Originally posted – July issue/2012

I have owned a small, unattended laundromat for four years. I am by no means an expert in the field. However, there are two bits of advice I might be able to give regarding what could potentially cause a business to fail, and therefore – on the flipside – what also could impact a business to succeed.

Many of my colleagues would probably elaborate on things along the lines of a poor location could cause any business to fail. Perhaps high overhead could lead to a downfall. Incorrect vend pricing or inferior equipment could tank even the cleanest of laundromats. Without a doubt, budding entrepreneurs need to do their due diligence before embarking upon any business venture to best ascertain what they are getting themselves into and where they plan on going. (Figuring out those questions, and then those answers, is in itself a challenge!) I’m sure the list goes on.

Nonetheless, I will take a different approach and suggest that two very important things have prevented me personally from failing. Maybe these two things will help keep others from failing, in order to succeed.

The first principle has to do with expectations. I am, by profession, a teacher. I was looking for an investment that could supplement my income and yet still allow me to do what I love. And, for all intents and purposes, owning a laundromat has allowed me to do this.

However, owning a laundromat is much more work than I had ever imagined. I wish I had a penny for every person who has ever said to me, “Oh, I’d love to own a laundromat! All you have to do is go collect all of those quarters.” Those people would fail in this industry because, no matter how small the place (and mine is only 1,050 square feet) and no matter how low-maintenance it is kept, there are many ominous “time-consumers.”

For each business, these things will be different. They can be anything from dealing with employees and customers to averting paperwork and computer glitches. Not having realistic expectations can bury a person once he or she becomes a laundromat owner. I have learned to expect the unexpected.

The second principle has to do with my faith, which I’m sure many people may not want to know about. But, in the book of Micah of the Bible, it says that God desires for us “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8 NIV). I try my best to live by this. I believe many people fail because they try to cut corners and cheat – they do not act justly or do what is right and ethical. In the long run, they will not be successful.

Also, people often fail because they do not have compassion for others less fortunate than themselves. They are out to make a buck, not give handouts. By contrast, I allowed a homeless veteran to live in my store for a couple of months because he hit a rough patch in life. He didn’t bother anyone and was not dangerous. People told me that was business suicide.

Not so. If anything, my business has thrived since. I hope someone will be there for me if I ever hit hard times – which coincides with the third part of that verse, humbly walking with God. On any given day, any one thing can topple an empire. Acknowledging the fact that there is Someone bigger than me in the whole scheme of life has undoubtedly kept my business from failing.

My suggestions may or may not work for you, but they certainly are as good as any others. Throw them into the mix, and you’ll likely be on your way to your own coin laundry success story.

Deb Piccirillo owns Pottstown Laundromat in Pottstown, Pa.

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