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An Investor’s Guide to Coin Laundries | Chapter 11

We are proud to bring you this comprehensive book, ‘Investor’s Guide to Coin Laundries‘, compiled by Jay MacDonald, Vice President, Distributor Sales for Alliance Laundry Systems.

Alliance Laundry Systems is the largest manufacturer of commercial laundry equipment in the world and has over 50 years of experience in helping investors just like you, get started in the coin laundry market. This book is a compilation of experiences, ideas and input from hundreds of successful coin laundry owners and distributors from all over the world.

Taking data and industry knowledge, it is a road map to help you succeed. At the end of it, you will have a general understanding of the industry and what it will take to operate a successful business.

why-invest-speed-queen-laundry-investor-guide

Chapter 11 : TO ATTEND OR NOT TO ATTEND, THAT IS THE QUESTION


Whether you have an attended or unattended laundry, there are going to be both positive and negative aspects to it. Personally, if it were my store, I would always have a laundry attendant for all the positives listed below. But that is a decision that only you can make. Should you decide to go with an attended laundry, there are some basic human resources principles you can apply to make sure that your laundry attendant is successful and vested in your business.

Pros

  • Someone to keep an eye on your store
  • Fix equipment
  • Help keep the laundry clean
  • Allows you to manage less of the day-to-day and more of the business
  • Address customer concerns in a timely fashion and allow you to sell other services such as drop off laundry
Cons

    • Employee theft
    • Abuse of sick time
    • Not doing his or her job
    • Unreliability
    • Takes up more of your time
    • Overhead in wages

In most cases, when someone decides to go with an attended laundry, they start looking to hire right away. This is one of the more common mistakes. You even see it in businesses when they look to add a position. Before you start looking for that new employee, there is some ground work that must be completed first.

The Employee Manual 

An employee manual or handbook is a tool used to house all of the information that will be relevant not only to you, but to the worker you hire. This will contain a job description, benefits information and so much more. Below is just a quick overview of content suggestions, and even some samples of each:

Job description
A job description is pretty basic. It tells the employee what is expected of them regarding their day-to-day tasks. By laying it out clearly and completely, you will attract people who want to do the job, and also provide the framework for your employee to be successful. A sample of a job description for a coin laundry attendant could be:

JOB TITLE: Laundry Attendant
CLASS: Non-Exempt
REPORTS TO: Laundry Owner
STATUS: Part-time

This is an hourly position, on a part-time basis of approximately 30 hours per week, working as a coin laundry attendant at the ABC Coin Laundry located at XXX

Accountabilities
1. Functions as a coin laundry attendant as required
2. Help in routine maintenance duties
3. Aid in record keeping and other office routines
4. Keep the laundry clean at all times
5. Service and train customers, address customer complaints, etc.
6. Other duties as may be required by the Coin Laundry Owner

Required Training And Experience
Must be 18 years or older. Possess a high school degree or equivalent.

Nature Of Work
Provide customer service and routine maintenance at the ABC Coin Laundry. The job may require work shifts ranging from morning to evening hours, as well as weekends. Other duties may require clean up or office help.

Physical Demands
The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals to perform the essential functions. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand, use hands to control tools or controls, climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch, talk and hear. The employee is also required to sit and reach with hands and arms. The employee may be required to occasionally lift up to 50 pounds.

Holiday Schedule
A great bonus to any employee is the vacation schedule. In most areas this is not required but does help you retain good employees who will look out for your best interests when you are not at the store. Depending on your preference, the industry standard is generally one week of paid vacation after one year of service. Some employers will ask that employees accrue their one week of vacation time, others will allow employees to start using banked time after 90 days. Don’t forget to add additional time to this section based on years of service.

Sick Time
Let’s face it, people get sick and need time off in order to get well. It’s important to detail what your sick policy is going to be. Some companies provide a number of sick days, others a point system and others provide nothing. There are a few progressive companies out there who do not provide a number of days, but just pay for sick time off. It will come down to trust with you and your employee as to how you write this section.

Paid-time Off (PTO)
PTO is one of those extremely optional sections. PTO is additional days that can be taken by employees and used however they wish.

Benefits
One reason many people choose to work for a business is because of the benefits. Health insurance, disability, term life, vision and dental are the big areas that some employers cover when offering benefits to their employees. Many employers pay a portion of the premiums and share the cost with employees. There are many different plans out there available to small business owners. Consult your local chamber of commerce or business network for a listing, and in some cases by being a group or chamber member, you can participate in their plan, providing you a discount in employee health coverage.

