A handful of years ago, around the time that the economic downturn had reached
its low point, Sir Galloway
Cleaners owner and founder Mark Mills faced a tough decision with his Miami drycleaning
In order to stay successful, he reasoned he should focus most of his time and
energy on one of two strategies. He
should either keep trying to bring in new customers to keep revenue from
plummeting or make a concerted effort to
go well above and beyond the expectations of existing customers in order to keep
as many as possible. He opted for
the latter option.
“We went the route of taking
care of our existing customers by
rolling out a program called
Beyond,” he recalled. “We
identified the top 20 percent of
our customers by volume and we
created a little personalized letter
for them that said: ‘We want to
thank you for your loyalty. We
are moving you up on our service
level to our Beyond Program,
with our compliments. That will
entitle you to emergency delivery
service. If you’re running late and
can’t get to your drycleaning and
need your clothes by tomorrow,
call us up and we’ll deliver what you need to your house — no charge for the delivery. It’s like having a private
The program, among other things, also implemented a new call ahead service where
customers could call on their
way to picking up their clothes and the customer service representative would
charge them to the credit or debit
card on file and have them all ready to go and waiting at the drive-thru for
when they arrive.
“So, we rolled out that program and that has helped us retain a higher percentage
of our customers,” Mark added.
“We roll out a little appreciation gift every year. Last year was some flowering
seeds for their gardens, just more of a
‘thank you’ for their loyalty. This year, we’re rolling out a do-over will be delivered instead of having the customer
come back. After all, they came in once to pick it up. They brought it back. We’re not going to make them come in
again for it.”
The customer service team also began closely tracking the volume of the Beyond
Program clientele to make sure
nobody has disappeared.
“As soon as they fall out of pattern, we pick up the phone,” he noted. “Just the call itself goes a long way in
shoring up that relationship.”
In fact, Mark often uses the phone as a tool to go above and beyond what other
cleaners might do and keep his
company on the right path.
“I make it a policy to reach out to two customers a day,” he explained. “I look at a stack of paid invoices and I call
two customers a day to thank them for the opportunity to serve them. Then I ask
them: how’s the customer
It’s a good way to solicit feedback both positive and negative. He can then relay
the information to his CSRs on
the things they are doing right and the other things that might need
“I just hung up with a lady this afternoon. She said: ‘We used to go to somebody else and the difference is like
going from Wal-Mart to Nordstrom’s’,” he added. “I think that summarizes everything we try to do and be.”
Not surprisingly, the company’s motto is: “The difference is like Knight and Day!” The company has retained much
of its original vision when Mark first started it in 1984. At the time, he was
working with his father in a tuxedo
delivery business that had more than its share of frustrations.
“After year after year of trying different cleaners, it just became apparent to
me that we better start doing our
own drycleaning to control costs, the quality and turnaround time,” he recalled. “I mean, after all, a tuxedo has no
value if you tell a guy it’s going to be ready Monday instead of on Friday or when it was promised for.”
At age 24, Mark found a business partner and started Sir Galloway Cleaners from
scratch. The business was
located on Galloway Road, but the “Sir” was added to the name to give the business a more upscale identity.
“We were going to be the best drycleaners and, being that we were in Miami, there
was a need for that,” Mark
recalled. “We were just really fortunate to be in an extremely affluent area.”
The business partnership proved to be short-lived. Within six weeks of opening,
Mark bought out his partner.
Every two years, he aggressively opened a drop store, careful not to grow faster
than he could handle.
“We didn’t want to lose customers from a quality standpoint because we were growing too
fast,” he added.
“Today, we have six stores, three routes and 75 employees.”
Catering to people who prefer high scale garments and foster great expectations
for how they’re cleaned, Mark
knows the key to keeping them happy lies in proper employee training. Thus, he
has an unusual hiring policy.
“Everybody is home grown,” he noted. “We will not take on anyone who has experience in our business, whether it
is customer service, pressing, drycleaning, wetcleaning… no one. We’re going to take it on the chin to get up to
speed. We will not let you take on a store without having two months of customer
service training. A presser is going
to take probably three to six months to get up to par as far as being productive
and profitable. But, we’d much
rather do that… build a stronger foundation.”
Building a strong foundation is only the first step, however. The training
process is perpetual.
“On the customer service side, we have a meeting on Saturday every other month
for an hour. We bring in a
guest speaker to talk about customer service 101. Every week, we do a ‘Thought of the Week’ where we might learn
from a mistake we made,” Mark explained. “On the operations side, we meet every Tuesday with the operations
crew and talk about operations 101. There’s a lot of repetitive training, but it just never ends.”
Keeping the company running smoothly isn’t the only thing that often occupies Mark’s mind; he’s also a big
advocate of being a responsible cleaner who gives back to his community. Last
year, Mark pledged to recycle
100,000 hangers as part of Drycleaning and Laundry Institute’s Cleaners Care Hanger Recycling program. The
company has also achieved four leaf status at five of its locations through the
National Cleaners Association’s Green
Cleaners Council program since it first joined in May of 2011.
More fulfilling, however, is when Sir Galloway teamed up years ago with direct
competitors Sudsies Dry Cleaners,
Rey’s Cleaners and Spots Cleaners to jointly collect about 1,000 pieces of donated
clothing each month for the
Camillus House in Miami.
It was a nice alternative to the typical “Coats for Kids” many cleaners take part in, and far more appropriate since
Florida is not known for its frigid winter season.
“Now, if you had a Bikini for Kids program, it might do well,” he joked. “But, this is a very meaningful way to give
back. The homeless need clothes and they get darn good clothing.”
Another very personal way of giving back has been through the Woody Foundation
formed in 2011 after Mark’s
godson, James “Woody” Beckham, was paralyzed while making a tackle playing rugby for Florida Atlantic
Mark’s son, David, initiated the foundation and its fundraising programs and Mark is
a board member.
“What happens with the money is we’re putting together a backpack for somebody who is newly paralyzed with
anything from information about transportation that’s provided by the government to devices that sit on their hands
so that they can handle a fork or knife or a computer stylus and other things
that a person who is newly paralyzed
would need,” he said. “We’re still in the early stages, but it’s coming along nicely.”
The public appreciates such efforts, but it doesn’t help a business’s bottom line if there is no consistency on the
final product. For that, you need employee stability. Fortunately, Sir Galloway
enjoys an average employee tenure of
“Our people are everything. You cannot grow a company with high turnover,” he emphasized. “We have several
employees who have celebrated 20 years with us. Our managers are good listeners
and there’s a lot of respect. It’s
Such stability helps Mark back up a lot of bold promises that he first
implemented about 15 years ago.
It’s quite simple, really. If the order is not ready on time, it’s free. If customers are not satisfied with the final
product, Sir Galloway will be happy to keep trying until they are.
The guarantee is similar to many others offered by successful cleaners in the
industry, but Mark believes it is more
effective because of how it is communicated to customers.
“We never use the word ‘sorry.’ We say, ‘I apologize and take full responsibility,’” he emphasized. “We never point
fingers at the guys in the back if the order isn’t ready.”
Fortunately, mistakes don’t happen often. The company promises “no missing, cracked or loose buttons” as part of
a final ten-point inspection process. Sometimes even that final inspection is
It’s a lot of work, but Sir Galloway is willing to charge a commensurate price and
the customers are willing to pay
“There’s a drycleaner on every corner and while we cannot compete on their prices, they
certainly can’t compete
on our service,” Mark said.