State of the Laundry Industry is joined by Kent Wales of Happy Laundry in Spokane, Washington. Kent has put together a harmonious team of laundry processors, attendants, and drivers. He shares his secret to creating a great team that reflects his company’s values.
In this episode, we learn how to increase the number of applicants, where to advertise, how to retain talent, and more!
Speaker 1: (00:02)
Welcome to the state of the laundry industry with laundry mat episode nine, where do I hire attendance for my laundromat? This episode is actually about a lot more than just where to find attendance. This episode is also about how to increase the number of applicants, how to create harmony among your team and how to retain your employees to this episode, Starz, Kentwell the business owner of happy laundry. I’d like to welcome Kent Wells to the state of the laundry industry podcast. We’re honored to have you as a guest Kent Wells for people who don’t know he’s the owner and proprietor of happy laundry. He’s been doing pickup and delivery probably for quite some time and has tons of experience. I learned so much every time. I’d speak, talk to Kent and, um, and thanks again for joining our podcast.
Speaker 2: (00:53)
If you could let
Speaker 1: (00:53)
People know we’re, uh, we’re happy laundry is also since you’ve got a really great perspective of pickup and delivery when you first started and we let people know when that was and also where it is today and how things have changed over time.
Speaker 2: (01:08)
Sure. So we’re spoken in Washington, uh, we’ve got one location and we focus the majority of our effort on routes, um, and, and picking up and delivery between customers, residential customers, a little bit of dry cleaning and a lot of wash dry fold. So, uh, I’ve been in the business for 15 years. Uh, we started routes 12 or 13 years ago. I can’t exactly remember when, um, but you know, you were asking, how has it changed? Uh, for us, I did not see the potential 13 years ago in wash dry fold, uh, picking up the residential areas. I’ve just kinda missed the boat on that one. So, um, that has been a huge, huge growth area for us. And I would say the pandemic has helped in bringing more customers to the market. And then, then also just the idea that it’s available. I hear almost every week for my team members cash, we got a call. They had no idea this was even possible. So yeah.
Speaker 1: (02:14)
Yeah. People used to mow their own lawns and now it’s unheard of.
Speaker 2: (02:18)
Yep. Yeah. They used to clean their own house and though some people still dealing, some people still cleaning their own house to,
Speaker 1: (02:24)
Right. Yeah. I’m sure there’s a few of that stone. And I’m curious, what’s the role of technology being played in there because it may be, I’m doing, this is just speculation, but maybe you got into commercial when you’re just doing pickup and delivery because they’re regular, they’re consistent, you know, with pickup and delivery, it’s every single order is customized. You know, it’s, there’s a specific pickup, Dave specific pickup time, uh, things could change. They have everybody else’s specific laundry preferences and it’d be really hard to track it that when you’re dealing with the volume that you’re dealing with. So do you think it could be, uh, is technology played a role as far as why you may have done residential later? Just curious on that,
Speaker 2: (03:07)
You know, we did residential dry cleaning to start with, uh, because it was something previous jobs I kind of knew. Um, but I will say that, you know, our progression, we started, you know, paper and pencil, three color or three carbon copy forms in the very, very beginning. So, you know, it’s, you know, mine had one, one or two or three deliveries a day. That’s not a big deal, but you know, now we have hundreds. So I think, yeah. Technology in the ability to have attract customers, uh, optimize your routes, but then also have, you know, just track the information from carbon copy forms. We went to Excel spreadsheets, which we maintained and, you know, people had to know where addresses were in that kind of thing. So yeah, it’s, it’s made it super, super streamlined and a lot less friction for the customer as well.
Speaker 1: (03:58)
Yeah. We were there too with the triple kit tickets and we got a whiteboard with magnets, the only person that understood it was the person who made it and they weren’t always working every day. Yeah. So the main topic I want to talk about, this is such a hot topic. I see it all over the forums. People are always asking about it is how are you hiring? How do you staff with a quality people during this difficult hiring time because people are choosing not well, there’s a lot of different reasons. People are not working right now. It seems like, and it’s hard to convince people sometimes to work when they may not necessarily have to. Um, and, and so there’s a lot of the job. The available labor pool is smaller than ever before. And you’ve had success, finding quality people, maintaining your company culture. And, and it’s just, uh, just something I think people should emulate. So if you could talk about like your philosophy, like where are you going to hire to sort of your process?
Speaker 2: (04:57)
Sure. You know, it’s one, one figure it is the backup. Just the hair. One figure I heard is there’s 11 million open jobs in the country. So they know that’s a huge, that’s a huge number. And I think our workforce has shifted, especially with the pandemic. So I don’t put any, and nothing’s off the table. As far as hiring, we’ve had our, in the last year, we’ve had the most success kind of in three different avenues. One would be indeed and this and this for drivers, customer service people and, uh, laundry workers, um, or production workers, if you will, Facebook has probably been our biggest boon to find production workers. Uh, both of those we have to, um, boost or guests or paid advertising. And I’ve spent more in this last year and then I’d probably have done any other, all the previous years combined just to feel kind of the need that we have had this year.
