Current Position: Mark Albrecht is a consultant with The Route Pros, a position he has held since 2013.
The Business: Renowned in the garment care industry as “The Knockfather,” James Peuster is the founder and owner of The Route Pros, whose home office and Route Pros University is centrally located in Kansas City, Missouri.The Route Pros is a profit group comprised of over 80 member companies across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Their vision centralizes around best growth practices with specialized consulting on routes, retail, operations, sales and client retention.“Many great and traditional cost groups in our industry have primarily featured a business level ownership of participation,” said Albrecht. “The Route Pros are different. Seventy-five percent of our best success stories are from staff participation and training, both onsite at their home base and afar with our regular coaching programs.”“Our number one goal usually surrounds the rockstar employees of our member companies,” Albrecht said. “Honestly, we care more about the staff buying into our training and support above all else.
”The Early Years: He was born, raised and grew up in Middletown, Connecticut. “It’s a great little spot right on the Connecticut River in the central part of the state,” Albrecht said of his hometown in The Constitution State.Albrecht’s business pedigree comes from his parents, Tom and Beth. Mom and dad were the first to give him support and direction in fund raising and face-to-face selling. “I frequently sold candy bars for little league, wrapping paper for my church youth group and magazines for the school athletic department,” he reminisced. “I even sold homemade maple syrup and apple cider.”“My parents were really good at teaching me communication skills that were genuine, not just robotic and automated,” he said. “Those skills continue to motivate me today in our great industry, as I value so many of the friendships The Route Pros are blessed with.
”Entering the Industry: When he was sixteen years old, Albrecht’s eagerness to find employment was primarily motivated by his desire to own a car. Albrecht lived near one of the many Best Cleaners locations in Central Connecticut and he noticed their “now hiring” sign. “It was close enough to ride my bike to and my dad influenced me to throw on my shirt and tie and apply,” Albrecht said. “I was hired on the spot for $5/hour starting wage!
”The Best Years: “I spent the next two years working with a great team at Best Cleaners,” Albrecht exclaimed. “Among others, a very significant person in my career was my very first boss, Jennifer Kulton. Without modern-day technology that we have now in our industry, Jennifer really knew how to lead a team through a human element and boy did we do great!”Kulton’s strengths as a leader had an impact on a young Albrecht. In hindsight, Albrecht sites her high standards and ability to relate to staff’s personalities. “Just so many qualities that I observed are still fresh in my mind 25 years later.”After completing an Associates’s Degree in marketing and business management, Albrecht returned to Best Cleaners to work for the McCann family, whose multi-generational involvement in the dry cleaning industry stretches over a vast geographical territory. “Under Shawn McCann’s leadership, I quickly became a floating manager at all of the Best Cleaners locations in Connecticut,” recalled Albrecht. “It was incredible to meet so many great team members at all levels.
”New Ground: In 2002, Albrecht’s team at Best Cleaners decided to implement a pick-up and delivery service. He enthusiastically accepted the role as Best Cleaners’ very first route manager and organically grew Best Cleaners’ routes by serving and selling in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Godfather of Knocks: “As most savvy companies in this industry understand, it’s always good to align yourselves with other successful operations so that you stay motivated and on top of best route development practices,” said Albrecht. “Enter James Peuster, of The Route Pros.”It turned out that Albrecht and his teammates at Best Cleaners were a perfect fit for this member group at The Route Pros. His staff couldn’t get enough of the regular coaching, training and networking with other drivers across the country. “James kept us hungry for more, supported us, gave us a voice and ensured that above all, we felt like a valuable member of the Best Cleaners route team,” beamed Albrecht. “I do my best every day to continue to follow these qualities that James inspired me to be like.
”Moving Out: After a decade of successful and profitable route-building across central Connecticut at Best Cleaners, Albrecht felt a restless itch to see what other opportunities were available to him outside of the garment care industry. “My wife and I had always played with the idea of relocation out of Connecticut and we decided to take the leap.”“I’ll never forget how hard it was to tell my team, coworkers and friends at Best Cleaners that I was truly leaving my dream job,” said a pensive Albrecht. “I was nervous for what the future would hold, wondering if I was capable of a different career.”Shawn McCann suggested that Albrecht leverage his connections and goodwill equity with The Route Pros to see if there was mutual interest. With McCann’s blessing, plus the support of his colleagues at Best Cleaners, Albrecht contacted James Peuster about coming on board as a consultant. “He was unwavering in his efforts to convince me to join his team of consultants,” Albrecht said of Peuster’s open arms. “In March of 2013, I was officially a Route Pro!
”Daily Grind: He travels to The Route Pros membership companies 35-40 weeks per year, on average. Albrecht is the first to admit that his career is not as glamorous as one might imagine, mainly because of the travel and time away from his home base. “My life and career are so smooth. I love my job and I’ve had nothing but good luck and many blessings,” he said. “Only hard part are flights and hotels, but our members always make things comfy for me.”Now entering his ninth year with The Route Pros, Albrecht counts himself as very blessed to have worked with many of the best staff across The Route Pros membership. In an era where employee retention is critical, Albrecht is proud of his team members who have been around through the mountaintops and valleys over the years. “In 2020, I successfully completed my 1000th ride-along training session,” said a grateful Albrecht. “I continue to learn so much from so many sharp folks and I do my best to teach it to others.
”Looking Forward: One of the things that Albrecht is excited about has been the addition of Jennifer Marquardt to The Route Pros staff. “Our members have a strong rapport with her not just because of her coaching skill set, but also because of her extensive experience working in a dry cleaner,” he said. “She’s a lifer, just like me!
”Management Style: Believing that mentorship and accountability are two of the critical components to being an effective leader, Albrecht also understands the importance of incorporating fun into the team-building process. “I am socially gregarious and some people would tell you that I’m silly,” he said. “I also know that my members are going to lay on me the good as well as their challenges, professionally and personally.
”Definition of Success: “Success to me and what I do is achieved through our Route Pro’s Nation members,” said Albrecht. “My career lives vicariously through their successes and failures, so that’s my ultimate combination of motivation and accountability.
”Industry Outlook: When asked about any significant shifts, changes, or trends within the garment care industry over the next five to ten years, Albrecht was quick to quote James (The Knockfather) Peuster. “Our industry’s future comes down to ‘margins and market share.’
”Pearls of Wisdom: “There is a growing trend of robotic automation in our industry and we need to be careful with that,” cautioned Albrecht. “Leaders need to be mindful of not putting their employees and clients on autopilot.
”Personal: Albrecht loves to go hiking and take vacations when he’s not traveling and hustling for The Route Pros. “I’m very aesthetically motivated and kind of an outdoor hippie,” he said. “I love the outdoors, I love the mountains, I love the ocean, I love the water, I love the forest.”An avid football fan of the New York Jets, Albrecht has been a season ticket holder for 21 years. He balances his long-suffering Jets fandom by devoting his basketball rooting interests to the Los Angeles Lakers.In October, the 41-year-old Albrecht celebrated 18 years of marriage to Debbie, his best friend and high school sweetheart. “My wife is everything to me and I think the feeling is mutual, after all these years,” he quipped. Debbie, who holds master’s and doctorate degrees, heads the law department of a public water utility. The couple makes their home in Woodbury, New Jersey.