QUESTION 7: What would you tell an operator getting ready to open his or her first plant? What are the biggest areas of growth and opportunity? What makes the business a good option for today’s entrepreneurs?
BILL FISHER: I’d say, “Are you crazy? The industry is oversaturated. People are struggling, and you have you have no concept of how hard people work. Take a course at DLI, find a plant you can work in a for a week or two, and understand what you’re getting into.”
JOHN TIPPS: There are a lot of things a new owner must learn and understand. The first and foremost is to know whom he is dealing with in buying the store and equipment. The next is making sure the location is right for his goals—all of us know that a B- or C-level location is hard to overcome.
Growth depends on what the demographics of that area require. One may need a high-end cleaner; another may be successful with a low-price cleaner that still offers nice quality. The middle-of-the-road store that offers an average product at average prices is the one hurting the most—but there are exceptions. If the new owners understand the commitment and hard work, get the proper training and support, and have the right equipment, it can be a very rewarding business.
DAVID COTTER: If you’re going to get into the industry, you have to find a defined customer niche, be aggressive with marketing and be smarter than the other guy.
DAVE SILLIMAN: Get professional training, hire experienced people who can produce the product you desire, and train your CSRs. You can have the best quality in the world, but you’re going to build your business from the front counter.
BARRY GERSHENSON: I like to quote famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “Doing is 95% planning and 5% execution.” I see the most successful owners belonging to local, state and national associations, reading trade publications, attending meetings, writing business plans, and networking with other operators.
The two most wonderful reasons that our business is a great option for today’s entrepreneurs are: (1) You can’t buy your service over the Internet, and (2) Because of repetition, you have a great opportunity to build long-lasting relationships.
No customer will have the patience they would if they were waiting for a tasty ice-cream cone. The most obvious opportunity is to do it better than the competition [and provide] a great customer experience.
The panelists: David Cotter, executive director of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA); Bill Fisher, CEO of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI); Barry Gershenson, executive director of Leading Cleaners Internationale (LCI); “Dryclean” Dave Silliman, operator of Uptowne Cleaners in Phoenix, Ariz.; and John Tipps, independent consultant and former operator of Clean Concepts Inc.