I’m endlessly fascinated by the inaccuracies many people tend to believe about starting and running a self-service laundry or, for that matter, any small-business operation. Somehow, over the years, entrepreneurship has built up its own mythology, which is founded upon nothing more than legend and anecdotes.
My recent interview with veteran laundry owner and serial entrepreneur Mark Murray for the February issue of PlanetLaundry magazine got me thinking about separating fact from fiction when it comes to small-business ownership.
Here are six common myths I hear way too often:
There isn’t enough money to go around.
Of course, during the Great Recession, capital was much harder to come by, but let’s do a little experiment: take a mental snapshot of the busiest retail street in your area. Visualize all of those businesses. Now, go deeper, pan out farther. OK… even more so. Think about all of the businesses in your city, county and state.
All of those businesses found the money they needed.
Here’s what you need to know: there is plenty of money out there to start, run and grow your laundry business. Banks want to lend to you – that is their business. Investors want to invest in you – that is their business. There is indeed cash to be had.
Entrepreneurs are lone wolves.
Especially in the United States, there is a prevalent view that entrepreneurs are these romanticized solo acts who come up with great ideas and defy convention to disrupt the status quo.
Again, while there is a grain of truth in this belief, it’s only a grain. It’s far more accurate that entrepreneurs, rather than being iconoclastic soloists, are instead awesome team-builders. Steve Jobs most certainly didn’t create Apple on his own – he did it by being a visionary, but equally by surrounding himself with great talent. Ditto for Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and on and on.
Starting a business will free you up.
In theory, working for yourself should give you more control over your schedule.
In reality, the opposite is probably far more common. Owning and running your business will be a time-consuming, demanding occupation – at least and especially in the beginning. Many laundry entrepreneurs work far harder for themselves than they ever did for someone else.
‘If you build it, they will come.’
More succinctly, the thought process is: “If I do my best, work hard and offer a good service at a fair price, people will find me – and my laundromat will be successful.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
Here’s how people will definitely find you: you market your laundry business, and then you market it some more. And you work hard. And maybe you get a little lucky.
It is better to innovate and offer something unique to the market.
Clearly, there’s a lot to be said for coming up with that brainstorm idea and rocking the business world. However, for most (especially in the laundry business) there’s a lot more to be said for being a follower, rather than a leader.
This is especially true if you have never been a business owner before. There are so many factors that go into the success equation of a profitable vended laundry business that doing something untried and trying to get the world to take notice – especially in today’s marketplace – often is not the best way to go. A better initial plan: observe what works, copy that and make your own improvements as you go along.
Entrepreneurs are only in it for the money.
Everyone likes to make money. And, to be sure, laundromats are not hobbies. But the fact is that the best operators almost always have motivations that are simultaneously bigger and deeper than simply making a profit.
Entrepreneurs tend to be idealists and optimists. That they hopefully will make money in the process is, to them, as it should be. However, money very often is the icing, not the whole cake.