It May Be Time to Give Your Vended Laundry Operation a Reboot

“There ain’t no future living in the past” – George “Sparky” Anderson, former Major League Baseball manager

Human organisms come equipped with memories for a good reason. One is to retain things learned, which is mighty important in order to function effectively as we proceed through life. Most of the time recallable memories and experiences work to our practical advantage – such as remembering that we need to stop at red lights, or that when the temperature outside begins to drop, we should probably put on a coat. Most certainly, memories are essential to our daily lives.

However, remember that whoever invented the ship also invented the shipwreck – if you get my analogous drift.

You most likely wouldn’t be thrilled to hear your surgeon say (just before the anesthesia kicks in), “Now, if memory serves me right…”

Not a good sign.

On the other hand, it’s not uncommon that the past may have hurt you in some way, and old mistakes have a way of keeping us stuck in our tracks, rendering us unable to move forward. In fact, it can take a significant “psychological reboot” to get past certain yesterdays and not allow them to impact our future. Unfortunately, when it comes to going forward, there is a point where using past methods as your default setting can become really sticky gum on your psychological shoes.

This most certainly applies to your life in general – and equally so to the running of your vended laundry business.

I have a plaque in my office that reads: “Don’t Look Back… You’re Not Going That Way.” I suppose I put it up as a warning to myself.

I’ve noticed that many self-service laundry owners tend to look back and use the same old marketing and employee management tactics over and over again, simply because they’ve used them in the past – and especially if, on occasion, they may have produced some positive results.

They even repeat past methods that didn’t work with the hope that this time their fortunes will change, which they rarely do, of course. In addition, store owners don’t have boards of directors or other high-level executives on their payrolls to lean on for new ideas and approaches for running their laundry operations.

When owning and operating a vended laundry business (or any small business, for that matter), looking back too often – just because it’s comfortable to do so – can hold back your enterprise from growing and leave your company earnings stagnant. For example, if your employee training methods don’t produce positive results and you repeat the same procedure with every new hire, you essentially are going nowhere.

Along that same thought process, if your marketing methods never change and you stick to the theory that repetition is more important than properly and creatively reaching a diversified customer base, you can (and actually should) expect the same mundane results.

With all that said, let me introduce you to the late Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines who just passed away in January at the age of 87. Kelleher was a larger-than-life, over-the-top, creative genius.

He was one of the very few true giant business icons. And, for the record, his airline has been profitable for the last 45 years in a row.

If you were to visit Southwest Airlines’ headquarters in Dallas, you would be met by a life-sized cutout of Kelleher in a sequined jumpsuit impersonating Elvis Presley, and you could push a button that plays a recording of Herb’s infectious laugh.

Southwest employees noted that they could always hear Kelleher approaching before they actually saw him. And, once he was upon them, his typical greeting was a bear hug. Furthermore, he gave his all of his gate attendants and flight personnel (including pilots) his full permission to tell jokes over the planes’ speaker systems, as well as to sing the pre-flight safety instructions, if they were so inclined.

His obituary pointed out that, when competitors claimed travelers thought too much of themselves to fly such a no-frills airline, Kelleher posed in an advertisement with a bag over his head and jokingly offered the bags to Southwest customers in order to hide their “shame.”

Indeed, Kelleher’s wisecracking style and the image of a happy-go-lucky oddball definitely won Southwest Airlines a slew of loyal customers. However, Herb’s zaniness at times obscured his greatest achievement of building the three pillars upon which Southwest stands to this day.

First, he virtually invented – and then successfully operated – the revolutionary business model of the low-cost carrier.

Second, he deployed prudent, low-risk financial management to keep his airline’s wings level in the sky during difficult times.

And, third, in an industry known for terrible labor relations and historic strikes that brought some of Southwest’s rivals to their knees, Kelleher managed to nurture what is arguably corporate America’s most loyal workforce.

Kelleher made business fun. He took on the role of the clown with nerves of steel who proved that spreading new, constantly changing forms of fun could be the best marketing tool of all.

Let’s face it, the vended laundry business is not particularly glamorous. It’s not Hollywood. It’s not show business. It’s not remotely attention-getting. It’s simply and repetitively washing and drying clothes.

But that’s no reason for you to use old, boring, ineffective marketing and training methods. If you’re a laundry owner (and I’m assuming you are, or else you wouldn’t be reading this), in my opinion the worst thing you can do is to repeatedly offering the same bland, uninspired experience over and over and over. And, true be told, that’s exactly what most self-service laundry owners do – whether consciously or unconsciously.

In deference to the late, great Mr. Kelleher, permit me to bring this article in for a landing – with some questions (and answers) to clearly illustrate my points:

  • Is the vended laundry business glamorous? No
  • Should you view it as thought is it? Yes!
  • Should you use the same old, dull marketing methods? No
  • Should you use the same old, dull management methods? No
  • Should you seriously consider creative marketing? Yes!
  • Should you seriously consider creative employee training? Yes!

If you want to soar like Herb Kelleher, now is the time to spread your wings and fly. Fortunately, the former Southwest Airlines boss did you a huge favor – he left several clues as to how you can get started today on revamping your laundry business into a local marketplace champ and industry leader.