Salary/Pay Schedule
What you pay your employee is important, as well as when you pay them. Whether it’s hourly or salary, the reason a person works is to make money. Consider including a bonus plan that your employee(s) can participate in. This will also help to create greater performance incentives. Also include employee reviews in this section. Tying raises to performance is another great way to maximize the return on investment in hiring a laundry room attendant.

Vision, Mission and Values
This is your business, you have goals you want to achieve and they are tied to your vision, mission and value statement(s). It’s important to your continued success that employees know, understand and share these with you.

Leave of Absence/FMLA
There might be a time when an employee needs to be away from work for an extended period of time. Detailing what that is, including funeral leave, maternity leave, etc. is important to cover.

In the United States of America, it’s also important that you include information on the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA. The Family Medical Leave Act was created to give employees the ability to take reasonable unpaid time off from work for certain medical and family reasons. For comprehensive information on this visit http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm\ Depending on your country, there may be other laws with regard to employees. Consult with a professional to make sure that you abide by these laws. Once again, your distributor, who is an established business, may be able to answer many of these questions.

Termination Policy
In the event that you might have to let an employee go, you will need to define the process you will take. Many countries and states are “at-will”, meaning you can terminate an employee for any reason.

Sexual Harassment Policy
This is rather self-explanatory, but a sexual harassment policy is designed to provide employees a safe working environment, free from retaliation. It also protects you in the event that something should happen. It’s recommended that there is a zero-tolerance policy in place to keep it simple for everyone.

Sexual Harassment Policy
This is rather self-explanatory, but a sexual harassment policy is designed to provide employees a safe working environment, free from retaliation. It also protects you in the event that something should happen. It’s recommended that there is a zero-tolerance policy in place to keep it simple for everyone.

Sign off sheet
It is important that your employee read and understand and accept your rules. By providing a sign-off sheet in the back of your employee handbook, you protect yourself from disgruntled employees who say that they were not aware that they violated one of your rules or policies included in the book.

The Who’s, What’s, When’s, Where’s
Once you’ve clearly defined the position and have your employee manual drafted, it’s time to start looking for laundry room attendants. Between your local paper, internet employment web sites, college job boards and referrals from family and friends, there are many different avenues you can use to spread the message about the positions you have available.

With this new job listing, you might get lots of applications. As the pile starts to grow, you will begin to sort through all of the information you’ve been given. But how do you decide on which candidates should make it through to the interview?

Well, first, who actually completed their application in full? There will be times that candidates skip over sections of the application or leave out addresses or dates blank. This is a good sign that the person is not detail oriented and may not complete a task thoroughly.

When possible, I would look for a candidate that lives in the same community as your customers. They can relate to issues facing the neighborhood, spread the word about your business to family and friends, and they may even be a current laundromat customer

How is the grammar and spelling on the application? Poor use of these could signal that the candidate has a hard time communicating. While the job of an attendant does not require much if any writing, they do need to be excellent communicators with your customers.

It’s also smart to avoid the job hoppers. Look for candidates who have at least two years of experience at their current job. If there are short bursts of employment with short times of service, this candidate might not be likely to stick around in the position for long. As the cost to hiring someone is rather expensive, you want to look for potential employees who will be a longer-term investment.

Interviewing 101
Once you’ve scheduled the interviews with the candidates you feel are the best prospects, you want to prepare for the interview itself. There are lots of verbal and non-verbal cues to consider during this initial meeting. Some positive non-verbal cues to look for include: eye contact, smiling, sitting up straight, appropriate dress, a firm handshake.

There are also some simple non-verbal cues that will tell you if someone is lying to you or maybe not giving you a complete answer to your questions. For example, 77 some candidates may do what is referred to as the “eye rub”. This is where they avoid eye contact by rubbing their eyes. Another non-verbal cue that someone may be lying is contradictory head nodding. This is where the candidate is saying no, but their head is moving up and down yes.

It’s important to pay attention to what candidates aren’t saying, just as much as it is to listen to what they are telling you. And don’t be afraid to ask probing questions to answers either. Are they really listening to what you are asking and giving good answers? Remember, their job in part is to answer questions from your customers and giving correct and well thought-out answers. In truth, knowing what to ask during an interview is difficult for many business owners. Below is a list of potential interview questions to help you determine who the best candidate for your coin laundry might be:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Give me an example of a time that you felt you went above and beyond the call of duty at work
  • Can you describe a time when your work was criticized? How did you feel, what did you do?
  • Have you ever been on a team where someone was not pulling their own weight? How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to give someone difficult feedback. How did you handle it?
  • What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made in the last two years and how did you come to that decision?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • What would be your ideal working situation?

It’s important to avoid personal questions when interviewing. That includes asking a potential candidate if they are married, if they have children, etc. Keep it to business and the job you want them to do.

