Originally posted – Nov 17, 2014

By nature, I can be very philosophical. As a result, I’m endlessly fascinated by what others have to say about life and about their personal rules of living.

I tend to collect these thoughts and sayings – most of the time forgetting where I originally heard or read them – and often quote and think about them when circumstances dictate. I find them useful and applicable to the many things I do, and perhaps you will, too.

Despite this column’s headline, I must admit that these thoughts didn’t originate in my head. However, I have claimed them as my own in terms of referring to them often, and there is nothing wrong with you doing the same, and applying them to your life and laundry business:

It’s OK to have red wine with fish.

In other words, it’s completely permissible (although not always easy) to break away from the mainstream and take a contrarian stance. Only the lead horse has a clear view, and it’s best to be the rancher instead of part of the herd anyway.

When developing marketing and loyalty programs for your self-service laundry, remember this approach and you will be surprised what original and creative ideas will surface, which will help to distinguish your business from the competition.

It’s the footprints you leave that matter.

I view this as the opportunity to take some chances in life. Research has shown that, when older people are interviewed, more often than not they regret the things they did not attempt, rather than those they did attempt but were unsuccessful.

When running your business (as well as living your life), avoid becoming preoccupied with the common fear of making mistakes. Keep your eyes open to events that just pop up by permitting serendipity to play a role in your day-to-day activities, because it’s less concerned with details than with results.

The saddest words on anyone’s tombstone are: “He or she had great potential.”

The world is run by C students.

You don’t have to be a genius to become successful. Unfortunately, it’s common for people to convince themselves that they’re just not smart enough to accomplish certain goals.

In my lifetime, I’ve met a number of successful people. And, more often than not, I’ve come away with the conclusion that it was not supreme intelligence that produced their success. Rather, it was other qualities such a grit, luck and simply not thinking they couldn’t accomplish their goals.

Of course, super intelligent people often become very successful, but I truly believe that C students are responsible for most of the progress on this planet, simply because there are more of them around.

Nothing truly important in life comes with instructions.

Life is indeed complex and dynamic. For example, all relationships are all different; they evolve and each one depends upon the people involved. There is no firm rule as to how to have good relationships with others you deal with regularly. There also are no rules as to how to have fulfilling relationships with your close relatives and family members. You must carve out your own methods.

This is also true when developing relationships with your laundry customers, either through direct contact or the messages you provide in your advertising. If you follow a cookie-cutter approach, you will end up with very common cookies. My message here is for you to find unique methods for relating to your customers in person and via advertising that will impress them and leave strong, lasting, comfortable and positive impressions.

Everything that happens to us does so to teach us something.

Typically, change and unplanned events cause us anxiety and discomfort. It’s also true that people love consistency and closure. Hence, one can conclude that, as we go through life (including our business life), it is fairly easy to get thrown off balance.

Why not try this approach? When unplanned events occur – both positive and negative – view them as instructional messages. For example, we recently had a power failure at our laundry that lasted all day Saturday and the major part of Sunday. Those of us in the self-service laundry business know very well how important these particular days are to our weekly gross sales.

When reacting to this issue, I had a choice. I could have become angry and depressed, but instead I viewed the experience as the lesson to not take our “weekend laundry traffic” for granted.

By the way, lessons come in all forms – so, the next time you get caught in major traffic jam, perhaps the lesson to be learned is to become a more patient person. Clearly, the list of learnable lessons is truly endless.

Things are rarely as they first appear.

Many people find it comfortable to arrive at fast conclusions. Psychologically, it is more convenient for us. For instance, I have observed laundry owners grumbling that certain customers never have a kind word to say to them or a smile on their faces. Therefore, the conclusion the owners draw is that these customers are unfriendly or don’t like their laundromat, which may not be the case at all. Perhaps the customer is simply shy or has difficulties communicating. There could be many reasons for their behavior.

What about that laundry attendant who never seems happy with her job? Why not consider that maybe she wants more responsibility and is feeling insulted by not having enough of her skills recognized and rewarded.

Here’s an example of how first impressions often can be quite misleading: if I asked you if you would rather have me give you $1 million today or just hand you a single penny and promise to double it every day for 30 days, what would you choose – based on your first impression of the offer?

If you’re like most people, I believe you would opt for the million bucks. However, upon closer inspection of the offer, you would find this choice to be a huge financial mistake.

In fact, if you started with a penny, the amount you would accrue by doubling it every day for 30 days would actually be $5,368,709.12! Don’t believe me? Do the calculations for yourself.

Acting quickly, based upon first impressions, can be mighty costly as you can see. Patience is often the weapon of the winner.

Ninety percent of the decisions we make are based upon emotion.

In past columns, I have written that most decisions are based on emotion and justified with logic. I also have mentioned that, in my view, the five primary buying decisions are based upon (rooted in): fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity and the need for approval.

The decision people make when choosing a coin laundry typically takes these motivators into account in some form. Of course, distance to and from the laundry come into play, but those emotional factors are very influential. This is not only true of laundry selection but also when it comes to selecting other products and services customers buy.

Let’s use lipstick selection as an example of how the emotions of the need for approval and exclusivity play a major role in which brand of lipstick is actually purchased.

Research has shown that women don’t care that a tube of lipstick contains tetrobrxomanganate hypoperoxidase hydrochoride. (Yup, I made that chemical name up.) What’s going to grab her interest is that the lipstick looks good, stays on longer so that she doesn’t have to keep reapplying it, and doesn’t smudge. Less fuss, fewer worries and a great look are the buying motivators. Most of these are emotional in origin.

Today is the oldest you’ve been and the youngest you will ever be.

As you’ve gotten older, you’ve no doubt noticed that one trip around the sun doesn’t take very long. It only seems like a long time when one is young and a year is a significant part of the time a young person has been around.

Part of what we do at our distributorship is to develop laundry businesses for clients. And it always amazes me when, while talking with laundry owners for whom we’ve constructed laundries, they remind me that they’ve been in business now for a relatively large number of years. To me, it always seems like it was just yesterday that we began our site search for their business.

As the Latin expression states: “tempus fugit” – or time flies. Yes, tempus really does fugit!

I believe the key message here is to appreciate your total time on Earth and in the laundry business. Most of us seem to be too busy with details and running the day-to-day operation to do that. In the final analysis, everything on Earth has a beginning and an end. Don’t underappreciate the most important parts that occupy the middle.

My advice to all laundry owners is to cherish, appreciate and enjoy each and every day you are in the business and on Earth. Get friendly with your customers and develop positive working relationships with your attendants and suppliers. Enjoy your total work and life experiences.

In 1916, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg wrote “Limited,” a brilliant and insightful poem that clearly points out our mortality.

Ponder his poem carefully…

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation.

Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.

(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.)

I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.”


I imagine reading this poem can be a moment of painful clarity, because we rarely dwell on our mortality. Yes, everything has a beginning and an end, but don’t over-worry about it. It is profoundly liberating when you realize how pointless it is to get upset about things you can’t control. Becoming stressed about the situations outside your sphere of influence will do nothing but increase your discomfort. I realize this is very easy to say but difficult to do.

But try we must.

In my view, Simon and Garfunkel say it well in the lyric of their song “Old Friends,” when they sing: “Preserve your memories; they’re all that’s left you.”

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