Well, The Clean Show 2019 has wrapped, and I’m on my way home. My feet are sore, my stomach has been well fed with Alligator Andouille Sausage Gumbo and powdered sugar beignet, my liver has been given a work out, my head is full of ideas and my pocket is full of leads. Many old friendships have been rekindled, and new friendships have been formed. The 16 to 18-hour days that are the Clean Show are tough on the body, but they also restore the soul.
If you weren’t at the Clean Show, I’m sorry and I feel for you.
Far too many cleaners are trapped in their businesses and can’t get away for a few days, and for many different reasons. Regardless your reason for not coming, it should be a great big red flag that there is something wrong with your business when you can’t afford to take a few days off or out of your business to get to a convention like the Clean Show. After all, you can write off airfare, hotel rooms, cost of admission, and most of the cost of food and drinks to your business as a legitimate business expense (and non-taxable benefit), so if it’s money thing, well, let your business cover it. If your business can’t afford it, big red flag….and we should talk.
If you don’t have enough staff to cover for you, again, another big red flag. You missed out seeing some interesting labor-saving presses designed for the millennials that don’t even know how to iron. Yes, there is a press being made that does not even have an iron on it (it’s an optional add on device). Basically, the presser dresses a pant topper and the machine does the rest, including pressing creases into the legs. One of my clients asked me to check it out, which lead to many interesting discussions while we watched the machine put through its paces. Labor is getting very hard to find, and even harder to find people who know how to iron, let alone finding professional pressers with skills in place to do the job. Fascinating to see that an equipment manufacturer is ahead of the pack recognizing that not only has there been a huge decline in people to work within the industry, but these same people have no skills to even start into the business, thus the need of pressing machines that don’t require even the basic skill of ironing. If you can dress yourself, you can dress the pant topper and be a productive income generating presser.
This leads me to my next point. I met some folks on the show floor who had entered the business not by choice, but by necessity. Due to family circumstances, they fell into the business. This was their first Clean Show, and they were overwhelmed. They knew little about the business they inherited and were desperately seeking resources for learning. Walking the floor, and seeing massive equipment, big booths interspersed with little ten by ten booths, the lights, the sounds, the big metal…. well it was simply too much. Taking them by the hand, settling into a booth offering espresso/cappuccinos with a little prosciutto and an amazing parmigiana fromage (yeah, some companies KNOW how to set up a booth, don’t they!), I laid out a plan for them, making recommendations and a list of booths they needed to see. I feel pretty good about connecting a cleaner in crisis with the information and resources they need to get on track, get educated, and have a fighting chance of making it in this business. It’s my way of giving back to an industry that has provided me with so much. I don’t just do this at Clean Shows, at the bottom of this article is my phone number and email address, feel free to reach out, it’s free, and there is no obligation of any sort when you really need someone to talk to.
Getting back to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, I’m amazed at the number of folks I know that I met from the earliest days of my career in the dry cleaning world. Some of these friendships now extend internationally and over 39 years. It’s literally to the point that within 20 minutes of stepping off the airplane and dropping my bags in my room, then popping into the French Quarter for a late supper….as I’m walking by a hotel and there is a rapping on the window and waving me into the bar for a drink. Yes, somebody that knows me! Then, as one bar closes, there is someone else in the hotel lobby! Conversations until 3 am! Then a short two hours until wake up for 6 am breakfast meeting, followed by pre-show coffee, show open, and all day long until cocktail meetings, supper meetings, evening parties, after parties into the wee hours. Repeat. Fun and exhilaration rubbing shoulders with movers, shakers and innovators, it’s always a thrill exchanging ideas and opinions. Even more fun when new ideas clash and challenge old establishment (Dang, I love it when Shaine shakes it up).
Such pleasure to see youth and enthusiasm in some of the new cutting edge app developers, the vibe I sensed at the Cinet meet up restores my faith that there is opportunity in new innovation from this group, challenging the old ways of servicing customers by being as close as their smart phone, and breaking up old ideas of how to deliver services in a rapidly changing market. If on demand is not your thing, you better get hip or get run over by those who are creating the way to make it so.
But apps are not the only place where innovation is threatening old establishment. The level of automation coming into this industry is amazing. From completely automated stores devoid of need for humans to accept and return orders, to conveyor systems shuttling clothes within your plant. Devices and systems that will save you seconds of labor per piece here, to replacing entire employees there, the savings or lessening of reliance on an actual human is growing. While finding staff in a tight labor market continues to vex many, there are those who are investing into technology to break free of relying on anyone but machines to get work done. Jobs may be replaced by equipment while the business you save may be your own.
Certainly, it’s an investment of time and resources to come to a Clean Show, but those that do certainly are getting a return on investment. This is the third time for me to attend a Clean Show in New Orleans, but I’m already looking forward to the next Clean Show in Atlanta. It’s kind of like Christmas, as soon as one is over you start making plans for the next one, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I hope you have started making plans for you to attend the next one.