You Can’t Shrink Your Way To Greatness

It’s been 8 months since the Covid shut down, and demand for dry cleaning demand dropped 85 percent or more in many markets. In many areas businesses and economies are reopening, trying to get back to some sort of normalcy, doing the best they can to make a profitable business. 

Recently I was in the Cleaners and Launderers Facebook group reading advice from other cleaners how to reduce expense while we wait for people to return to offices and workplaces (which is very slow to happen). Many business owners are attempting to manage, control and reduce expenses by:

-laying off nonessential staff and reducing staff hours

– closing locations

– reducing store hours

– cutting or scaling back production days

I read one cleaner was advising cleaners to reuse every hanger that comes in for recycling (I can only imagine the hours spent bending deformed hangers back into a usable shape), even reusing plastic garment bags as garbage bin liners. I’m often amazed by the frugality of some in this industry as I’ve even heard a cleaner advising rationing of toilet paper in the staff washroom, but thankfully he stopped short of posting a sign advising staff to use both sides.

Seriously, this is just how desperate many in the industry have become. With such drops in demand and piece counts, many owners have nothing else to do but spend their hours coming up with new ways to stretch pennies into dollars of cost savings.

Cut, cut, cut, cut……. sounds like what exactly a responsible business owner must be doing in order to have his business survive the challenges of the business climate today. But I disagree. Why? Because you can’t shrink your way to greatness.

Cutting can only go so far. At some point, you simply cannot cut or reduce any further. And, after 8 months of watching this industry shrink, I think we have reached the point of ‘singularity’, we cannot compress any further. What do you do then? Well, for many, they give up, they quit, they go out of business.

Yet, while many are cutting, cutting, cutting, shrinking, shrinking, shrinking, reducing, reducing, reducing, there are others looking at this industry seeing massive opportunity. Like I said to one fellow who reached out to me in sheer panic: “I just received the keys today, what have I done?!!” I told him, “Look on the bright side, you are getting in on the absolute ground floor.”

In times of great challenge, there is also great opportunity. 

Shrewd operators are expanding their hours while others are cutting service hours. Shrewd operators continue to offer plant services a full five days a week while others go down to as little as two days of production. Shrewd operators are picking up skilled and trained staff adding people to their operations from cleaners who laid them off. Some are adding Wash Dry Fold services to their drycleaning operation, utilizing their existing equipment and staff more efficiently. Some are adding pick-up and delivery service to their operation making their services even MORE convenient for their customers to do business with them. The smart operators are taking calculated risks making bold moves into voids left for less adventurous and risk tolerant cleaners. The smart cleaners know, you expand while others contract…. you can’t shrink your way to greatness.

Growing in times of crisis is not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But the smart money is the money spent in controlled amounts. While some bet big, and lose big, those who bet small and bet often, can afford those small loses on bets that don’t work out and the accumulative effect will amass a pile of winnings. Spending those hours of free time, you now have coming up with new ideas for growth and opportunity can be much more productive than coming up with more ways to slice a penny into thinner and thinner pieces.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mighty tired of trying to make do in a severely shrunken market. As I write this article, Germany and the UK have begun to introduce another round of restrictions basically moving back into shut down. Less than 24 hours later, the same restrictions on people and business has spread to Canada with Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba starting to close restaurants, gyms, and bars, restricting meetings to just five people. I can see this spreading to our other neighbors after the election. I see another wave coming, and it’s going to be even more brutal on our industry because it’s now severely weakened. There is no way many can shrink any further. It’s going to be one heck of an opportunity for those bold enough to embrace the risk of growth. I’m getting ready with plans of growth or those who care to join me. I’d like to be optimistic and hang out with some folks who are looking forward instead of looking back. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and want to talk, I’m always more than willing to have a conversation with you. Reach out via telephone, email, messenger, text, and even good old mail. It’s you and me against the world, when do we attack?

About Darcy Moen

Darcy Moen opened his first drycleaning shop at the age nineteen. Over the next sixteen years, he built his first 600 square foot plant into a chain of 5 stores, creating and testing his own marketing programs along the way. Darcy is a multi-media marketer, working in digital signage, video, print, direct mail, web, email and is a social media expert certified by Facebook for Pages, Insights, and Ad systems. Please visit www.drycleanersuniversity.com

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