National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Making meetings work for all
A famous management consultant, W. Edwards Deming, said the following, “The worker is not the problem. The problem is at the top. Management!”  
I recently visited a cleaning plant with a large number of management issues. Here is a statement that the owner made all day long: “I do not like to meet with my employees!”
I told the plant owner that I understood his position because I felt that way for quite a long time.
Over the years, my attitude changed and I learned how important and necessary it was to hold meetings. I am hoping this owner listens to what I told him. I also hope he reads this article.
The most important thing when you meet with your employees is to be a good listener. This means hearing what the employees are telling you. You have two ears.
Do not allow the information to go in one ear and out the other. When you increase employee engagement, you will find that your customers will benefit.
Here are some tips that will help you when you meet with your employees.
Inspire your employees. You do not have to order them around. If you meet with these people and put them on the same page that you are on, they will rise to the occasion.
Explain to your employees “why,” not just the “what” you need.
Let your employees reach the goal or goals you have established in their own way. What is crucial is the achievement of the goal or goals.
When a goal is reached, compliment the employee. This will provide the employee with a sense of personal fulfillment. Paychecks do not always do it.
Coach your employees to improve their skill levels. This does not mean standing over the employee and yelling. It means assisting in their personal improvement. If you have an incentive plan in place, the employee will appreciate what you are doing.
Try to create a growth plan for each employee. Not every employee will grow, but those who do will become very loyal. I had a silk presser who moved to counter sales, then counter management, and finally into route sales. The man was earning close to $50,000 per year when I sold my business.
Take a personal interest in your employee’s lives. Talk to your employees. Learn about their families. Do not talk down to the employee. Too many employers see themselves as superior beings because they sign the paycheck.
Dedicate some time for a once per month review of the employees performance. By doing this there will not be any surprises when you do the annual review to discuss a possible pay increase.
When my sons were growing up, I coached them in various sports. Prior to games, I always met with the team and attempted to create a positive attitude for the upcoming contest.
Your employees are your team. You are the coach. You create the game plan and then ask your employees what they think of it. Do not forget to tell them that the game plan is not written in stone. Explain that if suggestions are made you are completely open to changes. The key is to create a team attitude. If you can do that, your team will be a winning group of people.
Help with leases
The following question came from the same cleaner who does not like to have meetings.
“My lease is coming due. I don’t know what to ask for, or how to make sure I am getting a good deal. Can you help me?”
In the event you do not have an established relationship with the property owner (this plant owner did not) you are entering dangerous waters. Some property owners are sharks, and if you are going to swim with the sharks, you had better have a shark on your team.
My first thought was to advise retaining an attorney but then I learned there is a company that specializes in lease negotiation and lease modification.
You would be hiring a shark to deal with the sharks. These people are not attorneys, but will put everything together that you need, and will cost you less than your lawyer. After they have reached an agreement with the property owner then you can submit the document for legal review.
The name of the company is Zorehkey & Associates. They represent many large and small companies locally and nationally. Clients they have represented are Panda Express, Baby Guess, and Round Table Pizza. The contact phone number is (949) 916-4178. When you dial that number, you will be in touch with Michael Zorehkey, the son of the founders, Ed and Maya Zorehkey. You can also visit the company has a website at
Measuring production
The final issue that arose in my daylong meeting with this business owner was the following: “My pressers press as fast or slow as they want to. It all depends on the workload, and how soon they want to go home. Do you have any suggestions?”
Is this a management issue or a worker issue? Has management set goals?
We know management did not have a meeting to discuss goals with the finishers. Instead of paying by the hour, this owner was paying a weekly salary to each finisher. Furthermore, the owner did not count each finisher’s production. Those were two big management mistakes. The third mistake was the largest. There were no time-keeping records.
In my plant, the inspector counted the pieces produced by each finisher. Colored tags were placed on each piece to identify the finisher.
Another method we used was printing the covered hangers, that were used by the silk finishers, with different colored ink. One silk finisher had blue printed hangers, another red, and the third green.
The inspector used a tally sheet and marked it as the garments came to her workstation.
Today there is a much better method of counting production. One product is the Wesvic Piece Counter. You can see this product, and others that are similar, at this month’s Clean Show in New Orleans.
Do you know who said the following? “If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.” I decided to use Google and discovered that Peter Drucker is the originator of that statement. You could take Mr. Drucker’s statement and go one-step further by saying, if you do not measure it, you cannot improve it.

Harvey Gershenson operates Sterling Drycleaning Consulting and is a former owner of Sterling Dry Cleaners. A second-generation drycleaner, he has been in the industry since he was in high school. He has served as president of the Cleaners and Dyers Guild of Los Angeles and has served on the boards of directors of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and the California Cleaners Association. He is also a guest lecturer for the California Department of Corrections. He can be reached by e-mail at or phone at (310) 261-2623. His web site is