Embracing the Speed of Business

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Eric Frederick |

Important to move quickly in today’s market, columnist says

ROANOKE, Va. — Many years ago, I read a wonderful book titled It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small ... It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow, by Jason Jennings. The book’s main message was that those companies that quickly adapt to market changes or new technologies win while those who do not lose.  

My youngest son brought the lessons of this book into my mind as he called for advice on applying for a new job. He was unhappy with his current job because he had to work near his wife, whom he had recently divorced. He wanted to move on and put that chapter behind him. He had heard via a friend that his former boss was thinking of adding a position that would be perfect for him based on his skills and experience. He asked how he should express his interest in the position.

After some discussion, we settled on an e-mail telling his former boss of his desire to relocate and expressing a desire to work for his company again. I told him to list all his accomplishments since he left the company five years ago, and to send the e-mail immediately. 

Ten days later, he sent me a draft of his proposed e-mail, and I went nuts. I called him and asked if he did not understand my previous instructions. He said he wanted the e-mail to be perfect before he sent it. I reminded him that his former boss already knew both his positives and negatives and that the key consideration was getting his name in front of his boss before he found someone else. 

He did get the job but could have lost it to another candidate by moving too slowly. 

In laundry management, we are often faced with opportunities that require us to move quickly or lose out to the competition. That competition might be another laundry or a disposable textile product. If we can move quickly, we have the chance to succeed. 

Several specific instances come to mind. I started an effective reusable surgical towel pack program in Milwaukee due to a sudden, unexpected shortage of single-use towels that affected many suppliers of disposable packs. We were ready and willing to meet the needs of our customers and worked with our linen suppliers to quickly start the service. 

The customers were so pleased that we never lost the business, even when the single-use towel supply issue was corrected. 

Another opportunity came our way during an avian flu epidemic. Nurses were complaining to my staff about filling garbage cans full of disposable isolation gowns. They did not like filling up landfills with these used gowns. 

We quickly developed a reusable isolation gown program and found a packaging system that mimics the way the disposables were delivered. The only change needed was to put the gown in a soiled-linen hamper stand instead of a trash bag. This program quickly grew to 100,000 gowns per month.

My final example is the development of a cubicle curtain-washing system. Our largest customer was looking to reduce its cost on cubicle curtains, which were being done by a small commercial laundry. We were not processing cubicle curtains when the opportunity arose. 

We quickly worked with our textile vendors and our chemical representatives, and developed a wash formula and handling procedures to properly handle the cubicle curtains. We started out helping one hospital but quickly spread the program to eight hospitals. 

The key to all three of these opportunities was that we had to move quickly. There was not time for a long decision-making process. In my experience, opportunities like these come along without warning and never at a good time. Management needs to be willing to move quickly, at the speed of business, to take advantage of the opportunity. Management structures need to be developed to allow for such rapid movement. 

Are you going to be one of the fast laundries that will capture the next opportunity, or will you be a slow one left to wonder why good things do not happen for your organization?

About the author

Eric Frederick

Eric Frederick served 44 years in laundry management before retiring and remains active in the industry as a laundry operations consultant. You can contact him by e-mail at elfrederick@cox.net or by phone at 540-520-6288.

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