National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Top 10 ways to ensure no growth
When I was introduced to the drycleaning industry a dozen years ago, I was surprised by the fact that I felt like many operators had a “give up” attitude early on. 
This was obviously way before the economic storms hit, as well as other non-controllables that eventually led to lower profits, lower sales and inevitably the need for routes.
James Peuster
However, even today I see things that drive me nuts as an outsider transplanted in this industry which needs as much a boost as any.
Some of these are easy fixes while other are mindset changes. So here are my top ten things drycleaner owners do that prevent growth and may eventually lead to their demise.
1. Do not represent drycleaning.
This includes counter staff, drivers, managers and even the owner themselves. Dressing professionally is a walking billboard for our product and services. Yet many would rather be comfortable than marketing their business. It is like we are not proud of the product we provide.
How many customers do you think ask themselves,“If it isn’t good enough for them, why should I use it?”
2. The black hole effect.
Anyone who has read the E-Myth or Good to Great would know that our industry doesn’t follow these game plans for success.
Many people are cross-trained, multi-tasking and jumping from one department to another. The idea is to have everything covered, by everybody.
This formula eventually leads to the good employees leaving and the bad ones getting promoted.
Put your aces in your places. Do not combine routes and shuttle duties with a driver.
3. Promotion of staff without leadership training.
Often I see a staff member promoted because they are a good worker, yet fail in leading their staff due to the lack of training. Quite often they end up doing all the work and put in 60 hours to do so.
Anyone in a management position should know how to delegate and develop their crew so you don’t have to do the work. This is very common in our industry; your job is to get them the proper leadership training needed to be a fire-preventer, not a firefighter.
4. Systems breakdown in production.
The success of Don Desrosiers proves that many of you need assistance in this. Automation is great, except you still need clothes to move or when there is a breakdown. Many know that I am not a production expert; however, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the by-product of a failed production system. Get outside advice on this one. It will be well worth the cost of admission.
5. Putting routes on auto-pilot.
An oldie but a goodie — from a problem identification standpoint. Still, many of you orphan your routes and rely on a driver whose goal is to get done and get paid without anyone telling him what to do.
Many think throwing out a straight commission will automatically ensure growth. However, most of you who have called us know this is not true! A plane on auto-pilot will run out of gas and eventually crash. Don’t let this happen to your routes.
6. Marketing: Does it cost money or make you money?
I do have an accounting degree, believe it or not, and my specialty was cost accounting. Numbers don’t lie and many of you solely look at the bottom line and how you got there.
Marketing is the most misconceived line item on your P&L.
Too often it is looked at as a direct cost when in reality it is an investment. Too often people cut back on marketing and watch their business flatline or decrease.
Make the right marketing decisions, but look at the ROI, not just the costs.
7. Not balancing motivation and accountability.
Back to leadership, which includes owners. You and your management team must know how to evenly balance motivation and accountability. Some are better than others on one side of the spectrum, but fail on the other.
It is like a teeter-totter. It will swing back and forth, but the key is to know how to do both and when. This would take 29 articles to define, but it goes back to leadership training.
8. Saving pennies instead of making dollars.
A phrase I have heard numerous times in the past 12 years is this:“A dollar saved is a dollar made.”
I can agree with this phrase, but only when it doesn’t affect growth and retention. Some operators have bragged about still being in business through the tough times by cutting back to the bare bones. Well, to me that looks like a skeleton and many are just that, a fragment of where they used to be. Now is the time to grow or go.
9. Improperly training and coaching staff.
See a theme here? Again we examine leadership. Training and coaching may be the most important components to building your business; however, it may be the most overlooked.
It is so critical to get your staff trained properly by someone who is not going to just show them the ropes as well as their bad habits. This is especially true for counter staff.
10. Stuck in the 20th century.
You may not believe this, but there are still some drycleaners without a website. Others still do not have a computer point-of-sale system. Others still block letter their vans or do not put their names on bags.
The 21st century consumer has changed. Have you?
Your store image is important. What’s on your countertops matters and the way we communicate to our customers has evolved right in front of us.
Examine what the 21st century customer is looking for, their wants and needs and then do a self-examination of your own set-up. It’s time to move forward, not backward.
The bottom line is that the decisions you make can lead to the decision to grow. If not, then step aside and let the cleaners who are doing everything right thrive while you struggle to survive.

James Peuster offers onsite training and all aspects of routes. Management, marketing and maintenance are all key components in developing a million-dollar route.  You can listen to his radio programs on
He can be contacted at (816) 739-2066 or