Steve Erlinger specializes in assisting those buying and selling coin laundries in the Orange County and Inland Empire areas. He is an expert at navigating the many facets of finding, evaluating, and operating a coin laundry business.
Many entrepreneurs want to own a Laundromat because it affords them a potentially good or supplemental income, flexible work hours and a less stressful work life. These are certainly good reasons and they are all possible but one still has to do the work. Running a Laundromat is simple, yes, but it’s not easy. I don’t mean it’s not easy like brain surgery isn’t easy but that you have to be consistently doing the right things. Put another way; the right things aren’t hard but they have to be done! Contrary to what many think and what many operators do you cannot simply “collect and neglect”.
Like our teachers and coaches told us when we were young and starting something new; ‘start with fundamentals!’ So we will:
First and foremost remember, and always remember; CLEAN, BRIGHT and SAFE. Live by these three simple words and you will be a step ahead of many, many Laundromats! I am constantly amazed at the number of stores I see where the owner seems to embrace the exact opposite!
Clean: people are there to clean their cloths. The last thing they want to see is a bunch of filth around them. And you know what? Most people just flat out like a clean environment.
Bright: Unless you plan on having people enjoy a romantic dinner in your store keep it nice and bright. For one thing people want to be able to see what they are doing and that their cloths are in fact clean, two, brightness tends to lead people to a brighter more cheerful outlook and, three, it aids in the next of these fundamentals; safety.
Safe: Who are the majority of people doing laundry? Our Mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. You need to keep them safe and have them feel secure. You need to have cameras, avoid blind spots where one cannot be seen by people or the camera, have a bright atmosphere and you need to run the loiterers out of your store.
Another very basic component of a successful Laundromat is to make sure you have working equipment. Sounds obvious but as you are in and out of stores take note of how many ‘out of order’ signs you see. If your equipment is out of order people can’t deposit money (so you can earn money) and it also means people will wait longer for an available machine thereby driving them away and to your competition.
Your task will either be to fix the problems immediately (if you are able) or establish a relationship with a repairman or get him out there quickly when needed. Preventive maintenance agreements with your repairman would also help to keep out of orders signs to a minimum.
Many manufacturers will conduct complimentary service schools. Maintenance and basic repairs are not too difficult if you are so inclined so you may find these schools valuable. For more difficult repairs you can send your maintenance person to the advanced service schools.
Another important task that some forget, as a Laundromat is supposed to be self service, is CUSTOMER SERVICE. Yes, you still have to pay attention to this even at a Laundromat. Get to know your customers, help them bring their laundry basket to the car, get them refunds promptly, ask questions as to how you can serve them better, give that good customer a free wash or a cold drink.
I visit a lot of stores, and though many stores with no owner or employee present can do quite well, there is a different and more attractive vibe, which usually lead to more business, in a store that is serving their customers well.
A task that seems to be neglected in the Laundry industry that I highly recommend is marketing. Obvious and many do it, but not consistently. In a recent survey by one of the industry magazines it was found that less than 20% of Laundromat owners did marketing on a regular basis. Remember that many of your customers are people that rent. Renters tend to be a bit more transient so you want to make sure those coming into the area know about your store. Of course consistently reminding those that do live in the area for the long run can only benefit your cause.
Now it’s time to collect all of that money. Woo hoo! Got to like that! Absolutely, but know that it can be time consuming. Even if you just dumped all the money in a bag, put the quarters in the changer and went to the bank with all the bills you will find that it takes a bit of time and effort. But when you pull that money out of the coin boxes you will also want to evaluate the performance of your various pieces of laundry equipment. Which machines are bringing in more money? Do some size machines do better than others? Is the positioning of the machine affecting how much money it makes? Do some machines do better during weekend versus weekdays? You want to evaluate all of these things so you can buy the right equipment in the future, increase or decrease prices or promote certain machines that aren’t doing well. This does take a little more time but it is critical to the success of your business.
There is much more detail to these several day to day tasks I have mentioned but for now at least be aware of them. You will learn more as you go and will refine them based on your style of management but stick to them and you will be on your way to running the successful Laundromat you envisioned at the outset.