Happy New Year, and welcome to 2018!I consider it an honor and a privilege to be serving as the Chairman of the Board for the Coin Laundry Association this year. Last year was historic for the CLA, as last year’s chairman, Jim Whitmore, oversaw the introduction of new ideas from strategic consultancy Minding Your Business, as well as the continued growth of the LaundryCares Foundation and its exciting free laundry events.Last year, MYB’s ideas were introduced and, this year, we’re ready to continue moving forward with them, to keep the organization vibrant and relevant to the evolving self-service laundry industry.Last year, the Clean Show in Las Vegas was a record-breaking event in terms of attendees and exhibit space sold. This year, we look forward to the Excellence in Laundry conference, which will be held May 15-18 at the Naples Grand Beach Resort in Florida. In addition, this will be a critical planning year for Clean 2019, to be held June 20-23, 2019, in New Orleans.In addition, thanks to the hard work of CLA Board members Jeff Gardner, Brian Grell and many others, a number of LaundryCares free laundry days will be held in 2018.Also, with the economy having fully recovered, it’s important for us, as laundry owners, to not neglect the factors that make us successful. Simple things such as customer service, building a good reputation, showing you care about your customers, keeping your equipment up to date, and (the top item for me) continuing to advertise.Immediately after the economic downturn that led to the Great Recession, the CLA held a workshop in Orlando. One of the topics was what to do during tough economic times. The presenter was Continental Girbau President Mike Floyd, and he asked those of us in attendance what we thought. The responses were along the lines of reducing payroll and cutting corners on anything and everything possible.After listening to the audience comments, Mike announced that, during an economic downturn, store owners should not reduce their advertising budgets. In fact, he strongly suggested that laundry operators double their ad budgets in tough times.As the operators in attendance gasped at this advice, veteran store owner Ron Lane of Sacramento, Calif., said that he completely agreed and had just increased his own advertising budget. What’s more, upon returning home from that CLA workshop, the next edition of this very magazine arrived in my mailbox – with a full cover wrap, as well as a full page advertisement, placed by Mr. Floyd’s company.In essence, two of my colleagues put their money where their mouth was, and that began what has grown to become a $50,000 per year advertising budget for my company. And, during the recession, we operated without a decline in gross revenues. Plus, when the economy improved, my company experienced double-digit growth for several years. My business has continued to thrive, thanks to what was learned that day in Orlando.Of course, today we have moved forward from print ads to more of a digital presence. Yes, my company is evolving right along with the CLA.The CLA is working hard to provide its members with the tools they need to keep up with evolving business trends and industry markets. Last year, Mr. Whitmore presented a to-do list in this column. I think every point on that list remains just as critical as we begin 2018:• Reflect on what you did last year and prepare to make those ideas a reality this year.• Use the CLA’s economic forecasts to stay up with current trends.• Value “green” as a path to higher profits using energy-efficient machines, lighting and other products.• Work to differentiate yourself by having the cleanest, best-equipped and most efficient store in your market – or take it a step further and make this the year your store is in the top tier nationwide.• Contribute to the community your store serves. Host a LaundryCares event and look at the customers’ faces when you have books and mentors to help the children read, prizes for the kids, and are making sure everyone is having a great time.• Play big and keep up the success you’ve created for the community and yourself.The more we communicate with those in our industry, the more success everyone will have. Let’s all make this a productive and prosperous 2018!