You’re Hired!
Now that you’ve hired your laundry room attendant it’s time to train them. Create a checklist of activities that need to be completed each day. Take time to go through each task with them, showing them how to do them and then have them complete the task. This will demonstrate that they understand what is expected of them and they are doing things the way you want them done. Only experience will tell you if you have an honest employee or not. I would make sure that my attendant is aware that I have a security system in the store (which is also for their safety and peace of mind). And I would subtlety let them know that the washers and dryers have audit features that keep track of how many times a machine was used during the day and how much money should be in the machines. But of course, do this tactfully so that your new employee does not feel like you are telling them you feel they will not be honest.

If you are considering having your laundry room attendant do preventative maintenance on the equipment, as well as fix minor repairs, it might be wise to send them to any service training offered by your distributor. This will provide them with more hands-on education and the ability to see first hand the more common repairs that need to be made.

There are common laundry questions that customers ask all the time. And there are many resources available on the internet and from your distributor with answers to these. One example are questions on how to remove certain stains. When answering those questions, train your attendant to remind the customer that “there is no guarantee that this solution will work on your particular item or that it will not damage the item but my recommendation is …” Many of the laundry detergent manufacturers have this information available. One example is at http://www.stain-removal-101.com/stain-removal-guide.html

In addition to training, it’s important to continue to motivate your employees. This will go a long way in providing employee retention. Some simple ways to reward them for a job well done is:

    • a cash bonus during a month when sales were up
    • an extra vacation day for any sick days not used
    • profit sharing
    • a gift card to the movie theatre, their favorite restaurant, grocery store or gas station for going above and beyond
    • free food. Buying lunch goes a long way
    • a handwritten thank you note
    • allow them to do their laundry for free

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and respected for the work they do. By treating your employees as “partners” and empowering them to do the right thing in order to grow your business, you’ll create a long lasting partnership that will serve to enhance your bottom line.

Going for No Attendant
If you opt to have an unattended laundry, there are things you can do to protect your business and prevent yourself from overworking yourself in your new business. In terms of safety, consider installing security cameras and a silent alarm system. If you are concerned about taking money to the bank, ask a friend to meet you before taking deposits out to your car and have them follow you to the bank to make sure you and your money arrive securely. Or you can contract with an armored car service to retrieve money at your store from your safe. In reality, most small business owners handle this task themselves. But it is a good idea not to develop a routine.

Just like it was suggested for the laundry attendant, create a check list of tasks you need to do each day or week or month, include preventative maintenance, cleaning, deposits and restocking products you may vend in your store like detergent, fabric softener, laundry bags and so on. It’s also recommended that you take service classes from the distributor too if you’re going to be doing any of the simple and more basic repairs to your equipment. If not, your distributor will have a network of trained service professionals that can handle the most simple repairs to the most complicated.

And schedule days off. If there are a few days during the week that aren’t peak times for your coin laundry, make those light work days, maybe go in for the deposit and a quick cleaning to allow you to enjoy the flexibility owning a coin laundry can provide.

A laundromat is a revenue producing business and does require time and effort to maximize profitability. But it is somewhat unique in that it does not require a tremendous amount of long hours on your part — as long as you have good employees in the store when you are not!

jay-mcdonald-coin-laundryABOUT THE AUTHOR

JAY McDONALD has been active in the laundry industry for over 30 years. He is the Vice President, Distributor Sales for Alliance Laundry Systems, the largest manufacturer of commercial laundry equipment in the world. He also served on the board of directors for the Coin Laundry Association and received the Distinguished Service Award “in appreciation of his leadership in furthering the welfare and best interests of the coin laundry industry” in 2009.
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As your equipment distributor — the most important partner and most valuable resource you will ever have — we encourage you to get in touch so that we can help guide you through the exciting and financially rewarding industry of coin laundry ownership.


CHAPTER 1. SHORT ANSWERS TO THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
CHAPTER 2. WHY COIN LAUNDRY
CHAPTER 3. THE HISTORY OF THE COIN LAUNDRY BUSINESS – LEARNING FROM THE PAST TO GROW INTO THE FUTURE
CHAPTER 4. THE ROLE OF THE DISTRIBUTOR
CHAPTER 5. THE POWER OF LEVERAGE
CHAPTER 6. DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS : LOCATION
CHAPTER 7. LEASE NEGOTIATIONS
CHAPTER 8. UNDERSTANDING CUSTOMER’S NEEDS
CHAPTER 9. DESIGNING YOUR COIN LAUNDRY: WITH THE HELP OF YOUR DISTRIBUTOR
CHAPTER 10. CASH VERSUS SMART CASRDS: The Pros And Cons.
CHAPTER 12. ADDITIONAL REVENUE OPPORTUNITIES / To be published 15 July 2019