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Facing ‘Once in a Generation’ Challenges (Conclusion)

Building a team is key to maximizing time and profit

CHICAGO — The past two years have taught the drycleaning owners that, since there are forces out of their control, it’s vital to examine those elements that are in their control to lead their companies through difficult times.

That was the theme of a webinar that gathered four industry experts together to discuss “The Industry’s Response to ‘Once in a Generation Challenges.’” The event was part of the three-day WinterFest Expo, a series of virtual workshops staged in January. It was co-sponsored by The Northeast Fabricare Association (NEFA)Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA) and the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA) in cooperation with the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI).

In Part 1 of this series, we examined information about on the drycleaning industry as a whole, and in Part 2, we saw how cleaners could best use some of the information based on their own company’s performance and customer trends. Today, we’ll investigate some of the factors out of a cleaner’s control — and how they can navigate potentially choppy waters. In Part 3, we assessed how the supply chain issues are impacting the industry, and today, we’ll finish this series by examining how building a strong team can be the best investment owners make in their businesses.

A Cleaner’s Most Valuable Asset

Part of James Peuster’s duties at The Route Pros, a drycleaning consulting firm, is to speak with cleaners and help them increase the profitability of their business. As a result, he’s seen some of the challenges owners face around the country.

He believes the changing business conditions that started in 2020 have caused a lot of people to rethink how business is done, and this can pose a danger if not handled correctly. He notes that the labor shortage is a major driver of this type of re-evaluation.

“I think a lot of it is this perception that we’re no longer the boss,” Peuster says, “that your employees run the business, not you. And I think it’s a challenge that we have to overcome.”

Part of keeping everything in the correct focus is to make sure hiring and retaining good employees is part of the owner’s everyday activities, not something considered only when a labor shortage becomes an emergency, impacting business profitability.

“We talk about customer retention all the time,” he says, “but do we ever talk about employee retention? What are we doing to ensure that our best employees stay? Sometimes they’re forgotten, and sometimes we just take them for granted, but the strong leaders are adapting to recognizing who they want to keep and how they can keep them.”

As knowledgeable and talented as a business owner might be, successful businesses are generally not operated by only one person. While cleaners may have gotten used to running their business short-staffed because of cost-cutting efforts, Peuster says, that can go on for only so long.

“I think the past two years, leaders have felt like they’ve worked harder,” he says, “and so now you’ve got to develop systems to allow you to work smarter. You’ve got to make some adjustments.”

Getting the right team in place is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

“Always be interviewing, and always be hiring,” Peuster says. “That goes hand in hand with employee retention.”

While many cleaners say they might not have the time to spend 30 minutes a day, for instance, going through résumés, posting on job boards or other hiring activities, Peuster advises them to reassess their schedule because this activity will pay off.

“The reason why you don’t have time for that is that you’re stuck,” he says. “So, you’ve got to make that time; you’ve got to be proactive.

“There are two types of owners. The successful ones are the ones who say, ‘I cannot afford not to have somebody on board who can help me run my business,’ while the not-successful leaders are the ones who are doing it themselves, and they’re the ones who continue to get buried and lose focus.”

For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE, and for Part 3, click HERE.


Team members stacking their hands.

Caption: (Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].