National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Your second most valuable asset
Another year has flown by and what a year it has been. We have seen the start of socialized medicine under the name of Obamacare. My 15-year-old grandson, Reed, with the size 14 shoes, has grown to 6' 2" and 190 pounds. However, he is too small to play on the line for his high school team. His 11-year-old brother, Griffin, might pass him up. Neither one of the boys got their size from my side of the family.
I had surgery this year for a torn rotator cuff. The doctor said, “Too much bowling.” Barbara had knee surgery for a torn meniscus. The doctor said, “Quit kicking Harvey.”
A common inquiry that I receive over and over again deals with drycleaning operations that are not growing.
It usually goes like this, “My company is not growing. I have an old computer system. The computer system does not have any marketing capability.”
I then inquire as to whether the cleaner collects street addresses or email addresses. Of course, the answer is “No.”
Market, market, market
Here is the agenda I provide for these lost souls who do not realize the value of using their second most valuable asset, their database.
1. Determine what your current software can do regarding marketing, creating reports, etc. Perhaps it can export to Excel or do something like that?
If it cannot do anything, it is imperative that you replace your POS system. You will increase sales and the new system will pay for itself in six months.
2. Before you start marketing, you want the following: A New Customer Information Card.
The card will have places for the following, along with whatever modifications you choose to make: customer’s name, street address, email address, phone number, date of birth for marketing purposes, starch or no starch, shirts on hangers or boxed, and permission to automatically bill the customer's credit card.
The customer enters the credit card number and signs that new customer card with the authorization to charge the card. Some companies include authorization to do minor repairs up to $5 without phone notification.
3. Design “Miss You” and “Thank You” cards or email messages.
If you have the new POS software, the new New Customer Information Card and the two marketing messages ready to go, then market the hell out of the neighborhood.
Your neighborhood is a 1.5- to two-mile radius around each location.
The key to your success is to build your database and market the new customers who have come in.
To get existing customer information after the new POS software is installed, use the New Customer Information Card and give the existing customer a $5 credit as an incentive.
You want the ability to charge credit cards automatically.
If a new customer or old customer does not want to provide the information, you can explain to the new customer that they will receive special promotions, a birthday gift certificate, and thank-you gift certificates (sounds much classier than a coupon when talking to a new customer).
The existing customer will get the $5 credit, plus future promotions, along with a birthday gift certificate on their birthday.
Do not ask the customer to fill out the new customer information card. Your CSR should be the person gathering the information. If you cannot read the customer’s writing, you have a problem. If you cannot read your CSR’s handwriting you have a problem, but one that is easily handled.
Fringe benefits for employees
Another common question has to do with employees. “Why should I give fringe benefits to my employees?”
I then ask if the cleaner likes the people working for the company. The common response is “Yes, otherwise they would not be working for me.”
My next question is, “Do you have any idea what the cost is to find and train a new employee?”
The business owner’s usual response is “No.”
Your employees deserve a paid vacation. My policy was one week paid vacation after one year, and two weeks after three years. By the way, at a minimum, it will cost you $500 to replace an existing employee.
With the new federal laws regarding health care, you will have no choices; the decision-making is being done for you as to how your company must treat the employees.
Incentivize your employees to want to keep their job so that they can reap more benefits. Have company parties and a company picnic. Create a team atmosphere.
I think back to an old song from 1979 sung by Sister Sledge, “We Are Family.” Treat your employees in the same way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.
Cleaning employees’ clothes
Another common inquiry, “What should I charge my employees for their cleaning and laundry?”
Consider the following: When your counter or route staff service your customers, what do you want them to look like? Do you want your staff to appear well groomed? Do you want your staff to look professional?
How are you going to achieve those goals if you allow your counter and route staff to wear t-shirts, sweat pants, short-shorts, or other comic-like garments?
Does it have to be a shirt and tie? Go into a retail establishment and see what the employees wear to work. Should your standards be any lower than a clothing or department store?
Do your counter and route employees wear name tags? Should your tailor or seamstress be dressed nicely, and wear a name tag?
My feeling is any employee who comes in contact with the public should have a dress code and receive free cleaning and or laundry for the garments worn as a workplace uniform.
The production staff is entitled to something, too, so let us provide free cleaning or laundry for their pants, skirts or whatever bottom garment worn to work.
You can set a piece limit for each week for certain kinds of garments for both production and public contact employees.
If an employee brings in more than the allocated amount of cleaning and laundry, the employee should get at least a 40 percent discount.
Here are your goals for 2014: Think professional. Act professional. And, most important, win the war of customer acquisition.
I hope you and your family have a healthy and happy 2014.
If you need a question or questions answered, do not hesitate to send me an email or call my cell phone. As you have read, I will respond to most questions, no matter the subject matter.

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