Q1 2019

THINK to Stay on the Strategic Path

By Don Desrosiers, Tailwind Systems, Inc.


What are your goals for 2019?  Perhaps you have some resolutions.  It’s the classic thing to do at the start of the new year.  “I resolve to do <this>”!   We often drop the ball.  That is the cruel joke.  When the new year morphs into simply a continuation of the daily grind, we often lose sight of our new goals.

But this is hardly about placing blame.  We have all had those silly “I’m gonna lose 20 pounds this year” goals that we forget about a couple of weeks past Auld Lang Syne.  However, in business, you must always have goals, regardless of what calendar page you are on.  I think many of us are not goal-oriented, but should be.  Do you disagree?

What are your goals? 

You can argue that you do indeed have goals.  “My goal is to be more profitable than I was last year.”  This is a good goal.  But as basic as it is, I believe that it often nests along the sidelines. Instead of being the driving force that governs us, it is more of an also-ran. Sad, because being profitable is what business is all about.  But you vow to “…be more profitable than last year,” and, in theory, every decision you make should be driven by this basic goal.  Even the most basic decision such as buying a broom or hiring a window washer to spruce up the look of your establishment has its roots in profitability. We want customers to feel good about being in our stores, not turned off by grime.  This keeps them coming back.  When they come back, they bring more business.  When they bring more business, they bring more profit…Ta Da!

But other moves are more complicated.  Some are more cosmic.  We might need to hire a new manager who costs a lot more money.  This might seem like an attack on the bottom line but the new manager is responsible for a number of things that will save money and cut costs. These savings are projected to more than make up for the additional cost in salary. This is when keeping your eye on the ball is so important. In this case, the “ball” is the goal of increasing profits.  We have a better, more skillful manager, who is capable of assisting us in attaining our goal.  But we must not forget our goal.

Sometimes a costly expansion is the means to an end.  This can be treacherous but it shows why it is so important to never lose sight of your goals.  You can bloviate about how you are going to open six new stores this year but if you use blind money with no plan, your business may not be around in 2020.  Too often we make decisions based on emotion rather than intelligence.


Loss of Strategic Vision

A client I visit regularly gave me a heads up just before a scheduled visit.  She said, “I switched to bar codes and bought an assembly conveyor.” I was surprised about this mainly because I am usually involved in decisions of this type. I asked her why she made this change. She said, “I am tired of training people to assemble and I’m tired of them making errors and other things.” Oh. In the final analysis, her cost per piece is up 17%, her pieces per labor hour is lower than it has been in years and she has a $857 per month mortgage on an assembly conveyor. What led to this business decision? This is not an indictment of bar codes or assembly conveyors but of questionable business decisions. What was her goal? What was she trying to accomplish? Cost per piece went up. Productivity went down. Fixed expenses went up. Cash flow was negatively affected. I happen to know she made this decision based solely on peer pressure. I bet this has happened before. But whenever it happens, it means someone has lost sight of their goals. This can be very dangerous.


You might need to buy a shirt unit this year. Sometimes you get to make a purchase and the only thing that you get for it is the privilege of staying in business. Your old, beat up unit bought the farm and you’ve got no choice but to spend $40k to replace it. These are the toughest expenditures because if you don’t make the purchase profits will go down. The shirt unit will break down and require parts and repair costs along with touch-up labor or, worst of all, a lousy product getting to your customer.  If you spend the money, you will avoid those awful things but you’ll have to make a capital expenditure. You gotta suck it up. It is the cost of doing business.

THINK to Stick
to Your Goals

IBM famously had a slogan called “THINK” more than 100 years ago.

THINK” is a slogan first used by Thomas J. Watsonin December, 1911, while managing the sales and advertising departments at the National Cash Register Company. At an uninspiring sales meeting Watson interrupted, saying, “The trouble with every one of us is that we don’t think enough. We don’t get paid for working with our feet — we get paid for working with our heads.” Watson then wrote THINK on the easel.

Asked later what he meant by the slogan, Watson replied, “By THINK I mean take everything into consideration. I refuse to make the sign more specific. If a man just sees THINK, he’ll find out what I mean. We’re not interested in a logic course.”

In 1914, Watson brought the slogan with him to the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR)and its subsidiaries, all of which later became IBM.

So you can use THINK if you like, or not.  At least think about your goal or goals and consider how your day-to-day decisions influence that goal.  Sometimes its an easy straight line (an across-the-board price increase) and at other times the path can be more convoluted.

Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering business since 1978. He is a workflow engineer and a management consultant who provides serves to shirt launderers and drycleaners in the United States, Mexico, and western Europe through Tailwind Systems. He is a member of the Society of Professional Consultants and the 2001 recipient of DLI’s Commitment to Professionalism Award. He can be reached at 186 Narrow Avenue, Westport, MA 02790 or at his office by fax (508) 636-8839; by cell (508) 965-3163; or e-mail at tailwindsystems@charter.net. He has a website at www.tailwindsystems.com. The author’s views are his own and do not represent official Drycleaning & Laundry Institute positions.


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