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Employee Relations: Giving 100 Percent! (Part 1)

All about you and your team as a drycleaning workplace family

CHICAGO — Let’s talk about employee relations. Your employee relations.

How key are your employees to the success of your business?

One dry cleaner we asked is Todd Ofsink, founder and CEO of Todd Layne Cleaners, in NYC, who relates: “With 100 percent certainty, I can say that my team holds the keys to the success of my business.”

He describes his cleaners as an eco-friendly drycleaning and specialized laundry company.

About his employees he says, “They know the majority of my customers by first name and are able to follow all of their individual instructions. We keep a profile for each customer with specific needs like best pickup/delivery times, laundry choices, etc. Without the right staff, the business wouldn’t survive more than a few days!”

Employees are often referred to as a team at drycleaning operations. Are your employees treated like a trusted team? Do you empower them to make decisions?

What can you say about that team feeling in business today, and what does it take specifically to create that special environment at a cleaners?

Ofsink weighs in on the topic: “Motivating a team of people at an investment bank is very easy because of the high compensation. Creating a team feeling with people at lower ends of the pay spectrum is quite challenging.

“People stay with me because I foster a family-style environment and get to know my staff on a personal and professional level. When they have issues, I often step in to help them, whether it’s a short-term loan or advice on a personal matter.

“I always try to stay positive and acknowledge and reward my team for tasks and assignments well done,” he says. He says he has five team members with an average tenure of six years.

Does your team run self-directed, as many owners describe, so you can be away at times and can trust their judgement and responsible attitude?

“To a large extent, my team can run in a self-directed manner and will generally exercise good judgment and a responsible attitude,” Ofsink notes.

“With the advent of technology like video surveillance, recorded phone calls, online scheduling of pickups/deliveries, texting, email, Google Sheets and other productivity tools, it is much easier for me to be away and only get involved when necessary,” he relates.

Team members treated like family may be the single most important trait for drycleaning business longevity. Ofsink indicates that drycleaning businesses rely on repeat customers and dry cleaners really are an integral part of the community.

“It is very different from the rest of the retail world,” he points out. “We know customers by their first names and get to know them and their families. We volunteer at local events, partner with other small businesses, and serve on the local block association.”

Sharing memorable thoughts that demonstrates how much his team is like a family, Ofsink tells: “My team very much goes above and beyond in terms of assisting our customers. They have helped elderly customers go to their doctor’s appointments.

“They’ve also carried laundry/dry cleaning and sometimes groceries home, checked on a pet, made a call to make sure someone was feeling ok after surgery, and watered plants,” he relates.

“More recently,” he says, “there has been an uptick in our younger millennial customers asking one of my managers about the best way to tackle the online dating world of Tinder and Bumble.”

Ofsink gives some tips on how to help build this family feeling of mutual trust for the drycleaning operations: “Get to know your customers, support local charities, attend meetings of local block associations, create cross-marketing opportunities with other small businesses, and demonstrate to your team that you want to help them to grow within your company.”

Employee relations closely resembles a typical family dynamic.

In order to be successful, you have to get to know your team on a personal level and be there for them in times of need, he reminds.

“It is a delicate balance and they also have to respect you and know that if they get out of line, there will be consequences,” Ofsink says. “When done properly, it becomes a financial success for everyone involved.”

Taking responsibility for decisions, from both employer and employee, becomes the balance point sought at a successful drycleaning operation.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.