red 40

Originally posted – Apr 23, 2013

Are you looking to save money? Attract more customers? Grow your market share?

If you’re a self-service laundry owner, you’re no doubt always looking for new ideas. Ideas provide the fuel for you to create value and build success. Indeed, the power of ideas can even exceed the power of money. After all, one idea can be the catalyst to grow your business, inspire your employees and capture the hearts of your customers.

Below, we’ve gathered together 40 simple yet powerful laundry business ideas that you can begin to implement right now:

***

1. The main thing I’ve noticed within the industry is a branding crisis. There are stores out there that don’t even have a name. They just say “coin laundry” on the front. I’ve always thought that was weird. Why wouldn’t you want to set yourself apart from your competition? Even in a town where you may be the only laundromat, why not have an identity that goes beyond just washers and dryers?

If you were looking for a place to eat, would you go to a restaurant that didn’t have a name? So, why would you do your laundry at a place that doesn’t have a name?

It’s not even a poor effort – it’s just no effort at all when it comes to branding in the laundry industry. I can count on one hand the number of stores that actually make an effort when it comes to branding.

Create a logo and a color scheme, and make sure that logo is on all of the marketing materials you’re putting out. These are little things that can go a long way.

So, give your place a name.

(Marcus Yono, Millennium Laundry, Monroe, Mich.)

***

2. If you are buying an existing coin laundry, make sure you go to the city’s planning office and request to see the blue prints for the store. This information is considered public, so you should have no problem getting access to it. If they ask why you want to see it, just be honest with them and say that you are considering purchasing the business and you want to make sure that all permits were pulled for work completed within the building. You can usually pay to have the plans copied for you, or you can just take a picture of them.

Once you have obtained the plans, if they don’t look the same as the store (for example, walls have been moved or equipment is in a location not indicated on the plans), there is a possibility that work was done to the laundromat without having the proper permits pulled. It’s really important to find those things out before you buy the business, rather than after the fact. Once you buy it, it’s yours and not having that kind of information can cost you a lot of money. Purchasing a coin laundry that has been modified without the proper permits can open up a can of worms.

(Brian Brunckhorst, author, “Secrets of Buying and Owning Laundromats” )

***

3. Sponsor a local kids’ baseball or softball team. It’s cheap advertising. For about $150, you get 12 little boys or girls running around the local restaurant after a game, wearing your business’ name on their backs for everyone to see.

(Stephanie Mennenga, Morton Laundry Services, Morton, Ill.)

***

4. When we purchased our laundromat, it was attended at all times – from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. We carefully analyzed the activity of our wash-dry-fold and drycleaning business segments to determine low-activity periods. As a result, we now run unattended on Sundays and after 7 p.m. on the other six days. At the same time, we have extended our store hours to 10 p.m. daily. This was done in conjunction with the installation of automatic door locks; placing the lights, TV and radio on timers; and securing our counter/cash register area. The result: our sales have not been not negatively impacted; in fact, our wash-dry-fold business has increased.

(John Albers, The Laundry Shop, Franklin, Wis.)

***

5. Two years after opening our first location, we started buying our natural gas from a wholesaler, rather than Oklahoma Natural Gas. Some states don’t allow this, but Oklahoma’s gas industry is deregulated. Although we still pay a delivery fee to ONG, the savings in gas costs are considerable. In 2012, it amounted to $3,157 for our 2,800-square-foot store.

(John Henderson, Liberty Laundry, Tulsa and Broken Arrow, Okla.)

***

6. Treat every customer like they are gold – because they are. Every customer dollar past the breakeven point represents 75 percent to 85 percent profit. That is real tangible gold. So, be certain everyone’s experience is ultimately positive. If someone has a claim or is dissatisfied in any way, be gracious and generous with your time… and money.

(Jim Whitmore, WSI Laundry Corp., Gloucester, Mass.)

***

7. We are a local neighborhood business, so we should get to know our customers and help them. Many of our customers struggle every day to get by, so for my regulars – once I get to know them and their situations – I may pay for a load of their laundry from time to time. Or, if a family with eight to 10 large bags of laundry comes in, I may start two or three dryers to help them out.

I guarantee that this will always pay off in the long run – to run your business with honesty and integrity.

(Bob Meuschke, Family Laundry, Kansas City, Mo.)

***

8. I bought huge 36-inch metal wall hangings from Pier One Imports, along with some colorful oil paintings. The customers love them. They add color to the store. I also have comfortable chairs I bought from an office furniture store, as well as a free-standing coat rack, where customers can hang their coats, as opposed to just throwing them on the chairs.

(Lisa Varandas, Plaza Laundry & Cleaners, Hazlet, N.J.)

