The Coin Laundry Association and the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute kicked off Day Two of Clean 2017 in Las Vegas with the first joint educational presentation by two of the show's sponsoring organizations in the 40-year history of the event.
As CLA President and CEO Brian Wallace noted during his introduction of the 75-minute session, the lines between the laundromat and drycleaning businesses have increasingly blurred in recent years -- with more vended laundry owners working with drycleaning businesses, and conversely, more drycleaners showing an interest in adding wash-dry-fold laundry to their own mix.
The discussion was moderated by Jeff Gardner, owner of The Laundry Doctor, based in St. Paul, Minn., and an operator who partners with a local drycleaner himself. Joining Gardner on stage were Chris Balestracci, a multi-store owner from Connecticut who works with a drycleaner; and Stephen Moore of Pressbox in Atlanta, a route drycleaning business that farms out its wash-dry-fold work.
Gardner posed some nuts-and-bolts questions to his two-man panel, covering some of the key aspects of the laundromat-drycleaner relationship, as well as the ways in which Balestracci and Moore have made their respective partnerships work for them.
When it comes to choosing a drycleaner with whom to partner, Balestracci offered some clear guidelines to the laundry owners in the audience.
"Look at their reputation, their delivery schedule and the quality of their product," he advised.
"I just looked at location initially, and I found out it more complicated than that," Moore added. "We need a wash-dry-fold provider that can scale and that offers good quality. I'm on my fifth provider and have made mistakes along the way. We need them to work as partners. We're in each other's businesses, having daily conversations... almost like one company."
Both panelists discussed the logistics of taking in and processing laundry and drycleaning from each of their perspectives, as well as explaining how they dealt with customer claims and complaints, their thoughts on the infrastructure required to make a partnership work, and the all-important issue of pricing.
Balestracci and Moore both pointed to software as a key to profitable relationship.
"We implemented our system at our laundry partner," Moore said. "It's the same system. Although someone else is doing the work, we can keep tabs on it. The billing is seamless, because we set up the computers at the laundromat."
"Technology is here to stay in our business, and we must embrace it," Balestracci noted. "We have a POS computer and a route computer. You need to invest in a POS system that will keep track of things for both you and your partner. You need accountability. Make the commitment and investment in technology. In addition, customers will see that you are a professional, and it will increase your business."
With regard to pricing, Balestracci currently shares a 70/30 split with his drycleaner partner.
"The more they do for you, the less you'll make," he said. "But I'm OK with getting 30 percent, because of quality they deliver and because my customers are happy. With a past partner, I was losing customers."
With pricing and every other aspect of the relationship, the key to a profitable partnership is communication, according to both panelists.
Gardner noted that he gets together with his drycleaning partner once a month for dinner, while the two companies production managers are in daily contact.
"You need to carve out time to build that relationship," Moore stated. "It makes the issues easier to deal with when they come up... and there will be issues."
This panel discussion wrapped up with a lively Q&A session.