CANCUN, Mexico — When was the last time you shared ideas with industry peers on how to make your drycleaning business more efficient, expand your customer base or boost your bottom line?
For their largest co-convention so far, the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) and the National Cleaners Association (NCA) hosted 139 drycleaning professionals in mid-January at the Five-Star Brainstorming Conference, at the Now Jade Riviera Cancun Resort.
While the venue was “exceptional,” says Brian Johnson, DLI director of education and analysis, attendees learned each other’s business secrets at daily, three-hour seminars. A good example is Patrick Renvoise who discussed ideas from his book, Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain.
Renvoise discussed how to get inside the minds of your customers to locate and “push the buy button.” He shared some of the latest neurolological research and applied it to cutting-edge marketing tactics.
Rory Vaden spoke to the topic of his book, Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. Vaden offered insights on how business owners can get to the next level one step at a time, rather than take shortcuts that promise success but deliver failure. Copies of his book were distributed to all attendees at no extra cost.
DLI CEO Mary Scalco says the best parts of the conference were the speakers.
“I thought they were both very engaging and entertaining. They gave practical, usable information. In both cases the audience was engaged—no one was looking at their laptops, phones, or reading the paper. At the end, the audience wanted more and commented that they wished the sessions were longer.”
Nora Nealis, NCA’s executive director, says the mix of seminar and leisure time was ideal.
“Some great information came from the sharing done among the cleaners when they were poolside, dining together or just sitting around.”
The best part of any conference is the opportunity to meet and greet, she continues. “Renewing old friendships and forging new ones in such great surroundings is always a high spot for everyone attending.”
But what did the attendees think of the event?
“Rory Vaden was ‘grand slam’ from start to end,” says Ken Kinzer, from Bridgestone Cleaners, Brooklyn, N.Y. “He immediately engaged me by saying he enjoyed studying our business. He’s an excellent motivational speaker and was the high point of my conference.”
Mark Scott, CEO of Bakker’s Fine Drycleaning, Kirkland, Wash., says the event was “one of the most beneficial conferences I have been to yet! Both from the speakers, and possibly more from interacting with other attendees.”
“The ‘biggest’ thing I took away was the information I learned having dinner with one of the participants,” Scott says. “Since that dinner, I created a list of ‘change now’ items that I am halfway through. It re-energized me in the business.”
Allan P. Johnson III is president of Peerless Cleaners, Corpus Christi, Texas, and DLI’s president-elect. “If you are the founder of your business and are running into problems getting your heir(s) to properly take care of the assets they will inherit, the answer is ‘They are vested, not invested’ like you,” he says. “That’s not an excuse. Now, you have to ask ‘How can I get them invested?’ It is time for you to act proactively and set out a plan to succession that revolves around an investment strategy.”
Bob Fogelsanger, president of Balfurd Inc. in Tipton, Pa., says that both speakers were excellent. “Rory’s ‘take the stairs’ was my biggest takeaway.” This involves “doing the necessary legwork for any issue immediately and making sure my daily activity is what I need to do as a leader and not just buys work.”
Scalco summed it up by saying the annual collaborative conference represents a unique opportunity for dry cleaners to discover new practices, address common challenges, gain industry insights, and receive constructive feedback about specific operational issues and solutions.
While most attendees reported loving the speakers and mingling with other attendees, organizers heard concerns about the resort’s extensive size, its Internet capabilities, and the restaurants not taking reservations. Nealis says both DLI and NCA take this kind of feedback seriously, and will be looking for a smaller resort more attuned to business conferences where cleaners can visit, enjoy, and learn in 2015.
The organizations have already starting planning the next conference, scheduled for Jan. 15-18, 2015, at an “all-inclusive tropical paradise resort in Mexico.”