***

9. Demand a clause in your lease that requires the landlord to ask for competitive bids for building services. Without such a clause, landlords are free to form their own service companies and contract the service to themselves with a huge built-in profit margin, or they could enter into kickback arrangements with an outside firm. Insist that an operating expense statement must be received within one year of the end of the previous operating year, or else all escalations will be waived.

(James Lanzaro, executive vice president, Lease Audit Corp., Norwalk, Conn.)

***

10. For me, a budget is the most useful tool you have for running your business. However, for most, a budget is something you work on at the beginning of the year and then don’t touch the rest of the year. And that’s a shame.

Make your budget more dynamic and useful all year long. First, your budget can’t be a static document that doesn’t change. Your business is changing, so your budget file needs to change with it. I update my budget monthly, as part of my monthly review process with my management team. We look at the assumptions, and update them based on what we know now. We look at the sales forecast, and adjust it to what our pipeline looks like. With that sales forecast, we ask ourselves:

• How’s our capacity?

• Do we need to hire someone new?

• How are our expenses? Where are we spending too much? Where are we not spending enough?

If your budget file is dynamic, you can change things – the sales forecast, the roster and the expense assumptions – and see what effect your changes had on your bottom line for each month and the full year. That makes it a lot more fun to look at your budget. It gets you to start asking “what if” questions. What if I invested more in my marketing plan? If you know how well your marketing is performing, then you can start to forecast what that investment could do in terms of sales and profits.

The other thing that makes me run for my budget is unexpected changes. When my third-largest customer gets acquired by a bigger company, I ask my budget to tell me what that means for my cash flow. Of course, I’m going to replace them, but how long will it take?

Reviewing the budget is like giving our business a physical exam – it lets us check the vital signs of our business and get an early warning of any underlying problems. Is your budget dynamic or stagnant?

(Brad Farris, managing editor, EnMast, a business owner community)

***

11. With my drop-off service, we place a mint on top of the finished orders inside the bag. It’s such a nice little touch, and it cost practically nothing to do. The customers love it.

I’ve always been fascinated with the hotel industry, and I try to incorporate different aspects of it into my laundry business. Hotels want their customers to feel as comfortable as possible. It’s the same with a drop-off service. Make it a luxury.

(Marcus Yono, Millennium Laundry, Monroe, Mich.)

***

12. I bought a set of lockers and rent them out to customers very inexpensively on a month-to-month basis. The customers supply their own locks. This way, the customers store their own detergent, softener, etc. in the lockers at my laundry – so why would they go anywhere else? Plus, it’s clearly a service for my customers, who don’t have to lug around all of their laundry products or leaving them to freeze in their car.

(Rita Foos, Washer’s Laundromat, Grand Rapids, Ohio)

***

13. A lot of laundries use the same generic signage. However, I recently installed all stainless steel signs. It has given the store a more modern appearance, as well as a cleaner look.

In addition, I put up contemporary black-and-white photos/artwork throughout the laundry. It really has given the place a more upscale look, even though I only spent about $1,500 on all of it. I also went to IKEA and bought some new greenery, which I’ve placed throughout the store.

Basically, I gave my laundry a facelift for a relatively cheap price.

(Sarah McAndrews, Palm Coin Laundry, Imperial Beach, Calif.)

***

14. We keep a log of all recent equipment repairs. Also, our attendants use it to chart any current issues they’ve experienced with the machines so that no time is wasted in having to identify problems and test each machine. This is a big time- and money-saver.

(Steve Potvin, Potvin Laundry, Phoenix, Ariz.)

***

15. We decorate our store to coincide with the seasons. The customers really like it, and the attendants enjoy switching things up.

(Sally Chinnock, Super Clean Laundromat, Southbridge, Mass.)

***

16. Set up a schedule to have the major cleaning of your machines and your store on your slowest times of the day and slowest days of the week. Also, be sure to replace worn belts and hoses on a regular basis, before they break – the same as you would on your car.

(Ron Kelley, EZ Coin Op Laundromat, San Jose, Calif.)

***

17. We advise new customers as to which size washer to use so that they save money – and also so they do not tie up our largest washers unnecessarily. This ensures a quick, constant turnover of those large washers, which are the most popular in the store. And the new customers appreciate that we are saving them money.

(Lisa Varandas, Plaza Laundry & Cleaners, Hazlet, N.J.)

***

18. Keep the largest washers closest to the dryers. This helps the customers get their clothes moved quicker which in our business time is everything, especially on the weekends.

(Bob Meuschke, Family Laundry, Kansas City, Mo.)

***

19. Instead of having an outside vending company operate our soda and snack vending machines, we purchased our own used machines. Now, rather than paying a 10 percent royalty fee, we are generating gross profits in excess of 50 percent, on a significantly higher sales base.

(John Albers, The Laundry Shop, Franklin, Wis.)

***

20. On my website, customers can see live video of the store. They also can register their laundry cards, notify us of a problem and check out our specials. With our website, a potential new customer can see how clean our laundry is, where we are located and look at pictures of the store. The website has definitely helped bring in new customers.

