ROANOKE, Va. — Many years ago when I lived in Milwaukee, one of my friends drove for the local bus company. Whenever we got together, he talked about how much he hated his job and could not wait until he got enough years in so he could retire and move out West. He did not like what he did for a living nor the area of the country he lived in. His unhappiness made it difficult for me to be his friend.
When I worked in Memphis, Tenn., there was a plant manager by the name of Charlie Barnes. He was full of energy and always looking for a way to improve our operation. Charlie normally came up with two or three ideas a week. This volume of suggestions can get annoying at times but through his efforts we found one or two great ways to improve our operation each year. I decided early on that the benefits created by his enthusiasm and drive were well worth whatever efforts were needed to manage his never-ending supply of ideas.
I learned two important things from these two men. The first lesson is that life is too short to be stuck in a job you cannot stand.
We all need to work to pay our bills, and we will all work a majority of our lives. It is important that we find a career in something that we enjoy. We should look forward to going to work and facing the challenges of a new day. When we like our job, it is easier to put in the extra effort to excel. When we like our job and have a positive attitude, it is easier to make the workplace enjoyable for you and your fellow employees.
The second lesson I learned is that we must constantly strive to improve our performance. Never be happy with the status quo.
It is easy, after five or 10 years on the job, to say that you have perfected the operation of the laundry and there is nothing new or different that needs to be done.
Charlie never accepted the status quo; he was always looking for a better way to process laundry. The majority of his ideas centered on new ways to sort, wash or process the linen. His emphasis was not on new or additional equipment, but on how he could use what was available to do a better job.
Too often, managers fall into the trap of believing that what is needed to improve their operation is a new or different piece of equipment, then throwing up their hands and saying there is nothing more they can do to improve operations when learning the money is not available.
I know of managers who so wanted a new laundry or a new major piece of equipment that they said they had to have it or the laundry could not continue to operate. Administration believed them and decided it was better to close the laundry and farm out the work to another laundry on their timetable than to wait for that predicted breakdown.
I have also learned that one of the greatest challenges any manager can face in his/her personal development or laundry operation is the notion that he/she knows it all.
Our industry is constantly changing. The educational levels of new managers continue to increase. Finding a manager with the correct mix of formal education and hands-on experience is still a challenge. The pendulum on which is more important swings back and forth on a regular basis.
I have been writing articles on laundry-related topics for more than 20 years. My greatest challenge is to avoid the feeling that I know all there is to know about the laundry business. I watch the emerging trends, identify technologies or political events (new minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for federal contracts), and look for opportunities and how they will impact my laundry and our industry.
I strive to increase my management knowledge and expertise in all areas of the laundry. The more I read and the more I hear, the more I realize how much I still have to learn.