7 Skill Sets You MUST Have (Or Develop) To Be Really Successful As A Dry Cleaner!

You must master these skills. They can be learned. They have nothing to do with dry cleaning. Let’s get going.

Surprisingly, none of these skills have anything to do with how to press a shirt or how to fix one of your machines. In fact, if you know how to do these things and can’t resist jumping in, it’s hurting your business. My most successful members—461 and counting—don’t get involved in the day-to-day of their dry cleaners—they don’t even have their offices in the plant. They focus on $50 an hour and up activities. Those are the ones we are going to talk about today.

This is my office and man-cave. I call it Club Cosi--a play on my name.

This is my office and man-cave. I call it Club Cosi–a play on my name.

Dry Cleaner Skill #1: Design Your Business Around Your Life. Not the other way around. Do not become a slave to your business. So how can you design your business around your life? You’ll have to become really good at a bunch of other skills, but it can be done. The first thing that you must do is to decide what that life is going to be. I’ve started 33 businesses in my lifetime, and this has always been a goal for me. After about business 12 or so I came up with some rules to follow when deciding what kind of businesses I should get in to. Rule #1: The business could run without me there physically. I did not want to create a job for myself. And that’s what lots of dry cleaners have ended up doing to themselves. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just go work for someone. Rule #2: Had to be simple enough that an 18 year old could run it when I was gone. And Rule #3: It had to have a residual or repeat income. I’m happy to say that owning a dry cleaner follows all of these rules if you design it that way. My successful members, including myself, do what we want, when we want.  I spend three months in Florida every year away from the cold.

You must have some strong goals to motivate yourself to build your business around your life. My first reason for doing this was prompted by watching the movie, “Dad”. In that movie, Ted Danson took off work for six months and took care of his sick dad. I wanted to be able to do that. And that’s just what happened to me. My dad got sick while he was spending the winter in Scottsdale, AR. I flew down and took him to all his doctor’s appointments. He asked me when I was going home. I told him that I was staying until he was OK. And when he went in the hospital, I was there every day, all day, for two weeks. This would of not been possible if I was not in this business. My daughter is having a baby in October and she just asked me if I could come to Charlotte (I live in Rochester, NY) and watch the baby for a week or two when she starts back to work. Without even thinking about it, I said yes. I have set up my business around my life. It’s been this way for around 17 years now. To make this happen, you have to decide to do it. When you decide, you’ll start making decisions that will get you closer to your goal.

Dry Cleaner Skill #2: Direct Response Marketing. You’ve got to learn and take control of your advertising and learn how to get customers using “emotional direct response marketing.” Gone are the days when you build a store and customers come rushing in. There is way too much competition to do that anymore. You’ve got to realize that you’re really in the business of “marketing your dry cleaner,” NOT in the dry cleaning business. When you get that idea in your head, you’ll really start to grow your business. You’ve got to out fox your competitors and the only way to do that is to learn how to attract customers with Direct Response Marketing. So what is Direct Response Marketing? I’ll tell you what it’s not—it’s not image advertising. Direct Response Marketing is advertising that expects an immediate return. You mail out 1000 advertising pieces and you get 10 new route customers—that’s Direct Response Marketing. Advertising reps will tell you that you need to get your name out there and eventually people will join your route and come into your store. That’s bull$h!t! That’s not how it works in the real business world. When you advertise, you MUST expect an immediate return. If you don’t get a return, you test another ad.

My dry cleaning business is a marketing laboratory for my members. I’m always testing mailers, postcards, sales letters, bag drops and whatever else we come up with. There is no good or bad advertising medium. There are only advertising delivery systems. Val-Pak is neither good or bad, it’s a delivery system. Same goes for mailers, postcards, newspapers, TV, radio and the Internet.

You’ve got to dive into Direct Response Marketing. I can’t teach it to you in this article. The best way I know how is to get some books from Dan Kennedy. A good start is going to Amazon and ordering his book, “The Ultimate Sales Letter” and you’ll learn a ton about Direct Response Marketing.