Also, Google Places has been great for introducing new customers to my business and my website – and it’s easy to set up. It’s a must-have marketing tool. I also have fun with Twitter and offer my followers deals a couple of times a month.

In essence, try to have as large of an online presence as possible. You must have your own website, a Google Places page and a Facebook page – and monitor other sources such as Yelp, Foursquare, Yahoo, etc., to see if someone has given your store a bad review; if so, you need to know about it and respond to it in a professional and timely manner.

Online marketing can cost little to nothing. All you have to invest is your time.

(Duane King, LMARIES Laundromat, Bowling Green, Ohio)

***

21. I don’t feel any owner should underestimate their local demographic resulting in an immediate ruling out of web-based marketing. I’ve heard too often the refrain that “my customers don’t use the internet or computers.” My experience is that these owners would be quite surprised how many new customers would find them online, if given the chance.

(Art Jaeger, Santa Clarita Laundry, Santa Clarita, Calif.)

***

22. We have a Facebook page, which has proven to be a very viral means of free marketing. We offer specials and laundry advice, as well as giving special thanks to our “friends.” We have received positive feedback from our customers and have gotten many new customers because of our presence on Facebook.

(David Leighton, Express Laundry, Middletown, Ohio)

***

23. To save on your utility bills, insulate your hot water storage tanks and all of the hot water lines in the store. Of course, in older stores, update the insulation and make sure it is complete.

(Ron Kelley, EZ Coin Op Laundromat, San Jose, Calif.)

***

24. A marketing idea that has worked well for us is leaving Moo business cards (moo.com) all over town – restaurants, bars, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. In addition, we give away T-shirts to customers when they visit our store.

(Denise Dolezal, Surf City Suds Laundromat, Santa Cruz, Calif.)

***

25. Our website helps us in that we use it for refund requests. If a customer has a problem with one of the machines and is in need of a refund, we simply ask that they go to the website and fill out a refund request. When we receive the request, we send a check to reimburse them for their loss. We have computers in each store, which allow easy access to our website for filling out the refund requests.

(Daryl Johnson, Giant Wash Laundry, Mason City, Iowa)

***

26. If you really want to set yourself apart from the crowd, be sure to acknowledge birthdays, holidays and other special events. Customers want to know that they have not been forgotten. This is a great way to make the day of your customers. This will help keep your customers coming back.

Also, consider gift certificates. If your customers are happy with your services, chances are they will be likely to recommend your laundry to friends and family. By offering gift certificates, you make it easy to share your business and provide a simple way for others to learn about your store.

(Rose Kaiser, president, Method Marketing, San Diego, Calif.)

***

27. For attendant training, I give new staff members an employee manual with clear expectations of their daily duties, pay schedules, holiday hours, vacation time, dress codes and so on. We then give each attendant the opportunity to train with a trusted staff member for one or two shifts, or until comfortable, before they work alone. We also keep an employee manual at the store so that attendants can refer back to it.

(Steve Potvin, Potvin Laundry, Phoenix, Ariz.)

***

28. We all have a million things we need to get done, and it can be easy to get fixated on the number of things that need to get done and become overwhelmed. The good news is that you don’t need to do everything at the same time. Take your list (or whatever you use to keep track of your tasks), and break it up into more manageable segments, based on priority. Then, focus on just the top one to three priorities at a time.

If you have a packed schedule, there’s no chance you will be able to take a break or do anything non-work-related without shuffling your time and causing more stress. One way to ensure you take time out is by scheduling in the time, as if it were another meeting (30 minutes a day is a great start). In time, this will become second nature to you and will be one of the most valuable slots of time during your day. And don’t forget to schedule a vacation while you’re at it.

(Alyssa Gregory, founder, Small Business Bonfire)

***

29. Before using chlorine bleach on a garment, test the fabric to see how it will react to the bleach. First, mix one part bleach to two parts warm water. Find an inconspicuous spot on the garment like an inside seam or pocket of the same fabric. Use a cotton swab dipped in the solution to dab the fabric. Allow the spot to dry completely before moving forward. If you see any change in color on the fabric or a transfer of color to the swab, do not use chlorine bleach on this fabric.

Never mix different types of bleach. You can cause a chemical reaction that is harmful to your clothing and, more importantly, your lungs. This also applies to other cleaning chemicals like ammonia.

Chlorine bleach should never be poured directly on clothing. It can cause weakening of fibers and extensive color removal. Mix one cup bleach in one quart of warm water before adding it to the wash tub.

To allow the enzymes in the laundry detergents time to do their job of whitening and brightening, wait about five minutes after the wash cycle begins to add your diluted bleach.

