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Pivoting for Profit (Part 3)

Having the right mindset can lead to successful transitions

CHICAGO — In a time when traditional business almost disappeared overnight, dry cleaners who were able to expand their services and their importance to their customers were better able to withstand the pressure. By pivoting to offer more services, they not only survived the pandemic’s storm, but found valuable new fields for future profitability.

In Part 1 of this series, we examined why pivoting could be a great strategy for forward-thinking dry cleaners, and in Part 2, we looked at pivoting to include services outside of traditional drycleaning services. Today, we’ll continue by exploring the mindset that lies behind successful pivoting efforts

Changes in Attitude

While Kurt Lucero, owner of The Cleanery in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also added wash/dry/fold and household cleaning to his company’s services, he believes the biggest and most valuable pivot he made was to his own outlook on the business.

“I really got into the trenches with my people, especially in 2020 and a lot of 2021,” he says, “and I gained a new appreciation for my team. Of course, I valued them, but I came out with a completely different attitude about them. That was an important pivot for me.

“We looked at what we could do for them and how we could incentivize and appreciate them. We have Friday breakfasts now and make the atmosphere more fun and supportive. It’s not all about generating revenue, because if I don’t have any people to do the work, I’m really in trouble.”

Lucero also put a new value on his marketing efforts as the pandemic increased its grip on the industry: “I never had a huge plan or budget for marketing. It was more, ‘Let’s try this. Let’s throw some direct-mail pieces this way.’ It was never a targeted approach.”

He started marketing new services, including cushion cleaning, and using new mediums, such as text messaging.

“The pandemic showed me where I needed to pivot and evolve in my marketing protocols,” he says. “I had to look at my business in a whole new way, actually having a plan and implementing some of these ideas, rather than having these wonderful ideas in a notebook that never came to life.”

Getting Buy-In

When shifting or expanding focus, it ultimately falls to the company’s team members to make changes successful. Casey Walker, vice president of retail operations for Max I. Walker, based in Omaha, Nebraska, says that communication is vital for this to happen.

“Getting personnel up to speed is all about confidence,” he says. “In any new service you’re going to offer, or procedural change being made, making sure your team feels supported and confident in what they are doing is paramount. Proactive communication with detailed instructions, explanations and incentives for compliance will go a long way.”

Walker believes success hinges on the messages and attitudes coming from the top, so leaders need to be all-in on new initiatives.

“Of course, there will always be resistance to change — that is human nature — but it’s management’s job to help the team see the value in that change,” he says. “When it comes to rolling out services, be sure you have an enthusiastic and trusted leader to champion it, who everyone knows is the authority on this new offering. And be consistent with your messaging.”

Joe Gagliostro, president of Muldoon Dry Cleaners in Auburn, New York, found that his team was, and continues to be, up to the challenge.

“Everything fell into place extremely smoothly,” he says. “Even today, we’re running a very limited staff compared to what we had three or four years ago — we’re not laying people off, but it’s just very difficult to hire at the moment. So, we’re still short-handed, but everything has fallen right into place.”

Come back Tuesday for the conclusion of this series, where we’ll examine the risks and rewards of venturing into previously unknown business territories. For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.