Doing Well By Doing Good
"Corporate social responsibility" has gone well beyond being just a business buzzword or feel-good trend. Today, CSR has grown to become a full-fledged movement.
This is why the Coin Laundry Association dedicated its first educational session on the third day of Clean 2017 in Las Vegas to how laundry owners can give back to the communities they serve.
"Price Waterhouse reports that 64 percent of CEOs are increasing their spent on CSR," pointed out CLA President and CEO Brian Wallace, in his opening remarks for the 60-minute presentation, appropriately titled "Doing Well by Doing Good." "Companies like Disney, Microsoft, Rolex. We're talking about big companies, and they're not doing it strictly out of the goodness of their hearts. In recent years, CSR has gone from a stand-alone program at many companies to a part of their core being, a part of their identity. They've made a commitment to giving back."
What does this have to do with the self-service laundry business?
"Can we agree that we are an industry that can use some reputation-building?" Wallace asked the audience. "Could we stand to give off a better impression?"
He added that laundry operators are perhaps better positioned for impactful CSR than some other business owners, for two reasons: (1) opportunity and (2) obligation.
"We are everywhere, in every neighborhood," he explained. "Many of the customers we serve could definitely use a hand. So, we have the opportunity. And I feel personally feel an obligation -- all those quarters and card swipes have fed my family for 25 years."
The Laundry Cafe
Wallace then introduced two laundry owners -- Brian Holland and Tyrone Akins of The Laundry Cafe in Philadelphia -- who share his sense of obligation.
"We see our customers as our neighbors," Holland explained. "And that makes a difference in how you treat people. It starts with caring."
"We are from the neighborhoods we now serve," Akins added. "We grew up here and know it well. You have to decide if you're going to be just a business in your community, or truly part of the fabric of the community. The more you give back to the community, the better you feel."
He then told a story about a girl who regularly used their laundry's Wi-Fi and quiet setting to do her homework when she was in high school. Today, she's a young woman who just graduated from Temple University, with eyes on an advanced degree.
Beyond offering a sort of educational refuge at their two stores, Akins and Holland have hosted a number of community programs -- from financial literacy and stroke prevention to how to buy a first home and establish good credit.
"Your laundry is about space and time," Holland said. "What wonderful resources those are. People can use them to benefit the community, and you just need to connect the dots. When you reach out, the community will reach back."
During their portion of the presentation, Wallace presented the two store owners with the CLA's 2017 Community Service Award.
"One candle can light a thousand candles, and the life of that candle will not be shortened." Akins quoted. "Be a candle in your community."
Dirty Laundry Express
Another laundry owner definitely lighting the way in his community is Kevin Adkins of New Jersey's Dirty Laundry Express.
Adkins' store recently hosted a hugely successful free laundry event.
"It was a home run," he said. "It brought me to tears. It was a beautiful event. Don't do it because the CLA wants you to do it -- do it because it's priceless. To this day, I still get hugs from my customers."
Another laundry owner doing her best to create change within her community is Samantha Sammis. However, Sammis became a store operator somewhat by accident.
As founder of the nonprofit group Loving America Street, based in Charleston, S.C., Sammis became aware of an opportunity to purchase an old, rundown laundromat in her neighborhood. And that's when the lightbulb went on.
"We live in the neighborhood we serve, trying to help leverage people out of poverty," she said. "That old laundromat was the only laundry in the neighborhood."
So, she bought the store and renamed it Laundry Matters -- renovating in and transforming it into not only a laundromat, but a community center.
These days, Laundry Matters offers: free laundry for homeless, free computer classes, Bible studies, free books and Christian literature, and much more... as well as employing some of the local residents
Too Small To Fail
Lastly, Jane Park Woo of Too Small to Fail, which serves as the literacy partner of the CLA's LaundryCares Foundation, brought the audience up to speed with what was new within her organization.
Children living in low-income families hear fewer words, which hurts their early language development, along with their preparedness for school.
"Early childhood literacy support through laundries -- Wash Time is Talk Time -- is a pillar of what we do as an organization," she explained. "Our goal is to raise aware and empower parents."
As a result, storytelling and book giveaways have become a focal point of many of the LaundryCares free laundry events.
Wallace wrapped up the day's first session by appealing to the store owners in attendance to consider getting more involved within their own communities.
"Not only is it the right thing to do," Wallace noted, "it's good for business."
Get Involved With LaundryCares Today
Wash-Dry-Fold Discussion By The Laundry Doctor
The second seminar of the morning, "Maximizing Labor Efficiency in Your Wash-Dry-Fold Operation," was presented by Jeff Gardner of The Laundry Doctor, located in St. Paul, Minn.
With more and more laundry owners looking to grow their businesses through the addition of wash-dry-fold services, Gardner focused on packaging and presentation of the final product. Due to the highly visual nature of the topic, this presentation featured live folding and packaging demonstrations, which were captured via an overhead camera and projected onto the meeting room's two large video screens. As a result, attendees were able to view the exact folding, packaging and labeling tips and techniques being discussed.
In addition, Gardner stressed the importance of breaking down all of the production costs -- washing, drying, labor, chemicals, driver expenses, vehicle expenses, etc. With all of this information, an owner can best determine his or her pricing.
Finally, threats to wash-dry-fold profitability were discussed, including an increased minimum wage, paid leave and mandated advance scheduling. Some of the solutions Gardner suggested to combat these threats were a pay-on-performance system and team bonuses.
Above all, "always be thinking of the customer's experience," Gardner said. "Put out a product that makes it look like it did when brand new, give that retail experience."