Chlorine bleach works most effectively in hot water. It can be used in warm and cold water, but you won’t see the results you expect. Also, chlorine bleach loses its potency once the bottle is opened. Bleach should be disposed of after about six months.

(Mary Marlowe Leverette, editor, About.com’s Laundry Forum)

***

30. To save on utilities, we switched our lighting to the new energy-efficient T-5 bulbs.

Also, if you have programmable thermostats that are not secured, check those units regularly, as customers and attendants sometimes will change your settings. And there is nothing worse than coming into a freezing store on a summer morning, because someone pushed the “hold” button the night before.

(Bob Meuschke, Family Laundry, Kansas City, Mo.)

***

31. If you’ve got the wall space to do it, put up a complete menu featuring all of your prices and services – all in one spot. The customers really find it helpful.

(Stephanie, Mennenga, Morton Laundry Services, Morton, Ill.)

***

32. If you offer finishing services, selecting the right temperature when getting ready to iron clothing can make the difference between ease and disaster. While all irons differ in temperature by manufacturer, here is a basic guideline of proper temperatures for ironing different fabrics:

• Linen: 445° F

• Cotton: 400° F

• Triacetate: 390° F

• Viscose: 375° F

• Wool: 300° F

• Polyester: 300° F

• Silk: 300° F

• Acetate: 290° F

• Acrylic: 275° F

• Lycra/Spandex: 275° F

• Nylon: 275° F

(Mary Marlowe Leverette, editor, About.com’s Laundry Forum)

***

33. Flexible work schedules are the golden ticket of employee benefits. Allowing your employees to occasionally come in late, leave early or take a few hours in the middle of the day for things like doctor’s appointments, family issues and 9-to-5 errands makes their lives easier. It also strengthens their company loyalty.

(Megan Totka, chief editor, ChamberofCommerce.com)

***

34. Repetitive work is quickened by a backdrop of reds, yellows and beiges. The walls of a chemical manufacturing company were changed from gray and blue to cream and red. The result is typing speeds increased by 12 percent and transcription speeds went up 20 percent.

(Jan Yager, PhD., author, “Making Your Office Work for You” )

***

35. Laundry attendants’ clothing is subjected to more wear and tear than other similarly paid workers. Duties such as cleaning and polishing washers, cleaning lint from dryers, mopping floors and taking out the garbage expose clothing to bleach and soap stains. A laundry by its very nature suggests clean, immaculate clothing. Even more, laundry owners draw from the same employment pool as fast-food outlets, gas stations, drug stores and grocery stores – all of which offer uniforms to their employees.

Supplying clothing, or even providing a clothing allowance, is a perk that can help put laundry owners in a more favorable position to compete for quality workers. The highly recognizable look of a uniform sets an attendant apart in a crowded laundromat and instantly identifies him or her as a figure of authority.

(Sally Collins, author, “Happiness is Owning a Laundromat” )

***

36. I post photos online, featuring drop-off laundry orders that we’ve completed. We take pride in our drop-off service, and the photos show potential customers what their orders can look like. Some people may not know what to expect, and this is a way to puts people’s minds at ease.

(Marcus Yono, Millennium Laundry, Monroe, Mich.)

***

37. We monitor both of our stores with security cameras that can be viewed online. However, we also provide our staff with “panic buttons” that they wear on their aprons. If an emergency occurs, they simply press the button and an alarm will sound. We sleep better at night knowing our staff is safe.

(Steve Potvin, Potvin Laundry, Phoenix, Ariz.)

***

38. If you are going to buy new equipment, I would certainly recommend going to more than one distributor and have them bid on the job, just like you would if you are going to have somebody re-carpet your house. When you shop around, pay careful attention to the features you want and the financing options the distributors have available to you, in addition to the price. Sometimes favorable financing can make all the difference when trying to make a deal work.

Time can also play into your hands when buying equipment. If you are not in a rush to get your new machines, you might want to wait until the distributors have an open house. Many distributors offer some pretty good incentives for making your purchase at the event.

(Brian Brunckhorst, author, “Secrets of Buying and Owning Laundromats” )

***

39. When competing with other stores in your market, compete on service, quality, equipment and cleanliness – not price.

(Ron Kelley, EZ Coin Op Laundromat, San Jose, Calif.)

***

40. I have found that the best marketing I can do is to have the cleanest, best-lit laundries with a large selection of equipment that is in good working order. That is hard to beat. No matter how good your marketing is, it can’t overcome a dirty, dark and broken operation.

(Daryl Johnson, Giant Wash Laundry, Mason City, Iowa)


[For small-business owners, a good idea is worth its weight in gold. If you have a money-saving, money-making or attention-grabbing idea or concept that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear about it. Send it to PlanetLaundry Editor Bob Nieman at: bob@planetlaundry.com.]

#Public #PlanetLaundry #Article #CoverStory #BusinessManagement #StoreOperations

Share This