Bad Times Provide Time to Reflect

An Exclusive

CHICAGO — Before I get started, I want to offer a brief comment regarding the front-page article “New or retrofit?” in the Nov./Dec. 2009 issue of American Laundry News. I don’t think I’ve ever read so much and gotten so little in return. Maybe my expectations were running high. I’m not taking exception to what the panel said, but maybe the question could have been presented differently or a different format could have been used.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to conceptually plan and directly manage the construction of more than 20 textile care processing facilities and the re-utilization/modernization of more than 50 existing facilities. All of the projects, no matter what category, were unique and required expertise in a myriad of areas, from interior design to parking, not to mention unique requirements that parallel design build, build-to-suit initiatives, and life-cycle costing.
Concepts and base criteria are needed for any initiative, but thinking outside the box is even more critical. There should be no “debate.” Each process is equally difficult, but all require thought and an innovative approach involving construction and systems selection, which must be joined no matter what the process might be.
What I’d really like to talk about, though, are these tough economic times — jobs are being lost, money is tight with lending institutions, and everyone has felt the impact. I do think, however, that these times also provide everyone and every business the time to innovate, shuffle thought processes, take in the big picture, and reflect on how things will be 10 and 20 years down the road, when, hopefully, economic times will be better.
Now is not the time to develop a “poor me” attitude — these reactions will only make things worse. There is no doubt that everyone faces an uphill climb. For some organizations, putting the brakes on spending might take a Herculean effort, but such an initiative should become a priority.
Most organizations could examine reducing travel and per-diem cost, and every organization should thoroughly examine what’s necessary and what’s really required to achieve results. The days of flying folks around are a thing of the past.
We mustn’t focus blindly on the aggregates while ignoring the budgetary and policy fluctuations that cause operational costs to go into flux as each year passes by. Every operation, whether it’s in service or processing, needs to show concrete evidence that reforms are saving money relative to what would have happened otherwise.
If you have a supporting department in your organization that’s experiencing spending increases, it should be expected to slow the pace of this spending commensurate with overall growth. In other words, reduce spending as it parallels what a specific department is expected to contribute. The overall emphasis is that no matter who you are, or where you are, you should continue to retain highly skilled employees while maximizing their performance.
I suppose Sir Issac Newton put it best: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” During these times, there are certainly no exceptions. Managers should be careful to communicate effectively, making sure all houses (departments) are clean, and that contributions meet the goals established.
The saying that you have to spend money to make money may no longer be true. It should possibly be revised to say, “You have to spend money wisely and more effectively to make money.” Times have changed, and now is the time to reflect, reorganize smartly, and reinvest in the key factors that make your organization attractive to others and to those who work in it.
In addition, in concert with Veterans Day, I want to say “thank you” to my fellow veterans and their families for their dedication and service to our country.


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