It’s a New Year, a time for reflection, and a time to look forward, to make plans, to make changes, to keep moving ahead and getting better. Getting better, it sure won’t take much to do better than we have had in 2020? Or will it?
There was a comment made on one of my previous articles on the Cleaner & Launderer web site, and I do love comments (please feel free to reach out and make comments, even if you don’t agree – I and the editors of this magazine do appreciate engagement, in any form). This article is inspired by Marieke’s comment as she was asking what should one do going forward.
Yes, business, piece counts and revenue is down right now. These lighter workloads are leading to reduced hours for staff, increased financial pressures on owners and an overall crisis of all sorts in every department. Many small businesses are waiting for a second round of stimulus or financial aid to keep their businesses afloat and running. That money may or may not ever come, so in the meantime, tighten up your financial commitments, question every expense, but be very cautious about cutting meat away from the bone. Keep in mind one of my previous articles, You Can’t Shrink Your Way to Greatness.
I have a suggestion, and it might be a wee bit radical: how about making an investment in your staff? Sure, you may have had to reduce their hours to match drops in incoming piece counts, but, with the reduced workloads, now is a VERY good time to be investing in skills training. If you only have six hours of work in a day, why not invest in an online stain removal class? The boiler is already running, extend it by a half hour to an hour to cross train a presser to learn spotting (stain removal). At the same time, cross train your spotter to learn how to press pants, shirts, silks, etc. Maybe even get your counter staff to learn how to press, spot, make up loads, etc. Cross training your staff reduces pressures should a key employee get sick and need time off work, or you can deploy your cross trained staff across multiple work stations to maximize their hours while minimizing your labour expenses. It’s really a win win. And, there are amazing online resources from associations that are readily available. It’s an investment that pays a huge return on investment.
But let’s not limit training to just your staff. You, as a business owner could likely use some upgrades. Yeah, you! I’m constantly amazed how many business owners cannot read a simple balance sheet, or understand a monthly profit and loss statement. Basic business accounting is a skill I learned in Grade 8, and it’s a skill that has helped me throughout my entire business life. Learning basic General Accounting skills can literally change your life, and picking up some Quickbooks skills (My accounting software package of preference) is fairly easy. I’d strongly recommend checking out some Quickbooks classes . You can find Quickbook classes online, and one class is likely to save you 500 bucks or more off your accounting fees, so you will be money ahead!
But, let’s not stop at accounting. You need more skills. You need customers; you need to find more customers. Again, there are tons of resources available to you, many of which are free and only cost you an investment of time. Granted, much of these free social media channels have become extremely complex, but don’t fret, there are folks like myself who can coach you how to use social media (sorry, blatant plug), or even do it all for you.
You should brush up on your Google My Business page. GMB has changed a lot in the past couple years, and Google is giving GMB pages a heavy weighting in search engine results. If you are not revisiting your GMB page at least monthly, and making a post on it regularly, you could be having your lunch eaten. Here is a free tip; making one post per month will push you to the very top of search results. Here is another tip: If your competitor makes just one post a month to his GMB page, you get pushed down in search results, perhaps even off the page. So, be sure YOU are the one making a post, more so if your competitor is. And if your competitor is NOT making posts, well, you have one powerful traffic and customer funnel all to yourself.
Ads, ads, ads. Right now, everybody is cutting expenses to the bone, and one of the first expenses cut is advertising. Oh sure, your customers are loyal. They would never think of straying to a competitor. Also, so many people working from home, they have a reduced need for your services. Well, here is my thought on the issue, while everyone else is zigging, you should be zagging. Your advertising dollar will go much farther right now because so many businesses have pulled back. Many online ad systems have seen huge drops in demand for ad space because people cannot travel, go out, and in some cases, even go out shopping. All this pull back has freed up huge amounts of ad space, and with reduced competition for ad space, the cost of online ads have never been cheaper. And then there is the added bonus that people have less to do, so they are online surfing the internet like never before, which means much more eyeballs for your ads.
Lastly, now is the time to stretch your creativity muscle. Business is changing at such a rapid pace as business owners find new ways to do business, develop new services and find new sources of revenue. If you haven’t made any changes in the past 8 months, I’m afraid you are falling very far behind, and fast.
Add a route, get into pick-up and delivery if you haven’t already done so because if your customers can’t come to you, you need to be going to them. Its one of the biggest mistakes I made in my dry cleaning career, I didn’t get into pickup and delivery soon enough. I was arrogant thinking people would come to my store for service and quality, I was wrong, people also wanted the ultimate in convenience, service at their door that they didn’t even need to think about: regular routine pickups and drop offs.
As much as it pains me to see the noble dry cleaning business slip into becoming over glorified laundry operations, perhaps it’s time to return to our roots. Let’s face it, fashion has taken a fundamental shift. All this working from home has led to an explosion of wash and wear, and with all this working from home, who really wants to extend their workday by doing laundry? I know that take-out and delivery of food has surged as folks don’t want to cook at home, I think it’s a natural extension to offer the ultimate time saver and ultimate in lifestyle, wash dry fold. It’s a premium service that there is an ever growing market for. If you have surplus capacity, and surplus staff, it certainly does not hurt adding WDF to your operation.
Lastly, you need to be at the top of your game with customer service. You need to be getting into your point-of-sale data and using it to find every extra order and article of clothing for cleaning you can find. You need to be looking at your inactive customer list. Customers are likely more than 30 days inactive, some may have been 8 months or more inactive. I’d be looking at those high value customers who have not had an order for 3 months or more, and reach out to them. Not necessarily a sales call, but a simple reach out asking: how are you doing? We are thinking about you. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you. Even though you are not asking for a sale, you are likely to make a huge impression and plant a seed. When your customer needs something, you will have top of mind awareness because, let’s be honest, it’s something big box retailers and medium sized businesses simply can’t do. You can own the space, all you have to do is run a simple report, and start picking up the phone and calling.
2021 is just around the corner, and by the time this article is printed and delivered, 2021 will be here. It certainly can’t be worse than 2020, so let’s roll up our shirt sleeves for that vaccine, and let’s get back to work building successful, fruitful, profitable businesses once again.
Happy New Year!