Commercial Laundry: David Griggs, Superior Linen Service, Muskogee, Okla.

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David Griggs

David Griggs

As 2020 is ending, we can all look back and see what we have learned about our organizational and leadership skills over a very tough year.

Much of what we have seen we will probably have the urge to forget; although, I will miss the pure excitement I have gotten when I walk into a store and see disinfectant wipes on the shelves. That level of excitement is usually reserved for my grandson when he eyes a new video game release at the store.

And I must admit I have become quite the hand sanitizer connoisseur; a gel with very little fragrance is my preferred choice.

Through at least the first quarter of 2021, we will be experiencing COVID-related issues in our workplaces. Facility cleanliness and employee health should stay a focal point of our management decisions. A high number of employee absences should be expected due to COVID or contact tracing by the states.

You can be doing everything right in your facility but still lose employees for several weeks just because they appear on someone’s contact list. Your staffing levels should reflect this possibility.

It is more important than ever that companies cross-train employees in every job. It is also a good time to update your job descriptions and job duties to ensure all tasks will be completed if a high-performing employee is taken out of the mix for a few weeks.

Knowing your office manager will be taking a two-week vacation several months in advance is quite a bit different than them informing you on Monday that the state has ordered them to quarantine for two weeks.

Consulting Services: David Bernstein, Propeller Solutions Group, Park City, Utah

Our grandparents’ generation is known as The Greatest Generation for their ability to weather the Great Depression and for facing and defeating fascism, racism and authoritarianism.

While I have no idea what future generations might call ours, I do not think I am being hyperbolic when I say that the events of 2020 have been among the most challenging many of us have ever faced, particularly in business.

Businesses that will survive and thrive in the coming year are those that have learned to be flexible, to adapt based upon data and measurements, to use technology wisely, and to prepare. These lessons will serve all of us into 2021 and beyond.

Economists, analysts and consultants went into 2020 with a heavy dose of optimism that was moderated by some concern that an economic slowdown was possible and perhaps inevitable.

What none of us could have predicted as we watched bowl games and perhaps nursed champagne hangovers on Jan. 1 was the emergence and worldwide spread of a new and dangerous virus, that the virus would kill million worldwide, and that entire economies would be shut down (in some cases more than once).

In our industry, these lockdowns forced managers, owners and corporate executives to reconsider standard operating procedures and, in many cases, throw the entire playbook out the window. We learned how to work successfully from home, to leverage technology, and to make shifts in how we do business.

Experience is often said to be the best teacher, so we must use these experiences as lessons for how we can be successful in the future.

What is interesting, though, is to look back at what we’ve covered in this column throughout this turbulent year. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, the advice we’ve provided here can and will serve you well in 2021 and beyond. With that in mind, I looked back at my contributions to this year’s Panel of Experts and came up with some brief examples that are worthy of repetition.

Build a Positive Corporate Culture—In February, I mentioned that you need to demonstrate to your employees how critically important they are to the success of your business and how much they are valued. I encouraged you to foster “a company culture that demonstrates to employees at all levels that they are valued, appreciated and that their opinions matter.

“Some of the most successful and profitable companies in the world subscribe to the philosophy of Lean Management, one of whose core concepts is listening to employees and valuing their input.

“By doing so, you demonstrate to employees that while payroll may be your biggest line item expense on the P&L, they are the biggest and most important asset your firm has; these values should also be reflected in your company’s mission and vision statements.”

Focus on Customer Relationships—Building upon the theme of culture, in April I encouraged you to ensure that your company culture fosters an environment in which every team member understands that he or she plays a role in customer service and satisfaction.

In that same column I encouraged using a defined, teachable, repeatable sales process, and to focus on following-up with customers regularly to measure performance and ensure that you continue to delight your customers.

Focus on Your People and Your Business Will Thrive—Anyone who has heard me speak or teach on the subject of customer service (and all of you who have read my columns this year) will know that I admire Zappos and its founder, Tony Hsieh. In August, I wrote about the benefit to your business of celebrating and motivating employees in both conventional and unconventional ways.

Managers at Zappos are expected to spend at least 20% of their time getting to know and helping their team members. Why? Because at Zappos they understand the difference between someone who is perceived as a manager and someone who is perceived as a mentor. The latter demonstrates interest and real leadership, leading to increased loyalty and performance.

Keep Your Customers Informed—If there is a silver lining to 2020 it could be the discovery and application of innovative technologies and services, some or all of which will prove useful to you for many years, including those that help you stay in touch with customers and prospects. Just make sure you are consistent with your branding, messaging, and frequency of your communications.

Each of the above was originally framed in the context of the current global pandemic, but the advice will still be relevant and applicable long after this pandemic mercifully ends and life returns to normal. I suppose it is at that point that we may start to understand what moniker future generations will apply to all of us.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Matt Poe, the team at American Laundry News and my colleagues on the 2020 Panel of Experts. It has been an honor and a privilege not only participating in this year’s Panel, but also being among such fine company. I hope that my contribution has provided you, the reader, with some ideas and action items that have helped your businesses.

As we enter a new year and welcome a new Panel of Experts, I want to wish you and them a year of health, success, happiness and prosperity.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion with ideas for next year from chemicals supply, textiles and equipment manufacturing experts.