I have some thoughts that border on cliché regarding the Clean Show. No big surprise there. I think every drycleaner needs to go, no matter who they are or what their situation.
I bring these thoughts up every time the show comes around. Today, I will enhance my thoughts. Perhaps I speak those thoughts in a different way but the philosophy is the same; you will make your business better by going to the show. It will not cost you money to go to the Clean Show. The money you spend to go will come back to you three-fold or more. If you want to be argumentative, you can say the last time that you went to the show in Vegas, you stayed at the Bellagio, you ate at Picasso’s every night, lost a fortune at the tables and saw four shows with your family. That’s not a business trip to the Clean Show. That’s a $50,000 vacation and I honestly hope you enjoyed it. I like Vegas too, but when you go to the Clean Show, as much as the locals want you to patronize their establishments (they do, and you will), this is a business trip designed to better your business and by going you are making an investment in your business. An investment feels a lot like spending money except when you spend money on an investment, not only do you get your money back, you also get more money back on top of the initial investment.
It is vital to view the Clean Show as an investment, not an expenditure.
Reason #1 to not go to the Clean Show: I don’t need anything
Henry Ford supposedly said if he asked people what they wanted, they would have said they wanted a faster horse. Incidentally, Henry Ford never said that, but he probably could have. I know this drycleaner in Rhode Island who inherited a drycleaning business years ago. Doesn’t owe a cent. Never has. But he is also 30 years behind the times, maybe 40. His shirt unit is old but he owns it and it works fine. It is slow, clunky, smashes buttons, leaves a tail clamp mark, and he needs a full-time touch-up person. He can afford that because he owns the equipment outright. My shirts aren’t going on that thing. He buys perc by the barrel and cannot believe for one fleeting second that the payments on a new drycleaning machine would be less than what he pays for perc each month. He lives in a cave. He thinks he doesn’t need anything but he actually needs everything! He is an extreme example. There are hundreds of drycleaners who are much more up-to-date than this guy but are unaware of a breakthrough that could change their lives. This is a segue into the next best reason not to go to the Clean Show:
Reason #2 to not go to the Clean Show: It’s not a Mall, it’s a University
I have been using this line for the past few shows now. I really like it because it sums up so much of what I feel about the show. Print ads are great and I really don’t know where we would be (or where I would be) without Trade Journals in this industry but there is nothing like touching and feeling the new equipment and products in person. No comparison.
When you learn about communicating via text and typing, they teach you that typing in CAPS is yelling. Let’s see if my editor edits the following sentence that I am about to type in all caps: IF YOU DON’T NEED ANYTHING URGENTLY, THEN IT IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO THE CLEAN SHOW! (Yes, I was yelling). (We’ll let this one slide – Editor). Let me explain. If you need a pants press today, seriously. Yours is no longer repairable, because it has been repaired a hundred times, it’s doomsday. You tried to delay it until the show, but you can’t. The jig is up. What do you do? You call around frantically until you find something and then you buy whatever is available. It could be an unknown brand from a place called Fred’s Presses & Live Bait but you buy it because you must. You make an uninformed purchased in a moment of desperation. I have been there. You are oblivious to this pants press’s reliability, parts availability, dealership network, who can fix it if it breaks. You just know it can be in your plant tomorrow.
When you go to Atlanta (without needing anything), you will absorb all sorts of information about all sorts of things. You know your shirt unit isn’t going to last forever and your pants press is on its last leg and there are better POS systems than the one you have. You sit, you listen, you learn. True, some salespeople may want to get you to sign the dotted line. Too bad. I can think of two clients off the top of my head who both bought a shirt unit. I was with them at the Clean Show. We studied, we discussed, they did not buy. Not at the show. But a few months later, both of them bought the exact unit we were discussing. Why? They were at school, then they went home and did their homework and they got an A+. Being knowledgeable about leggers may not make one materialize faster but waiting for the correct one an extra day or two while you limp along using a utility press will pay huge dividends when you consider the better machine (according to the research you had time to do) is far more reliable, parts are a FedEx order away, any mechanic will have it running in an hour, and pads and covers are in every Covers, Etc. van.
You have a responsibility to your customers and to your employees to make sure your business continues to operate at peak efficiency and to deliver the best possible product. To do that, you must make sure if anything goes wrong with the inner workings of your plant, you can make quick, informed decisions to keep the company moving forward. This means you need a contingency plan for virtually everything. “If my drycleaning machine needs to be replaced, I’ll buy this. If my shirt unit needs to be replaced, I’ll replace it with this. If my van gets T-boned, I’ll buy this. My next POS will be this because of these features.” I know that because I have done my homework. The only way you can learn these things is by seeing products at a trade show. There is no substitute. Which is a great segue into:
Reason #3 to not go to the Clean Show: My franchisor teaches me everything
This is the worst. The problem with this statement is that if you are a franchise operation, you probably are not reading this because the franchise operator has given you the impression that they have all the answers when, in fact, they do not. Franchisors will often tell you there is no point to joining DLI because all the resources DLI provides are already available to franchisees. This is a huge reason why drycleaning franchisees fail. They are rarely seen at trade shows, conferences, or meetings. These events should be flooded with new people clamoring for tidbits of information. Instead, it is the old-timers who are smart enough to know they still don’t know everything. Drycleaning franchisees are sold a bill of goods that, ultimately, they are married to, and they believe everything they’ve been told is gospel when, in fact, they need to go to the Clean Show more urgently than anyone else. At the show, they will likely find methods and ideologies diametrically opposed to those they have been taught. Why? Because franchisors are not dynamic, nor are they necessarily fluid. They will do what it takes to make a sale, not what it takes to make a successful operation. Admittedly, when a franchisee sees things contrary to his or her mainstream, they should question why others aren’t doing things “correctly” as he/she is, but in the final analysis, there is often more than one correct answer to a problem. That said, there must be someone to explain the pros and cons of each choice.
That’s what the Clean Show is for. You can’t get that anywhere else. This year, it’s Atlanta. See you there. Call me at (508) 965-3163 if you have any questions or what to chat. I’ll be on the floor show studying.
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 Profes- sional 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. He has a website at www.tailwindsystems.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and not reflect those of the Institute.