Dry Cleaner Skill #3: Learn Technology. You don’t have to master it. But you need a working knowledge of how it works. If you have trouble sending and receiving texts, you’re in trouble. If you do not have a smart phone, you’re in trouble. If you can’t go on Google and find something, you’re doomed! Now that I’ve terrified you, let me explain what I mean by learning the technology.

You should have an email autoresponder. Once you capture a prospects name and email, your autoresponder will email them until they become a customer or they opt out. If you don’t use email, you’re throwing away business. And once they become a customer, you’ve got to keep in contact with them and sell them more or what you’re selling. Go sign up for Constant Contact, Chimp Mail or Aweber and learn how to send out emails. They make it very easy to do now. If you know how to use Word, you can send out emails.

You or someone in your company should be writing a blog for your dry cleaners. The best blog to have should be set up by WordPress. My blog is connected to my website. If you can use Word, you can write a blog. If you do this correctly, you’ll get ranked on the first page of Google.

You should have a working knowledge of Google Places, Bing and Yahoo Local, and a bunch of the other sites that list your business. Just Google your dry cleaners and see what these are saying about you. Claim your business in all of these sites and the many more you’ll find and follow their directions to get listed. This is just a matter of digging around their sites and figuring out how to list your business.

If you have a route, you should be reminding them the night before of their pick-up. My members do this with a text and/or a reminder call. We all use CallFire.com and VoiceBlaze.com to do this. Again, just follow their directions and you’ll be all set. And if you can’t figure it out, seek some help form a teenager.

You should have a smartphone. I have an iPhone. You can log into your computer remotely and see what’s going on when you’re at the beach. You can get your emails while you’re making the turn during your golf game. You can send documents and files from your DropBox app no matter where you are. When you have a smartphone, your office with you wherever you are. Get a smartphone!

Getting with technology is nothing more than digging in. It’s like learning another language (I think it’s easier). Seek help from others. Get a working knowledge of how all this technology stuff works. If you don’t, your competitors will blow you away.

Dry Cleaner Skill #4: Sell Related Products To Your Customers. You’ve got their trust as a customer with your dry cleaning and laundry. Why not sell them something else? What else could you sell them? I started a house cleaning business ten years ago. ALL my house cleaning customers initially came from my customer base. I just sent out a simple email and we were cleaning houses within a couple of days. It now brings in a substantial amount of moola to our business. We also rent out Rug Doctors. I contract out carpet and rug cleaning. We have members that clean drapes on site, do shoe repair, duct cleaning and a bunch more services. I also recommend (and get a commission) my handyman, my plumber, my gardener, my auto detailer, my painter, my wallpaper guy and some other services. You should be selling other things and making money off of it. It’s easy once you have the customer base. In most cases it’s just making your customers aware of what service you have by sending out an email to get their business.

Dry Cleaner Skill #5: Create A Category Of “ONE” In Your Market. What do I mean by this? You’ve got to do and be so much more than the other dry cleaners in your town that your customers ONLY want to do business with you.

I’ve been call the Nordstrom’s of the dry cleaning business. And this was before I even tried to be better. I just did what was natural and fun for my business. I treated my customers as good friends. When I communicate with them with our weekly reminder call, emails, letters and by phone, I have fun and I’m very upbeat. Our weekly reminder calls include a “quote of the week” and if it’s a holiday, I say something funny and goofy. People want to be entertained. They want to feel good doing business with you. They  want to want to do business with you?

How do you do that?

David Whitehurst has popcorn machines in his three lobbies. His counter people are always smiling. All his new customers get a “hand-written” thank you note a few days after they visit his store. When was the last time you got a hand-written thank you note? I’m sure it’s been a while. And it wasn’t from a business, I bet!

When you do things like David and I do, you are creating your own category. What can you do to make your business unique? I’m sure you’ll come up with something.

