National Clothesline
National Clothesline
The ripple effect of one thing done well
One simple gesture can lead to something extraordinary. This ripple effect does not take place overnight, of course, but how many times has one modest act lead to another and, ultimately, to something far greater than the sum of its individual parts? We see it all of the time in the world, even in the drycleaning industry. You only need to look at the story on this month’s front page. One teacher in Africa vowed to defy the odds and make sure Kenyan children received a better education. In time she met cleaner David Mering and others and the cause expanded in scope. Land was bought and a new school was built and furnished complete with vital learning resources. Suddenly, many children who were once without hope are now capable of dreaming of a better life and actually making it happen.
Or look at the profile of Linda Say. As a humble stay-at-home mom, she mended her son’s hockey socks and jerseys while taking in jobs from drycleaners on the side. Word of mouth soon spread on her impressive skills, which lead to more exposure and, in turn, some pretty outstanding opportunities. Now, as owner of Nicholson Cleaners, she has procured accounts with the NHL Nashville Predators, the NFL Tennessee Titans, and many others, including working on the wardrobe for the cast of the ABC show Nashville.
You can see other examples each year in the Fall when cleaners all over the country launch their annual Coats for Kids campaigns, some of which have collected tens of thousands of warm winter garments over the years for the needy. The idea has spread from one corner of the industry to another. You can see it everywhere in the Spring, too, as more and more cleaners develop prom dress collections for high school girls. You can read about Ziker Cleaners in South Bend. The company just completed its 10th annual “Princess for a Night” campaign. It has handed out about 4,000 free dresses over the years. That’s just one cleaner with such a program. There are many more out there.
All of these examples demonstrate how something can start off small and pick up steam over the years until it becomes amazing. Before you can give out your 10,000th coat or dress, you have to collect your first. Before you sew an AFC Championship logo on a Tennessee Titan jersey, you must hone your skills on a daily basis and develop a reputation. Before 650 forgotten children can receive food and education each day, somebody had to decide to help and figure out how. Think about that the next time you consider undertaking a daunting challenge. If you worry that you will not be up to the task, remember that the only thing that guarantees failure is never trying in the first place.
Looking for the next big thing
In an article last month, Deborah Rechnitz wrote about innovations that have helped the industry adapt and thrive through changing times. Ideas that seem silly, crazy or impossible according to conventional wisdom become the next big thing after a bold, visionary cleaner goes against convention and makes them work. Other cleaners see what was accomplished and copy or even improve on the idea. Before long, everybody is doing it.
An example she gave was pick-up and delivery route service. Once a mainstay of the drycleaning and laundry business, routes were cast aside as we became a nation of two-income families with nobody at home during the day. Routes as they had always been done didn’t seem to work anymore. But a few cleaners persisted, coming up with new ways to make the old service work. Over time, others decided to give it a try and now it seems that everyone is doing it. Pick-up and delivery service has become an area of growth in an industry that needed a shot in the arm. The new ideas in this area keep coming.
Many cleaners have also benefited by implementing new technologies, much of it driven by the computerization of the workplace. The doors to more efficient production, lower labor costs and even more effective marketing have been opened by computers integrated into machinery, sitting on countertops and crunching numbers in the office.
Rechnitz hinted at another innovation on the horizon that could become the next big thing, but she didn’t spell it out for us. If you want to go looking for it, the Clean Show in New Orleans next month is a good place to start. You might find it in the exhibit hall or in one of the seminars. Or it may reveal itself in one of the many casual conversations that take place among cleaners and suppliers outside the show itself — in the hallways or hotels or in the clubs and restaurants where cleaners congregate. Bring open ears, open eyes and an open mind to the Clean Show and you may discover for yourself the next big thing.