Your Business Partner Should Have an Excellent Reputation, Industry Knowledge, Loyalty and Comprehensive Support
Starting and maintaining a successful laundry operation takes much more than simply finding a space and buying equipment – partnering with an experienced distributor who you can trust is key. A first-class distributor will not only provide you with all of the tools, services and support you will need to get started, but will also guide you through every step of the business process to ensure your laundromat is successful.
As president and chief operating officer of Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Sales Inc., and a second-generation distributor, I’ve been in the laundry industry for nearly 20 years. My company and I have helped store owners and investors develop more than 1,000 laundries, while making improvements to many others. Whether you’re in the market to upgrade your machines or looking for the perfect location to open your 10th store, the path to each customer’s dream is their own and a great distributor can help them achieve it.
With numerous distributors to choose from, here are four tips to help you select a distributor that will be a true business partner and help you reach your long-term goals and success.
1. A Long History and Excellent Reputation
When choosing a distributor, make sure the company has an established history of providing reliable equipment and services to laundromat owners. A distributor who has been in the laundry business for many years is not only more likely to be financially stable, but will also be able to provide you with superior advice based on their high level of experience.
A seasoned distributor has also witnessed strategies that other store owners have implemented to achieve success, and they can help guide you on a similar path that will get the results you want. They should be able to prove their history of accomplishments by providing excellent references and testimonials from satisfied customers. Be sure to talk to some of their customers to ensure that you are partnering with a reliable laundry distributor.
Distributors with a long history in the industry should also have inside knowledge about locations, demographics and equipment. An educated distributor will advise if you are making a smart investment or not. Once you decide to make an investment, your distributor should promptly follow up to ensure that you are completely satisfied with their level of service.
Store owner Jose Almonte has owned nearly a dozen laundromats over the past 20 years. Despite his breadth of experience, Almonte continues to seek outside advice before choosing a new location, settling on the layout of his store or investing in new equipment.
“My distributor knows the laundromat business inside and out, gives me expert advice when it comes to all aspects of running my business, and keeps in touch with me,” Almonte explained. “The expertise they continue to bring to the table strengthens the great relationship we have established since the beginning.”
2. Knowledgeable on Industry Trends
As a business advisor and partner, your distributor should be up-to-date on industry trends. A top-notch distributor frequently visits laundromats in their market, attends trade shows, conferences and other events, and reads industry publications and articles to enhance their knowledge. This raises their awareness of trends in the marketplace, new equipment and technology available in the industry, allowing them to make comprehensive recommendations on the best products for their customers. For example, store owners who install the most durable, energy-efficient equipment with the most advanced technologies in their laundromats will keep utility bills at all-time lows, so they get a higher return on their investment.
“My distributor is proactive in contacting me about new equipment that can reduce energy usage and boost revenue,” Almonte added. “Because of our strong relationship, I know the advice is genuine.”
Mark Lustbader, owner of Laundry Warehouse laundromats, started in the real estate business and has been building laundromats in New Jersey shopping centers for more than 15 years. He’s an accomplished store owner who often has a clear vision of what his laundromat will look like once it’s complete, yet he still relies on his distributor for support to help bring his vision to life.
“Having a distributor who is deeply knowledgeable about the products, marketplace, customers and my competition is critical,” Lustbader said. “I rely on my distributor because their team brings exactly that to the table.”
3. Loyalty to Customers and Products
It may sound simple, but a great distributor is loyal to their customers. Their philosophy shouldn’t just be about selling equipment and making money. The customers should always come first and be treated with honesty, integrity and respect. A distributor should truly act as a business partner and guide their customers to success by understanding and sharing their unique vision.
Additionally, a loyal distributor will not adhere to traditional office hours. They should respond to inquiries from customers whenever they need it, 24/7. They will work closely with their customers to get their store open, giving advice and tips throughout the process. A reliable distributor should continuously raise the bar when it comes to customers’ expectations and satisfaction, following up promptly to inquiries.
A distributor who is not only loyal to their customers, but also brand loyal, shows customers they only sell brands they believe in. Showing loyalty to the same products and equipment also strengthens the distributor’s relationship with the manufacturer, allowing both parties to provide store owners with customer service unmatched by competitors. A strong distributor/manufacturer relationship gives a store owner access to an even larger network of laundry professionals to help with every aspect of the business, including laundry design, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and industry-leading financing. This results in better support and service when you need it.
“Utility savings are just part of the reason I chose the equipment manufacturer I did, but the service piece cannot be overlooked,” Lustbader said. “Knowing that there’s going to be a knowledgeable customer service representative at the other end of the phone when I have an issue is priceless. Comprehensive customer support results in reduced machine downtime and increased revenue for my business.”
4. Comprehensive Support Beyond Equipment Sales
Making an equipment sales transaction is only one small part of establishing a long-lasting partnership between a distributor and customer.
Beyond the equipment sale, a great distributor will help you with financing, lease and contract negotiations, design layout, and provide guidance. If a problem arises, your distributor should be there to help you resolve it. Building a strong relationship with customers post-sale is a top priority in the mind of a leading distributor.
Almonte and Lustbader say a key reason why their businesses have grown into multiple stores, adding to their profitability, is because of the knowledgeable advice and support they received above and beyond their equipment purchases.
“My distributor’s ability to give me input when installing payment systems, finalizing a layout and analyzing potential locations to expand my stores is highly beneficial to me as a customer,” Lustbader said. “I currently have nine locations and I’m always looking for new ones.”
Almonte currently operates eight stores. He says the service he receives from his distributor post-sale proves they are invested in his long-term success.
“When I see a location that I like, my distributor team will take a look and see if it’s a good location or not,” he said. “From helping my business grow to getting parts and financing – the network of professionals that my distributor relationship provides is invaluable.”
When selecting a credible distributor to ensure your business’s success, look for one who is well-established, knowledgeable on industry trends, loyal to its customers and products, and is 100 percent supportive, before and after you’ve purchased your equipment.
When someone purchases equipment from us, they become part of our extended family and a life-long business partner. At the end of the day, finding a great distributor isn’t just about making a business transaction, it’s about establishing a true business partnership that will last long into the future.