How does one manage an essential laundry business through a pandemic? Well, if you ask Penny Garza, business operations manager for Wash Ventures’ three laundries in the Houston area, she’ll tell you at the onset of her answer there was a ton of research involved in getting the facts and coming up with a plan to be in compliance.
However, that’s just the base. The success of their laundries was due more to the compassion showed to staff and clients, as well as an exceptional commitment to communication.
On the compassion side, the company, owned by Jonathan and Susan Dison, provided meals to staff members and their families as a thank you for their hard work and commitment to helping serve the community through this difficult time. And this wasn’t just a pizza order…they sent employees home with full meals, such as pot roast dinners. Including family members, 70 people were fed. The Disons went even further, guaranteeing pay of employees, whether they could work or not. Garza believes the move built loyalty and trust among staff.
“We wanted to make sure our people were well taken care of,” Garza said.
But it didn’t stop there. The Wash Ventures team knew the communities they serve were hard hit, and they wanted to help. So, during the month of April the two largest stores offered free drying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“The community really embraced it,” Garza said, adding that customers expressed their appreciation frequently, even stopping her in the parking lot to say thanks and sharing food with staff.
While the free dry was a way to give back to the community it also increased traffic on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as you would expect. There was, however, something unexpected, especially given the stores did not raise washer prices. While many laundries across the country were experiencing lower revenues, the two Wash Ventures stores offering the free dry actually maintained current revenue – basically stayed on-par with what numbers would look like during a free-dry promotion.
It’s too early to tell, but the hope is that the effort has increased customer loyalty, brought in a few more new customers. May could be an excellent month as restrictions have been eased in Houston.
Communication has been an equally important factor for the stores during the crisis. Their laundries leveraged Huebsch signage in a big way – posting on entrance doors and throughout the stores. Messaging was posted in both English and Spanish. Garza was especially proud of staff commitment to work with customers to ensure social distancing rules were followed. She said the key to the response was opening a real dialogue with staff, with a goal to get additional ideas from those working in the stores day to day. Staff communication, ideas and commitment to service made all the difference in the stores’ success through the pandemic. She recommends that other store owners employ a similar approach in adapting processes to best serve their own communities during a crisis.