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Tightrope Walkers: Team Member Partners (Part 1)

Turn your team members into partners for the long-term good of your business

DALLAS — One of the hardest things about being an owner in the drycleaning and laundry business is staffing. All of us have had sleepless nights wondering how we’re going to fill a position or what we should do about a troubled employee. It’s a terrible experience filled with anxiety.

It feels like you’re wobbling along a tightrope and if you lose one more employee, you and your business are going to fall right off the wire.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can build your business so that instead of your staff being that tightrope ready to bring you down, they can serve as a platform for you and your company to grow.

But before that can happen you have to ask yourself some tough questions.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to owners who were exhausted because they had to fill in for an employee who called out sick or who quit abruptly. To me, this is akin to walking a high wire without a safety net.

Even the best high wire walkers know that there is always a chance that something unexpected could happen and cause them to fall.

Likewise, you as a business owner should know that no matter how good your employees are, there is always a significant chance that something will come up that causes them to leave or be absent. As they say, life happens.

Because you never know when your tightrope might wobble, it’s critical to have a safety net at your key positions. What does this mean on a practical level?

If you have multiple stores you should have a “float,” an extra store associate, who can slide over to another store in a pinch. In production, you should cross-train your staff, so that if the pants presser is out, a shirt presser can fill in. If you run a route, you should have a production team member, route manager or route sales person who can cover if someone is out.

In short, your safety net should be structured so that on any given day a person from every major unit of your drycleaning business could quit and you could still get by with minimal disruption.

When I talk to other owners about the importance of a safety net, I often hear: “I can’t afford a safety net.” While, I understand this concern, I would argue that you can’t afford not to have a safety net.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

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