Our Industry’s Best Hiring Practices

I often get asked this question. Most operators simply buy a plant that is already up and running and perform “as is” business. For those seeking a better and more organized way to do it, we have “Best Operating Practices” within the industry. Consult your drycleaning and laundry associations for a more scripted suggestion list. Teamwork and a gentlemen’s agreement in how two people (an employer and an employee) can coexist and are necessary. Building a great team starts at the very beginning of your buying and planning steps. Your business cannot function at its ideal level if you don’t have the best resources and assets. And the most important of those assets are your employees. Investing in your employees may be the greatest gift you can give each other. But you have to depend on their history and your intuition about that person. I think the same holds true for the employee that should evaluate their potential boss! “All’s fair in love and war,” they say. As for resources, there are plenty, starting with your state, national, or international drycleaning and laundry association, as well as private consultation with an expert in the field.

If You Came From Another Industry, Forget Everything You Know

To assemble a star team of employees there are many considerations. You cannot put together a team without a reliable method of planning and recruiting. Planning is easy if you know the perimeters of our industry. If you came from another industry, forget everything you know! Most smart, and not so smart, operators think they can efficiently run a plant and make 35% profit margins and operate with 20% labor. The former might be true but not for long. No one ever turned out any resemblance of our industry standards for even “medium quality” levels at 20% labor. So your first hand of business is to throw out everything you once knew about operating a small business and convince yourself that our industry is totally different than any other. Don’t even begin to consider otherwise or listen to those who tell you it “ain’t so”. If you don’t believe it now, you will soon enough.

As a small business your budget will be very limited unless you are independently wealthy in which case I would suggest any other industry but ours to buy into. You may not be able to afford expensive outside services and you should depend on your industry associations to provide you with the correct procedures for hiring and best operating practices. Without a structured hiring system in place, it will be difficult for you to identify candidates who may not meet your standards or any specific programs/requirements that you have at your plant. That is, if you indeed have a best hiring practice even established. It is so easy in our typically small operating plants or dry stores to think we can operate without a plan. The same holds true that we do not need a corporate attitude towards our small business either. So often I see plants or franchises open with this Wall Street attitude about hiring and organizing their drycleaning and laundry business. This is not Rhodes Scholar level of decision making and knowledge. There is a balance in there somewhere. You may also waste valuable time and resources by using an outdated or inefficient process. At the same time, you may overlook a potential employee simply because you lack the tools to identify their potential as a manager, finisher, stain removal expert, drycleaning machine operator, seamstress or any other typical position in our plants.

If You Don’t Have A Reliable And Flexible Manager In Place, Start Looking For One

Any manager worth their salt in this industry will know how to function in every department and fill in when needed. Lord knows that happens often enough…ugh! A good manager will have a company policy in place that shows fair discipline, fair training knowledge of safety issues, company requirements; in short, they need a copy of your written company policy handbook. I cannot fathom in my wildest dreams a company in our industry, no matter how small, not having a company rule and policy book. Even if it is only 3 pages long-you need it! Most labor rules (they vary from state to state) under federal guidelines will allow overtime (time and a half) after a forty hour work week. Managers, beware of the dreaded “manager salary.” Unless you work for a real peach of a boss, you may find you are working 50-60 hours a week for the same pay as forty. Stay away from this method of employee abuse. There are exceptions that I know of, but usually the manager’s salary is a ruse to get more hours for less pay. The belief that you will have some short days to balance your long hours out is usually a falsehood and very unlikely in a busy laundry and drycleaning plant. That is, if you do not stand your ground.

Regular weekly meetings are a must at plants with more than a dozen employees. Woe be tide to those who dodge requiring meetings. Meetings are as important as they can be because “an empty wagon makes the most noise.” There are those who will avoid attending a meeting, preferring to work straight through, but don’t fall for that one. Attendance should be a requirement, not a suggestion. There are many, many more suggestions and regulations that I cannot cover here with limited space. Positional requirements in each department and other issues have to be laid out. But to be sure, in order to manage something, you must first learn to measure it. Keep that attitude and all will go well in the employee department, unless, of course, your work ethic in your area is so terrible that among other problems, getting an employee to simply show up is a treat. I pray that does not happen to you. Pay well, be fair, give cost of living raises and you will most likely have few employee problems. Initiate your “Best Operating Practices” soon!

I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!

About Kenney Slatten

Kenney Slatten Training Company is a Dry Cleaning and Laundry Consulting Firm Specializing in Environmental Training and Certification. Kenney Slatten Training Company, or KSTC, is based in Texas with offices in Arizona and California. Kenney Slatten is a certified instructor/trainer for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), is actively involved in the San Diego Drycleaners Association, the California Cleaners Association, is an Allied Trade board member of DLI, the Executive Director of Western States Drycleaners & Launderers Association, a member of the International Drycleaners Congress, and a columnist for American Drycleaner and Western Cleaner and Launderer magazines. The Kenney Slatten Training Company provides the only complete environmental training and inspection process. Started in 1987, Kenny became the first instructor for California E.P.A, OSHA, and state regulations. Kenney publishes a 36 point plant requirement every year in trade publications which is his guide for plant training and certification. We are the only company that provides dry cleaning and laundry specific environmental training. Kenney Slatten is a third generation drycleaner/laundryman from Houston, Texas. His company, KSTC, can teach you the skills you need to have a successful plant. His wagon is found all over the country parked under a tree just waiting for the next call to come to your plant. He can be reached at (800) 429-3990; e-mail: kslatten@aol.com or go to: www. kstraining.com.