Lead Me On, Take My Hand

In today’s business climate, every drycleaning plant in existence will need bold leadership (from the owner down to the section manager or supervisor) to accommodate the best in organized leadership, efficiency and forward thinking processing. It’s a consistently business world and we must move forward to compete. To my way of thinking, leadership will supercede any other faction of progress. Rapidly changing business rules, regulations and employment issues could smother your concentration on maintaining your business goals towards better profits. For the average operator with a ton of service debt, profit margins for our industry remain low. I believe this is mainly due to poor organization of staff and low pricing. Maybe I’m wrong and the lower price cleaners stand a place in the market. It seems to work for bigger industries, but I’m not sure it works for our industry pricing. Wouldn’t you rather do 500 pieces a day at full price rather than 1,000 pieces a day to get the same results at a lower price? It’s a long debated subject and I can’t solve it. And there is the matter of what is low enough for the consumer? They already think we are millionaires! Profit is not a dirty word and no customer should dictate how you run your business. No amount of customer loyalty should stand in the way of running your business the way you choose. If you’re unsure (new owners) the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute has the answers.

Isn’t it sad that the customer becomes the real inspector?

Even efficiency has its challenges. Cutting our highest expense, labor can become a liability when the customer realizes that their drycleaning and laundry does not stand up to what it used to be. Oh sure, we all know you take up the slack when an employee calls in sick (for whatever other real reason). It puts a strain on everyone else and not only does quality suffer, employee moral goes down the tubes. Squeaking by on labor can ruin your business. It has been long proven by the Institute (DLI) that one can make a decent profit and put out quality at no less than 36% labor. Any lower will leave quality at risk. The customer deserves better. This thinking applies to any industry on earth unless you are the only employee. It is a fine balance that requires attention to the finer details of producing your long held and long expected quality level. Isn’t it sad that our lack of thorough inspection leaves the customer to be the inspector of your work instead of you? Where are your standards applied to this industry? Some of us think we are putting out the best product ever and that may be true. But the standards are so low today that anything looks better than your competitor. Naturally, I speak not of every plant owner, but of the few who don’t want to believe in industry standards of the Institute. Making good money on your work is certainly no crime but lowering the quality makes it so.

I see more and more attention being given to diversification. That is not a bad idea but it can become one if your attention to drycleaning wavers. Again, I would spend more time on improving the quality and price of your already established business. It reminds me of finding a good BBQ “stand” as we call them in Texas. When a fella expands his BBQ shop, extending him/herself to other non-related food items, this can be the neglect that ruins their store. If you show quality and pride in your work, usually an owner can enjoy his life. But diversification (when done right) can lead to other things and can be a help to expanding your business. The mass of opportunities in drycleaning, laundry and wet cleaning items such as specialty cleaning can give you many opportunities for expanding your work without selling other stuff.

Every business is the lengthened shadow of its leaders.

Tackling the importance of leadership. Some of our past and present failures with employment issues demand daring leadership. A disillusioned staff cries for leadership. Show me a laundry or drycleaning company that is dynamic and I will show you leadership which is also growing. If we fail to properly lead our staff, there is someone else who might do it better and then your job as a leader is in jeopardy. In other words, a philosopher (of which I am not) might argue that every business is the lengthened shadow of its leaders. Owners who wish to be absentee can never give or show their customers and employees a good example. Forget entrepreneurship and focus on your business. It will not run itself. Absentee owner? Bah Humbug! Your business staff will be as helpless as a cow in quicksand.

As for efficiency, the best way to be efficient is to pay attention to your P&L’s (profit & and loss statements), and do it weekly! Watching where your dollars are going in each and every area of expense or each department gives one a mission every Monday for your meeting and setting reasonable goals to keep expense at bay. Just don’t go overboard, especially in the labor department. A talented manager must understand what the owner wants and how to get that across to the staff in a fair way. And for Pete’s sake the owner should allow that leader to make business plans with every subordinate without the owner stepping in and stepping on the manager’s toes by not allowing them to lead. The best place for the owner sometimes, is to be far away from those weekly meetings. The owner should convey his expectations to the manager or supervisor and stand back and see how he does without interruption. This is a very overlooked and sad thing that happens to managers or leaders when the owner will not let them lead on their own. If something is getting missed, the owner should go to the manager and straighten it out, not to others. A good manager expects to be a leader without the owner nosing in. Learn to delegate.

The owner of Chrysler once said “The real secret of his success had been enthusiasm and even more than enthusiasm would be excitement. I like to see employees get excited. They get customers excited and we get more business.” I’m betting most of you operators have such a person in leadership roles. That very enthusiasm your leader has will be infectious everywhere in the plant and customer service. If you find such a gem, hold on to them and pay them well. It’s an investment.

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

Don’t Forget The CCA Long Beach Show This Year.

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.