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Weighing the Costs of Clean

To travel or not to travel — that is the question. To visit and investigate the latest equipment or not; that is the question. To buy or not to buy; that is the question.
Operators ask themselves these questions every time a Clean Show approaches. For some, there’s no doubt whether or not they can attend this year — they can’t; the economy is just too weak right now, and their plants are only eking by.
Many others have no doubts whether or not they will attend — they absolutely will. Their plants are doing well, considering the market, and they must keep pushing their operations forward.
Sometimes, the decision to attend has been made so often in the past that the reaction is automatic. Clean Shows have been a force in the industry for more than 30 years, and so have many successful operations. But many people may take longer to come to a conclusion.
This year, more drycleaners are weighing the cost/benefit trade-offs based on current economic realities. But the benefits of attending Clean are legion. For example, you’ll be able to see all kinds of new equipment that can help your business run more efficiently. You can compare and contrast similar pieces of equipment on the same floor at the same time, and understand which model meets your needs best.
Clean offers opportunities to visit with manufacturers and distributors outside the plant and its day-to-day distractions. You can discuss the many issues that can easily get glossed-over when you must tend to everyday issues.
You’ll also get the chance to catch up with the people you know in the industry — lifelong friends, overseas operators and others scattered around the country. You can catch up on their activities, families and business innovations. These opportunities don’t fit on a nice, neat list of reasons to go to the Clean Show, but connections are often just as important as expenditures.
Considering the decision strictly as a cost/benefit ratio, how much will it cost to attend Clean? Airfares are lower than usual now, since traffic is down. Depending on where you travel from, a quick trip with a tight-but-full schedule can be had for as little as $1,000. How much might you learn that could save you at least that much money?
A single discussion with a distributor could easily save you $1,000 on your next purchase, and a good business tip from a colleague might save you $1,000 every week. You might finally solve a nagging maintenance issue that causes downtime or learn ways to save on utilities, and the money will add up fast. Is the decision getting easier?
You can realize even bigger savings from the show if you have capital to spend, and banks are finally starting to lend again. Lower labor and maintenance costs are critical to your business, and the new, automated equipment you can buy today is better than it has ever been. The Clean Show is one of the few places you can see everything at once and understand its potential.
Don’t forget that the whole trip can be a business deduction you can subtract from next year’s income-tax returns. Of course, you must first survive into the next year.
If your business is teetering on the brink, this year’s show may not be for you. But “teetering” means you’re having trouble making payroll. It means you’ve strung your payables out over 90 days. You’re concentrating only on staying afloat, and even the benefits of the industry’s biggest exhibition can’t outweigh the benefits of putting out real and threatening fires at home.
Your situation is unique, and you must consider it carefully. It’s okay to say that times are tough and you’ll have to wait until the next show; times are tough, and no one will think worse of you. But if you can go to Clean ’09, you should. It’s a business decision that you can’t afford to screw up.
To plan your trip and take advantage of Clean's low negotiated hotel rates, visit, click on “Attendee,” create a log-in and then follow the prompts. If you have questions, contact Beth Scheuer at Riddle & Associates, 404-876-1988, or e-mail [email protected].

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