Developing Leadership in Your Drycleaning Business (Part 1)

Diana Vollmer |

Having structure, system in place simplifies efforts

SAN FRANCISCO — As the owner of a professional fabricare business, making your business thrive is your primary responsibility. Leading your company to prosperity requires time to think, plan and implement strategies for the good of the entire enterprise. Developing a strong leadership team to manage your company at all levels is key to freeing your time to work on your company instead of in it on a day-to-day basis.

Developing strong leaders is much easier with a structure and system in place for managing the company and for developing the team simultaneously.


There are usually more responsibilities than there are managers on your team, but all of those responsibilities must be accomplished. Each manager can have multiple responsibilities until organization growth warrants more staff (either full- or part-time). The key at this point is to identify all of the responsibilities necessary for the company to be successful and to identify who will fulfill each role.

The key functions to fill are:

CEO (chief executive officer), who is in charge of the total management of the business and has the ultimate responsibility for the success of the company and the team. The next level of management reports directly to the CEO.

CFO (chief financial officer), who has responsibility for managing the financial risk of the company and for the record keeping in the organization. Other departments that often report to the CFO are IT (information technology), which usually includes the point of sale system (POS), and HR (human resources), due to the major expense contribution represented by labor.

COO (chief operating officer), who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and may be responsible for both production and sales. In most cleaners, the responsibility is focused on the production side of the business. Direct reports include the production manager, who is charged with moving the work through the plant(s); the maintenance and janitorial team; and purchasing.

CPO (chief promotional officer), who is tasked with the sales and leads the team charged with collecting and increasing revenues. The direct reports include all sales managers of sales teams; store managers who manage the front-line retail staff; route managers who direct the route team; restoration managers responsible for the disaster restoration; division managers of other specialty divisions; and marketing managers who are responsible for the promotional materials and media to support the marketing efforts of the various divisions.


An effective management system will simplify the leadership and direction of the business and the various divisions by providing the executive team controls, procedures and benchmarks by which to measure progress and achieve greater profitability. In the simplest form, the system includes a process by which to “Plan, Implement, Review, Refine, and Repeat” (PIRRR©). That is:

  • Plan the action

  • Implement the plan

  • Review the results

  • Refine the plan

  • Repeat the process for continued improvement

This approach can be applied and reapplied at every level of the organization to simplify the management of every division and department. The plans of each division may be compared and contrasted to the overreaching plan of the company as a whole to confirm that it contributes to the enterprise goal(s).

Matching the sub-plans to the master goal is essential and is often shown not to be the case in reality. For example, a sales division with the single-minded goal of increasing top-line sales may be incompatible and even counterproductive with an overall goal of making operations more efficient or increasing the profit margins. An example would be a “giveaway” sale that brings in so much work that it overwhelms the plant with the sale items and prevents the quality service that loyal full-price customers expect.

An effective management system provides for individual responsibility and accountability on specific assignments and projects, specific actions and activities to be accomplished, and a schedule for completion. It also provides for tracking the results and making refinements to the plan if the expected results are not achieved.

The cycle of plan, implement, review, refine and repeat helps the company continuously improve results. It also trains managers and associates for future leadership roles with ever-increasing responsibility.

The successful completion (or lack of completion) of small assignments is a low-risk test for determining the management and leadership potential of your team members.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

About the author

Diana Vollmer

Methods for Management (MFM) Inc.

Managing Director

Diana Vollmer is managing director of Methods for Management (MFM) Inc., a consultancy specializing in drycleaning businesses. You may contact her at, 415-577-6544.


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