Start Over, 2021

This month our feature articles and columns will focus on getting back to business after the debacle that was 2020. Let’s start with a basic to-do list of things you can put into practice today, and then get more in depth on different aspects of your business subsequent articles.

Deep breath

If you’ve been holding your breath waiting for things to get back to the way they were before, it’s time to let it out and take a deep breath, tighten your belt, tie your shoes and step out strongly into the future — whatever it holds. An attitude shift will do wonders for your ability to get back to successful business. The longer you hold on to the past, the harder it will be to catch up to today’s reality.

Get Organized

Everybody makes resolutions about one thing or another in January (even if they say they don’t.) Most fall by the wayside by February. But you need to make a resolution to get organized, once and for all. And maintain your organization going forward. There is tremendous productivity (and morale) lost when your employees can’t lay their hands on what they need quickly.

  • Get all the mechanical manuals and chemical handling spec sheets in one place that is visible and easy to reach. Don’t bury them in file drawers or let them slip behind pieces of equipment.
  • Make sure your company policies are in a binder and can be accessed by you and others.
  • Standardize your procedures so that anyone can process an order, work the counter, etc.
  • There should be no “system only I understand” — these make you the weakest link, and you can never take a day off.

“An organization or business can only operate as fast as your narrowest bottleneck will allow.”

Eliyahu Goldratt, The Goal

Make it grand!

Treat January as a grand re-opening of your business. There are a lot of customers out there confused as to who is still in business after 2020. Make sure they know you are there, strong, and in it for the long haul.

What did you do the first time you opened? You had enthusiasm, creativity, colour and you attracted attention.

  • Get fresh signage up — even if it says the same things, changing the colours and format of your signs will attract attention. (For instance, the wind banners instead of posters, etc.)
  • Put up penants and balloons. Anything that moves in the breeze will catch the eye of passing cusotmers.
  • Dream up some special offers that apply to the day we live in. Nobody’s wearing suits, so focus on coats, duvets, household linens, rugs, drapes, whatever needs cleaning and sanitizing. And play up the sanitizing aspect, of course.
  • Free coffee and donuts — it’s cheap, but effective. People like them and will stop for them.
  • Thoroughly clean and spruce up your call office. You’re in the cleaning business.
  • Focus attention on email marketing. Unlike when you first opened, you now have a healthy email database (right?) and can use something like iContact, Constant Contact or another email newsletter service to get your message right to your customers.
  • Communicate your services clearly.
  • Make it abundantly clear you are open and ready for business.

Jack up your website

Internet usage is up about 50% over pre-pandemic levels! And yet there are a lot of websites out there that were designed before Covid and that have outdated information on them. A customer or potential customer should be able to pull up your website and see at a glance that you are open and focused on the future.

  • Get some fresh images and put them on your site. Change the colours. Move things around. Include smiling staff in photos.
  • Have a clear list of your services, use images or artwork to illustrate them, so they can see at a glance that you can do what they need done.
  • Make sure “Yes! We are open to serve you!” is prominent on the home page.
  • List any revised hours that you are working under.
  • Tell how you are meeting the Covid guidelines to keep staff and customers safe.
  • Give examples of how your services meet Covid needs — sanitation is top priority for most.
  • Provide information customers can use (tips on garment care, etc.) Remind them you are a professional and explain how your procedures go beyond what can be accomplished at home.

Reach out

Don’t wait for customers to come back to you. Reach out to them and give them a reason to do so. This is the time to work your POS data. You’ve got email addresses. You’ve got phone numbers. You have route customer addresses. This is gold!

  • Call regular customers on the phone. Assure them you are there to help with their cleaning needs, and tell them of any specials you are running. Above all, be friendly and ask how they and their families are doing — and mean it.
  • Email marketing is a given. Your database is your open door to people who already know you. You don’t have to win them over. You just need to remind them you’re there and give them an incentive to come in again.
  • Look at who used what services a year ago. This is a great way to develop a “nudge” list — if they had duvets and coats done last January, it’s time again, etc. Develop short messages that can be sent by text or email, and don’t be afraid to use some gentle humour. Everybody could use a laugh about now. Just keep it in extremely good taste.
  • Send your route driver(s) to their customers’ homes with special offers and cheery notes to let them know you’re open and would be happy to handle their cleaning needs.

Dont forget your employees!

It’s easy to get so caught up in trying to get customers back through the door that you overlook the very people who will handle the work when it arrives. Make sure they have all the supplies they need, equipment is in good shape, and you’ve communicated the “grand re-opening” enthusiasm to them. Team t-shirts or caps can make them smile. Ask them for their input on all the ideas listed above. You will be amazed at their ingenuity and creativity.

Have a good re-opening — send us pictures. We’d love to share your success.

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