National Clothesline
Controlled chaos
It’s always wise to set good goals and FabriCoach Jim Groshans certainly aims high with his plans for the
future: “I want to coach one of my teams to a national championship,” he said, laughing.
Of course, his “teams” are his clients and there might not be a drycleaning national championship, but there is
definitely success that can be measured and he hopes to lead as many drycleaning companies as he can up to the
top of that scale.
After spending a lifetime
in drycleaning, Jim certainly
has the experience and
knowledge to help cleaners
improve, but he doesn’t
consider himself simply a
“It’s not about me
transferring that knowledge.
It’s about interaction and
getting people involved and
that’s really when people
learn,” he explained.
“Everything I do is about
He teaches and inspires, as well as offers “plays” for the many situations a business might face. He seeks to
transform employees of all different departments into one smoother running team and, like any good coach,
knows when to sit on the sidelines and let players do what they do best.
“You have to have a good buy-in, just like a good coach does for a good sports team. I’m a huge college
football fan so I’ve studied a lot of good coaches and great coaches and that’s really the difference. It’s getting
the most out of your players, the most out of your team,” he added. “It’s collaborative. It’s two-way interaction. I
find that a whole lot better because everything I do with all of my programs is talking about team building.”
Long before his recent role as the FabriCoach, Jim learned about all things drycleaning growing up around his
family’s business, Sauk Valley Cleaners, in northern Illinois.
“So, I learned everything for the BOH (back of the house) from my father and the service (front of the house)
from my mother,” he said. “I learned every aspect of the family business, everything from front to back. But my
stain removal education was through IFI, which as you know now is called DLI, and it was all on cassette tapes
and everything was mailed back and forth.”
Jim worked at the family cleaners until he was 26 when he was hired by R.R. Street & Co., Inc. His first
technical services and sales territory was in North Carolina.
“There’s nothing like a Yankee moving to the South,” he joked. “It was one of the best moves I’ve ever made in
my life.”
Jim enjoyed working for a leading manufacturer whose products were proven to work and who was willing to
invest back into the industry that supported them. It was a great learning experience.
“When I was in sales, I really did not know the price of the products. I didn’t sell products based on price,” he
recalled. “I didn’t even look at myself as being a salesman. I understood the value of building and maintaining
relationships and the products, basically at that point, sold themselves.”
North Carolina was very good to Jim. After all, he met his wife-to-be, Yancy, and enjoyed his job quite a bit,
but he later transferred to south Florida where he eventually was part of Streets’ management team for seven
Overall, he worked for the company for 26 years, including special projects that took him all over the U.S. and
in Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Last year, that all changed.
“I was ready for a new challenge. It was something I had thought about, but I wasn’t sure what that new
challenge was going to be,” he recalled.
He thought of leaving the industry but didn’t want to leave all of his contacts and relationships behind. “It just
didn’t feel right,” he added.
While mulling over his options, Jim kept going back to something he had read in a book called Good to Great by
author Jim Collins.
In it, Collins uses an analogy for success that says the company you work for is a bus and you need the right
people in the right seats to move forward. Business leaders are the bus drivers who get things rolling and steer
its direction.
“I wanted to take a bus that was moving in a direction that I am passionate about,” he noted. “I decided that I
wanted to start my own company. I wanted a coaching role and I wanted it to be team-based. The end result that
came out of this is that I ended up driving my own bus.”
As Jim remembers it, the decision itself might not have been easy, but the transition to make it happen was.
“All due to great support from my wife, family, friends and industry associates,” he explained. “It all goes back
to managing and respecting relationships. It’s always about people.”
As the FabriCoach, Jim’s two most popular coaching programs are Technical SOILutionsSM (engineering and
operator coaching and focussing on equipment processes) and Customer Service (a team-based approach to
achieving excellence).
He often coaches for the hospitality industry, such as high end resorts and cruise ships, to help them upkeep
their drycleaning equipment and clean more effectively and odor-free.
He also maintains a strong relationship with DLI and serves as an educational instructor. He spends about ten
weeks out of the year at their headquarters in Laurel, MD.
On top of that, he has been a recent speaker addition to the regional drycleaning trade show circuit. This suits
him well as he is a big proponent of the industry.
“Leading by example is a good motto to follow,” he said. “Why would you suggest clients or customers to invest
in their education through industry schools or certifications if you don’t do it yourself?
True to his word, Jim has obtained all three DLI certifications: CPD (Certified Professional Drycleaner), CPW
(Certified Professional Wetcleaner and CED (Certified Environmental Drycleaner).
One strength that helps him reach a wider range of clients is that he tries to remain product neutral.
“I have reached out to all of my former competitor companies and let them know that I’m working with DLI, we
are updating training materials or I will work with them to collaborate on different kind of spotting events and
different kind of coaching events,” Jim said. “It’s amazing the results I’ve gotten back from all these different
companies who were my competitors in the past.”
Like any good coach, Jim has a playbook on hand — a plant flow chart — that helps operators control the chaos
of the complicated cleaning process, from check-in to production and then back to the customer.
“The plant flow is about where you are on the team. So, if we’re talking customer service we’re at the front, or
the driver with routes. I show how they will impact the rest of the team in the back,” he emphasized. “If we’re
talking about stain removal or drycleaning, I show you your position in the team and how you impact the
finishing, how you impact the front counter if you don’t press the garments properly. The flow chart is kind of a
cornerstone to all the training programs because that’s how I train the team — by showing how everybody
communicates here.”
As an example, Jim noted that you can have a well-trained customer service staff and the best POS computer
system available, but it still boils down to properly exchanging vital information. A customer may inform the CSR
there is a coffee stain on a shirt, but are they asking the right follow-up question: Do you put anything in your
coffee? If they add cream, that’s two different stains, he explained.
“I call it being disruptive. It doesn’t allow the garments to flow through the plant. You know every time we
touch a garment, there’s a cost associated with that,” he said. “ So, if we touch the garment up front. We check it
in. We put a tag on there saying there’s coffee and cream on the shirt. It gets sorted properly. The stain gets
removed properly. We process it. We finish it. We do inspection, assembly and bagging and out it goes. If it’s the
right flow — if it isn’t disruptive — we make money.”
Chaos can happen at any time in the cleaning process, but Jim coaches teams to be united in an effort to
sidestep any avoidable problems. That way, cleaners can focus on what their customers need the most.
“We need to be absolutely certain that we are providing a product, garments in this case, in a like new, ready-
to-wear condition on a consistent basis,” he asserted. “We need to provide a product that the consumer cannot
get at home and I can’t stress that enough because our biggest competition isn’t necessarily the cleaners down
the street. It’s the home washing machine. The average consumer, in a lot of cases, can do as good of a job as a
professional, a fabric care specialist. We need to make sure that we are doing our absolute best.”
While the overall volume of drycleaning isn’t what it used to be, Jim is still confident that the industry has a
strong future.
“There’s a reason why drycleaning has changed, but the service will be there. It’s a matter of: Is it going to be
the same? It will never come back. I don’t care what anyone says,” he said. “It’s just not coming back to where it
was in the heyday, but it will always be there.
“The thing about it is, we’re not drycleaners anymore. We’re stressing the fact that we are first and foremost in
the people business and we just have to clean things. Everybody’s diversifying and that’s exactly what needs to
be done.”