How Do You Feel About Change?

Change. You can hate the thought of it or can’t wait for it. One thing for sure, though: change is as inevitable as death and taxes. So it’s how we adapt to or create change that determines how best we’re going to cope with it.

For the kid turning 16, knowing they can now get their driver’s license is a change they’d looked forward to forever. Yet that change in life creates angst for parents, worried about the risk of accident and the foreboding nature of their child’s growing independence.

Whether it’s personal, political or professional, the concept of change is almost always a double-edged sword: for some the status quo is acceptable, for others the need for change worthy of a fight.

Just in the five years that I’ve been in this industry, it’s clear drycleaners have been faced with a variety of new forces and trends in this marketplace. Yet it’s clear there is one consistent that will undoubtedly never change: nothing is more important than the product drycleaners deliver to their customers.

Recently, I ran into one of the founders of Hanger’s Dry Cleaners. It was at the International Housewares Show; he markets a furniture accessory today.

He told me about how Hanger’s first raised, then lost $50,000,000; “several million of that being mine.” He noted how, despite the franchising company being long gone, there were a few Hangers Cleaners still around, all those stores are doing very well.

His explanation as to why most failed and a handful survived? “The ones that prospered were good drycleaners before becoming part of our company, and the others were mainly bought and operated by absentee owners. It’s not about the name, it’s all about the quality of the drycleaner’s product.”

So for those who have a fully-matured business and are more in a protectionist versus growth phase of their professional lives, the ability to continue to provide quality pressing, spotting, cleaning and service is going to allow them to hold onto their customers and their positive word of mouth.

But for the majority of drycleaners – those still in expansion, growth or even survival modes – the need to accept and morph with today’s technologies is imperative to their successful futures.

Simon Mainwaring, an award winning marketer and author (“We First”), has helped shape the branding for Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Hyundai, Toyota and other titans, often talks about how just doing good work isn’t good enough. Not only do you need to find ways to spread that message, you need others to do so, too. Competition demands this, you’re not just competing with other drycleaners, you’re competing with their ads, website, publicity reach and their social media outreach.

Changing the way we do things is never easy. Many of us who grew up in a world where direct mail coupon books and sponsoring little league teams was the standard marketing techniques for local businesses. Now we have to make friends with Facebook, encourage your customers to YELP you, and continually have new ideas to twitter and blog; all while making sure that the company’s operations doesn’t get compromised by these added responsibilities.

You will see more and more people talking about their environmental innovations, whether it’s in their solvents or in their delivery systems.

If the current trends continue, some of your competitors are going to offer multiple kinds of delivery: be it concierge service, lockers or apps. There may be national chains with big consumer identities opening down the street. You can see this as an opportunity to show how you stand out, or you can simply hope for the best. I’m hoping you are one of those competitors leading the industry’s way into the future: I assure you it will be worth it.

And speaking of change, I want to thank the Cleaner & Launderer team for being interested in reviving my column. Cleaner & Launderer has been important to Jennie and I from the very beginnings of our company.

When we first thought about creating The Green Garmento, Jennie and I reached out to the Wente family to get an idea from industry insiders on the potential of marketing our products to the drycleaning community.

So it is an honor, exactly five years later, to ‘come home.’ See you next month on The High Road.