subject of MARKETING. A simple definition of Marketing, is the process by which we inform a potential customer, client, or clientele within our perceived market area of either our goods and or services that we want to sell or possibly purchase. Marketing is also about creating an image within the minds of our customers, clients or clientele that you are better than anybody else within your market area, in regards to whatever you are trying to sell or purchase.
Another consideration of marketing is how much you would consider spending to reach your potential customers, keeping in mind that an average customer who uses your laundry services will spend, on the average from $8 to $15 every time they come to your store.
We, as consumers, are exposed to marketing in many different forms. We are probably overwhelmed with marketing in just about every conceivable way; Television, Radio, Billboards, Newspaper, Magazines, Skywriting, Blimps, Fliers, Mailers, Window Signage, Telemarketers, Labels on Clothes, etc. You get the idea!
In my neighborhood, on every Tuesday of every week, when I go to my mailbox I will consistently find, mixed in with my normal mail, a slew of mass mailing advertisements from computer companies, insurance companies, restaurants, real estate brokers, carpet cleaners, and many other businesses selling goods or services within my community. Being somewhat curious by nature, I have asked many of my friends and clients within the laundry industry, how often they have seen any type of mailer or advertisement in their mailbox from anyone who owns a coin laundry or card laundry within their neighborhoods. The answer, without an exception is, “almost never”.
Depending on what part of the country or the world you are in, I think that we all can agree, that there is some form of a recession going on almost everywhere. Some places in the world are doing better than others, but still many areas are suffering from the impact of an economic crash that is going through a very slow and long recovery. That being said, most businesses are in some way or another suffering through the long term effects of this slowdown.
Since this is a laundry industry blog, I am only going to focus on the importance of marketing for just about every coin laundry or card laundry business. It is very important to also understand that the laundry business is a form of a “Retail Business”. You are selling a service, as well as being at the end of a supply train for the sale of water, gas and electric through the use of machines (washers, dryers, vending, presses, etc.). Often, the laundry owner is also in a competitive market of other laundry owners as well. Furthermore, laundry businesses are in demographic areas that can be subject to moderate to high turnover rates of its customer base.
So taking into account all the issues previously discussed; the local economy, slow recovery, being a retail business, in a competitive market, with moderate to high turnover of your customer base, what does the laundry owner need to do to not only keep its customer base in tact, but grow at a rate that guarantees your long term success and profitability?
First and foremost, keep your store clean every day, all day long. Perception is everything. A dirty laundry, with dirty equipment, means that your customers have little faith that their clothes are going to be clean when they use your equipment. If there is any other laundry, within a reasonable distance from your store, that is cleaner, that is where your customers will go. This is one of the most important ways for you to market your store. If you customers are satisfied with their experience using your store, then they will tell others. If they are not satisfied with their experience when they leave your store, then you have done a poor job of marketing, and they will tell others of that experience as well.
Keep your equipment clean and in good working order. Even if your store is mostly self-service, it is imperative that someone is cleaning the washers and dryers after every use. Also, for customers to see excessive “out of order” signs on your equipment, is creating a perception that your store is not being cared for adequately.
Keep those dryer filters clean as well. Dirty dryer filters will make your dryers less efficient, and will cost your customers more to use them as well as increasing your own operating costs by using excess gas. Again, this is one more way to market or promote your store by word of mouth.
If you have full or part time Laundry Attendants who work in your store, they must be dressed in clean and neat clothing; they must be taught how to help customers in a friendly and professional manner. They must also help to keep the store in clean condition. Your Attendants can never get into arguments or confrontations with your customers nor should they request tips from your customers for doing the work that they are being paid to do in a friendly and professional manner. A poorly trained or rude employee can destroy all of your efforts to effectively promote your business and can also be the cause of customers not returning to your store in the future.
Keep your store at a comfortable temperature all day long. Being either too hot or too cold is going to send your customer to a competitor who does a better job of giving them comfortable conditions when they are doing their laundry.