Speaker 2: (05:51)
So we’ve had a big growth year, um, on top of kind of the pandemic, um, and you know, employee turnover, that kind of thing. That’s the bigger you get. The more employees you have, the more team members you have, the more that’s just going to be a way of life. So for us, we, you know, my wife was really instrumental in talking to me about creating a system that we, that we use and we hire from. So, uh, the third thing, you know, you asked about where the third thing is, is we have gone to temp agencies and we have a couple of different, uh, relationships with express personnel was one and then another local company. And we’ve actually tempted to hire probably, oh man, I want to say four or five people in the last three years through that way. I mean, so they started out as a temp, kind of filled in where we needed them. And as we got to know them and they got to know us, we made them an offer. So there is cost in that, that they’re not free, but you know, we’re past the, just fill in kind of people in with ours. We’re, you know, we’re looking for efficiency, production, teamwork, and teamwork is probably number one. So
Speaker 1: (06:58)
Yeah, I was just at Rubio’s other day and there’s a sign outside that says, walk them interview as welcoming. And as at a pizza place, you could see the places I go to. I go to eat, um, that was at a pizza place and it was a pretty new pizza place. And it says we’re only open for dinner because it’s hard to hide. You know, they didn’t have enough staff and they’re just closed during lunch time, you know, they’re selling pizza. So it’s really amazing that you’ve been able to diversify the different locations you’re hiring from the other part. I think this illustrates is the importance of keeping your employees happy, um, and, and re in retention because now the cost of replacement is higher because it takes longer to find them. Yeah, it takes longer. And then you have to run the advertisements for longer. So it is a little bit, so that is something to keep in mind. And I remember in a previous conversation, we had, you mentioned about internal and external customers and that was not life changing, but it was operationally changing. It changed my whole perspective and it helped me so much. And I just wonder if you could tell the audience about that.
Speaker 2: (08:03)
Yeah. So we, in our, in our company, we look at, you know, as an owner or as a management team, leadership team is what we call it. We serve not only our external customers, they bring in the, they bring in the dollars, the orders, the work, but we also serve our team and we call them internal customers. You know, we have a responsibility as a, as a, as a leadership team. And as an owner, I, I feel a good responsibility to my P my people, my team, not only to like, not micromanage them, get in their way, but to create systems and help them make their life easier. You know, when we think about the internal customer, we’re also thinking, you know, how do we make the light? How do we make the work and the life easy, easier, or more efficient for our folks?
Speaker 2: (08:47)
I’ll be the first to tell you, I mean, I’ve done this for years and years. And, you know, I worked on the floor as well. I’ve delivered, I’ve kind of done all the jobs and it is not an easy job. I mean, you know, maybe being an attendant where you’re, when you’re only doing one or two or three orders a day, we’re doing hundreds of bags of laundry per day. We have three shifts, uh, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we’ve got two shifts Thursday, Friday, and then we have attendance on the weekend for our laundromat portion as well. So we have a huge team these days. I think it’s 22 employees today for 22 team members. So, you know, making sure that we can try to keep as many of those as possible and kind of, you know, listen to what’s going on, be aware. We always try to promote from an intern from our internal staff. Uh, sometimes you can’t do that, but you know, our leads definitely come, are working leads. They, they come from that and they have more responsibility. And then we’ve got laundry manager, delivery manager and customer service manager. So, you know, all the time we’re looking to up train, give people, um, opportunities, that kind of thing. So,
Speaker 1: (09:55)
Yeah, and that, that helped us at supersets quite a bit because, you know, w we had somebody who’s terrific. And there, there just was, you know, sometimes there, there could be like a clash between owner employ, you know, and, and I take full responsibility on this. You know, it was just more about ego than anything else. And, and it’s like, well, I expect a person to do, you know, this, and, and, and then, and it kind of, but then I thought about what you’re saying about internal customers, you know, you make your money from external customers, but you also make money from your internal customers, which is your team. And I’m like, you know, what, what am I doing? You know, I’m going to make you better. And it’s going to have more harmony if our internal customers are happy. And then I realized, you know, I was able to make an accommodation. I just changed my frame of thought by. And I’m like, we’re going to make more money with him. I don’t have to go back to the drawing board and, and you know what, he’s happy, we’re happy and everything worked out. And it was just a change of philosophy, a change of perspective that really, really helped out.
Speaker 2: (10:59)
Yeah, no worries. Any time like, um, this is, you know, I’ve gotten so much information over the years, not only from other laundry owners or folks that I met in the CLA and in the business, people I’ve talked to clean shows and gotten to know, you know, the biggest thing for me, I think is that I’m really personally trying to make a transition from an owner operator to a business owner,
Speaker 1: (11:23)
Stay tuned for next week’s episode on Kent Wells, making the transition from an owner operator to a business owner. It’s not about working harder and faster. It’s about working smarter. In addition, Kentwell shares his number one tip on how to increase the number of applicants for job for available job openings. If you enjoyed this episode of the state of the laundry industry podcast, please click like or subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast player. In addition, if you’d like to see the curbside wash and fold software in action, please visit curbside laundries.com. See you next time.