CHICAGO — One way many dry cleaners have found to minimize their business risk is to broaden their client base. By diversifying who they serve, they can better ride out a downturn or business climate change. This is where commercial work — drycleaning services aimed at businesses rather than individual customers — can come into play.
And, while there can be differences in scale, depending on the sizes and types of business a dry cleaner targets, the demands put on a plant are generally similar between commercial and residential cleaning. Even if a drycleaning plant wasn’t designed with an eye toward commercial work, says Kent Wales, owner of Happy Laundry and Dry Cleaning, located in Spokane, Washington, this type of service is still a possibility.
“You may not have a lot of space capacity if you’re a small neighborhood plant,” he says, “but realistically, if you’ve got 35- to 60-pound washers and auto-injected soap, you can do a wide variety of things on the commercial side.”
He estimates that about half of his company’s business comes from the commercial sector.
“Commercial work has always been a part of what we do,” says Wales, who has owned his business for 15 years. “We were getting approached by several companies to do commercial work early on. A lot of it was wedding venue table linen. There were some smaller accounts — restaurants, mechanic shops, and others — but it was the table linen, and a large massage therapy company, that got us into the commercial cleaning business.”
Building Up a Business Base
Cultivating commercial clients can require more effort than developing a walk-in residential base, says Greg Colosi, owner of Dry Cleaner Profits, a marketing company located in Rochester, New York. That effort, however, can be well worth it.
“A major benefit is that it does spread out the business in case something happens,” he says. “You’ve got a bigger customer base — if something happens in one sector, you have another base.”
Looking at the businesses you’re already passing each day is a great place to start building a commercial clientele, Colosi says.
“When you’re on a route, you’ll drive by all these commercial accounts, so you can make them part of your route,” he says. “You can have a small salon, a doctor’s or dentist’s office, a therapeutic massage business, and more. You’re passing by these every day — it’s going to be hardly any more time for you to pick up and drop off things from these clients. I always encourage cleaners to notice and fill in those commercial accounts in between their residential route customers.”
Come back Tuesday for Part 2 of this series, where we’ll examine ways dry cleaners can build their list of potential customer clients.