If your equipment is old, often broken, leaking, and generally in poor condition, it may be time to update your store. Buying new and very efficient equipment may cost you much less than servicing equipment that is very old and inefficient. It will also go a long way towards bringing your customers back, and making your store much more profitable.
Paint and patch your store’s walls, counters, and bulkheads wherever or whenever it they start to look worn, faded or damaged. Keep your store looking new all of the times. This includes replacing bulbs and keeping it bright and cheerful looking.
Do you have enough folding tables in the store for your customers? Are they in good condition? Do you have comfortable seating for your customers while they are waiting for their clothes to be washed or dried? This is all part of the marketing of your store’s image. Don’t every let your store look or become run down. Your customers will run away.
Is it possible to install a television, or music system? Do you have the space to provide vended drinks, snacks, and detergents? The more comfortable you customers are when they do their laundry, the better the chance that they will always return and of course they will tell others of the good experience they had using your store.
Do you have, within your store, all of the customary services provided by a coin or card laundry? These may include not only Self-Service, but Drop-Off Laundry (Wash-Dry-Fold), Dry Cleaning Drop-Off (if allowed by your landlord), the sale of soaps and other detergents. Giving your customers the opportunity to use your store as a “One Stop” destination for all of their laundry needs, will give you a competitive edge over other laundries in your area not providing these services.
Pricing of all your services requires a discussion all of its own. But in the context of marketing your store, are you competitive within your market area? During these difficult economic times, your customers are going to be very conscious of pricing of vends for your washers and dryers, as well as all of your other services. Under charging for your services is going to be as counterproductive as over charging.
Now that I have discussed in-store marketing of your business, we need to look at ways to grow your business beyond the effects of “Word-Of-Mouth”. Many communities have ordinances regarding signage on buildings, in windows, and on pylons. If possible it is always great to be able to put a banner on the front of your building advertising your services, or a special that you running regarding the pricing of washers, dryers, drop-off service, or even a contest that your customers can win prizes. Remember that this is a retail business and like any retail business, Sales, Discounts, and Prizes are always appreciated by all of you customers and is always a great draw for new customers in your market area.
Other forms of effective Marketing:
Flyers. These are often large postcards used in direct mailers, or printed fliers that are handed out within your market area, or may be in the form of doorknob hangers that you or a direct mail company puts directly onto the doorknobs of the residences in your area of concentration. What has proven to be one of the best forms of advertising or marketing your store is Direct Mail. Sending direct mailers to all of the homes, apartments, condominiums, and trailers within you market area, though expensive, is the most effective way to reach both your current and future customers. Remember that before spending money on direct mail you need to make sure that you have taken care of all of things I have already mentioned within your store, or you will have spent a lot of money with little hope for improvement to your store’s profitability.
Some supermarkets allow you to purchase cash register tapes with printed advertising or coupons from your business that they give to every customer at the checkout counter.
There are Direct Mail companies that package many fliers from businesses within your community into a cost efficient collection of coupons that are mailed to specific zip codes in your market area. This can also be a very cost efficient and effective way to reach your customer base.
Newspaper advertisements. Not as effective as direct mail, but everything helps.
Radio commercials. These can be expensive, and unless the radio station you have chosen has a wide listener base within your community, this can be a very inefficient way to promote your store.
Supporting local kid’s sport teams with your store name on shirts or uniforms is beneficial to your local image.
Starting a Laundry Club that gives your returning customers the chance for free washes or dries, or other in store discounts.
There are many other effective forms of advertising your store. It would be great to hear from other laundry owners about their successes in marketing their business. Maybe someone has a better idea that he/she would like to share.
So ends our first entry in Arthur’s Coin Laundry and Card Laundry Blog. This is a beginning of what I hope will be an interesting way for me to help others in a great, fun and very profitable industry. Everybody needs clean clothes, whether the economy is in great condition or not. In the end, how you run your business is always going to determine your own personal success. If you need help, we are here to give you that help whatever your needs. Feel free to comment on this Blog, add to it, or contact us for any of the services that we offer. Thank you for visiting.