Dry Cleaner Skill #6: Become An Entrepreneur, NOT a Business Owner. I’ve been called an entrepreneur. I’ve started 33 businesses and I’m not done yet. One is on the horizon in the next few months. An entrepreneur thinks differently. He/she doesn’t think just in the dry cleaning box. He thinks about how he can help his customers and at the same time, make a bigger profit. He also takes parts of his business and makes money off of them.

I took the marketing part of my business (which I enjoy the most) and I license it. It’s an asset that was sitting dormant until I unleashed it and started making money off of it.

Entrepreneurs are never standing still. They are always looking to expand their business and get into other businesses. If you’re standing still, you’re really going backwards. Entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to better do their business with the newest and bestest (I know this is not a word, but I’m an entrepreneur and I can make words up, so I do) things on the market. They are looking at other businesses and trying to figure out how that would work in their business.

You’ve got to have this wide-eyed wonder about business. You should wake up every day excited to be in this wonderful business and all the exciting things that come with it. You should have more on your plate than you can handle—ALWAYS!

Dry Cleaner Skill #7: Master Time Management. One hour of uninterrupted time is equal to eight hours of interrupted time. This quote is from Peter Drucker. He wrote a book called the “Effective Executive” and is a MUST read if you are going to master time management.

We all have the same amount of time. Some of us do more in that time. Some dry cleaners have built $5,000,000 businesses and some have $250,000 businesses. And both of those owners have the same amount of time. What’s the difference?

The small dry cleaner can’t get out of his own way. He’s fixing all the machines, doing lots of pressing and getting involved in all the little decisions of his business. He’s either afraid to delegate and he thinks he’s saving money by doing all of these things himself. Whatever his thinking is, he’s wrong. Unless of course, he wants to stay small and he enjoys all the tinkering. If that’s the case, and that’s you, you shouldn’t be reading this article.

So how do you get out of your own way? First of all, you’ve got to want to. You’ve got to be sick-and-tired of where you are in your business and you have to want to change. I’ve had a bunch of my members that were still driving their vans doing deliveries when they started with me. And the first goal we set was getting them out of their van as soon as possible. Bernie Lambert in South Jersey was in his van for 11 years when I met him. Within 18 months he was out of his van. Now he spends the majority of his time getting more new customers for his delivery business.

David Whitehurst in Birmingham, AL used to have his office in his plant. He was interrupted every 5 minutes with things that his employee’s handle now without him there. He started spending an hour in the morning in his home office. Within six months he moved out of his plant to spend full time in his home office. David’s business has more than doubled in the last five years.

Start with one hour of uninterrupted time a day. Stay home or go to Starbucks (where I’m at right now) for an hour in the morning. Focus on what your business needs to be more successful. Once you get used to one hour a day, extend it to two hours and so on. You will be amazed at how much you get done.

I work out an old pool house that I turned into my office and man-cave as you can see. When I really need to focus, I turn off my iPhone and get to work. You’ve got to create your own space to work uninterrupted. If you don’t, you are doomed to interruptions all day long and days of getting nothing done.

Hire someone else to do all the $10 an hour work. You ONLY focus on $50 an hour work and up. You work on tasks that you and ONLY you can do. And don’t trick yourself to think that you’re the only one that can repair your machines. Hire someone to do that. You stop doing it! You stop pressing! You stop hanging around your plant just to hang around there. Get working on things that will grow your business!

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3 Responses to “7 Skill Sets You MUST Have (Or Develop) To Be Really Successful As A Dry Cleaner!”

  1. Poirei K. Sanasam Says:

    I am all the way from the other side of the globe but really appreciate the positivity in you. Awesome & generous tips on business value creation!! Really appreciate it Greg!!Found it to be very informative.
    I look forward to reading more of your articles and learn.


  2. blessing Says:

    what an awesome and informative writeup,I really appreciate these,my laundry business will definately receive a boost having gone thr.thank you so much.

  3. Greg Says:

    You are very welcome!

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