Embrace Innovation

By Bob Nieman, CLA Member posted 27 days ago

  
Innovation.jpgEverything changes… always. No trend or tactic will be around forever. Yes, it may adapt, but you can’t count on stagnancy. You must embrace innovation. Successful small-business owners in all industries typically are the first (or second) to purchase the latest technology or try out new marketing methods. As a whole, they love innovation, because it represents a changing and growing society. They see – and rightly so – innovation as an opportunity, not a threat.

Perhaps never in the history of the vended laundry industry was this notion more evident than this past June at Clean 2017 in Las Vegas. The show’s sold-out exhibition hall boasted more than 227,000 net square feet of the latest products and technologies focused on the task – and business – of getting clothes clean.

And innovation was on full display at the Las Vegas Convention Center, including:

• New washer capacities and controls
• Updated machine networking capabilities
• Increased efficiencies in washers, dryers and water heaters
• Laundry management tools and software
• New solutions in wash chemistry
• New payment systems, including mobile solutions
• New software platforms and apps to help manage and grow a wash-dry-fold service

Coin Laundry Association President and CEO Brian Wallace stated it best in the cover story of August’s PlanetLaundry magazine, which showcases many of the leading-edge products and services that were unveiled in Las Vegas.

“In just the last couple of years, a quantum leap forward by both legacy manufacturers and new entrepreneurs has propelled us toward Clean 2017, which featured an unprecedented array of equipment, tools, controls and software that collectively have transformed our analog past into a bright, smart, digital future,” Wallace noted. “In my 25 years of traversing the laundry business, I’ve never seen so much ‘new,’ and I think those who missed Clean 2017 missed a watershed moment in our history.”

Challenge the Status Quo

And moments like that are achieved by asking the simple question: “Why?” The answer can lead to new ideas and new innovations that will directly impact your bottom line. Your laundry business will no doubt benefit due to the change that results from new ways of looking at customer needs, new ways of delivering customer service, new ways of strengthening customer interactions, and new products and services that might attract new markets or grow existing ones.

Although “innovation” is quite possibly the most overused word in the business world today, it’s at the center of what enables small businesses to expand and contributes to overall economic growth. Just as a random example, the Yellow Pages brand – not so long ago considered antiquated – has managed to successfully innovate in the modern age, reinventing itself to reach an entirely new generation of consumers.

Whether you’re brand new to the self-service laundry industry or a veteran store owner, continuous innovation will help your business stay relevant and top of mind within your marketplace.

In my experience, the most successful entrepreneurs continually seek out inspiration to promote fresh thinking and help build the capacity to innovate. Such inspiration, of course, can be found at the Clean Show, as well as at the CLA’s Excellence in Laundry conference, your local and regional CLA affiliate meetings, and the many distributor-hosted trade shows and service seminars held throughout the year all across the country.

With so many resources available to today’s laundry owners, I challenge you to finish 2017 stronger than ever by committing to the continual reinvention of your operation. Here’s how:

Commit to broadening your customer base. Although repeat customers are the foundation of any good business, you must attract new customers in order to grow. Maybe this means attracting a larger percentage of the walk-in business in your community, or perhaps you can develop new markets through services such as catering to commercial accounts in your area or offering a residential pickup and delivery service.

Commit to shifting your perspective and maintaining a long-term view. The fear that makes many business owners adverse to risk is the same fear that prevents long-term success. When you commit to innovation, an idea that doesn’t create the positive outcome you’d hoped for isn’t viewed as a failure, but rather as one step closer to your next great idea.

Commit to continually expanding your knowledge. Pushing yourself to step out of your established comfort zone to acquire new skills and new thinking will force you to connect with new people and, in turn, to challenge the status quo.

The best small-business owners never stop growing. They love to learn and to perfect their craft. They surround themselves with like-minded individuals and jump at the opportunity to take in something new. If you want extreme success, you must embrace this process. Don’t be afraid to admit your lack of knowledge, as doing so will only open you up to a wealth of wonderful learning opportunities – and future profits.
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