Ray Colucci, a life in drycleaning
Ray Colucci died July 18 after a life spent in various aspects of the drycleaning industry. He was 86 and had battled Parkinson’s disease for several years before his death.
After military service, he married Barbara Sohier of the Bronx in 1949. She preceded him in death in 2004.
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, he began a sales and marketing career, eventually becoming vice president of marketing at Rheem Textile, a position he held until his retirement.
In retirement he continued his active involvement in the drycleaning industry as a consultant and writer and contributed a monthly column, “Speaking Out,” to National Clothesline for more than 20 years.
He loved to tell stories, often drawing on his many experiences in the drycleaning business and always with a touch of humor. The twinkle in his eye as he told them would come through even in the printed word. And however humorous the story, there was usually a serious point, whether having to do with the interpersonal relationships that evolve in drycleaning or technical matters concerning plant operations.
As an example, here is an excerpt from an article he wrote, “So you think you’re the boss.”
It’s something as a young man I always dreamed of — being my own boss!
Imagine, no one can ever tell you what to do, or when to do it, or even why. Never having to take an order, but to be in a position to give orders!
Now that’s the life. That’s what I was meant to be.
I can be clever, industrious, easy to get along with, and people seem to love what I have to say. They even come to me for my opinions. I have all the makings to be a leader and to be “my own Boss!” I can’t wait! Yes, someday I’ll have a team of happy followers. A group of eager workers, just hanging on my next words, smiling and ready to do my bidding, while I rest and take that second cup of coffee, check the sports page or take a nap, if it pleases me. After all… I’m my own boss!
Yes, keep dreaming young man. Keep dreaming!
I started out in the drycleaning business at first working for my Dad. In a lot of ways, he was a good boss (I think he recognized I was creative enough and ambitious to maybe someday run things) and it soon became apparent I should be doing most things, or everything, my way.
Well, I was given the opportunity, and for some strange reason the working day suddenly was extended to 25 hours, the work week changed into seven in place of the five days that I had been accustomed to.
Some other strange and oddball phenomena started taking shape with no particular rhyme or reason. After an exhausting working day, I found myself still thinking about and living “the job” at dinner, or when trying to go sleep! Waking or sleeping, it was “the job.” I didn’t plan it or endorse it. I just found myself getting more and more involved.
The business had to be continually profitable. In order to do that each year, I had to have quality and production standards.
This meant having a conscientious staff that concerned themselves with the treatment of various new fabrics and perfecting their treatment and safe restoration. It meant maintaining the efficiency of the thousands of dollars of expensive equipment which had to be controlled by my watchful eye.
I shouldn’t fail to mention my very limited mechanical, electrical, chemical experience and non-existing computer and electronic skills. I only had the ability to phone and plead to the right people for assistance.
But that’s the mechanical side of being the boss. How about the human aspect of managing the economic and emotional lives of your family of employees?
Why was I in the hospital visiting a worker’s sick parent? And why was I contributing to the town’s Chowder Marching Band, or some equally worthy cause, which I couldn’t afford? How do you reprimand a treasured and seasoned employee who now shows up a half-hour late or more every morning, and has the interruptions of several phone calls a day, and the co-workers are now wondering if they can get away with the same conduct?
You know you’re the Boss, but are you also Father Confessor for everyone’s troubles?
Is it not your concern? Is it none of your business?
That’s the sad part. It is your concern. It is your business. When you’re the boss, everyone’s problems become your problems, and if you look the other way you find, sooner or later, they all wind up on your doorstep. Maybe if you can get involved early enough, as the benevolent boss, you might be able to have the solution solved, since you’re the master “Guru.”
I soon learned who the real boss was in my, and just about everyone’s, business.
The real boss is the CUSTOMER!
That’s something I had to learn the hard way. It seems it’s always the customer who determines your hours and the overall effort you put into the business.
If a worker is impolite, or shows indifference to something that you’re concerned with, you exercise your prerogative. You recognize “indifference” and know there is a better way of treating a customer, how to handle the complaint, apologize, make an adjustment, and keep the customer satisfied and happy — all before they look elsewhere.
Now you have met the real boss! It will always be the customer. Courtesy and patience are as much a part of quality control as price or production, if you want maintain growth and profit.