CHICAGO — Even before the pandemic took a bite out of the economy, laundry and linen services constantly sought to expand their businesses.
Some laundries look at adding products and services. Others, having their sales reps seek and sign more customers.
And some can look at expanding their footprint, adding plants and moving into different regions of the country.
ImageFIRST, a healthcare linen and laundry company headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, has been growing its business in all the manners previously mentioned—despite the pandemic.
Read on to find out how the company acquired local service providers and continually seeks to help their customers enhance the experience of their end-users.
Beyond adding new product lines and customers, laundry and linen services also expand by moving into new markets and building facilities or acquiring existing operations.
Bill Rottschaefer, vice president of business development for ImageFIRST, says that the company continually targets opportunities to enhance its existing service capabilities, as well as expand its presence into new markets.
“When we target specific geographic regions for expansion, we initially seek to partner or acquire a local service provider that has a similar approach and focus,” he shares. “If such an option is unavailable, we may seek to acquire processing capacity within the region or even greenfield an operation ourselves, as we have done in recent situations.”
Rottschaefer points out that there are many reasons a laundry/linen service might expand. Each company has to analyze and determine its situation and options.
“In some instances, we may begin to target a region due to our existing customers, who are often national accounts, already having a presence within the region,” he says. “In other instances, we may already have routes that we are servicing from a depot and now we are seeking to gain processing capabilities within the region given existing growth. In some situations, we may be contacted by an individual looking to sell his or her business.
“In all cases, we build an acquisition thesis for the opportunities that we attempt to quickly validate (or invalidate) through investigation with the target.”
Recently, ImageFIRST has completed four acquisitions: Tucker, Georgia; McAllen, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and most recently in Houston. In fact, Rottschaefer says the company has completed more than these four acquisitions over the past year and a half.
“As of today, we’ve acquired all our franchises within the continental United States, expanded our service reach into new regions such as southern Texas with the acquisition of Maverick, enhanced our service reach in existing regions such as Colorado via our acquisition of Central Linen and launched a few new plant locations in key regions,” he shares.
“These investments have enhanced our service capabilities and ImageFIRST’s national service footprint.”
Key to integrating a new location into the ImageFIRST brand is retaining the employee workforce and leadership team of the organizations it acquires, according to Rottschaefer.
“At the onset of an acquisition, we develop a thorough integration plan to bring the new organization into ImageFIRST’s operations,” he shares. “Initially, we meet with the operating teams and employees in the days following the close of the transaction.
“During these meetings, as well as subsequent training sessions, we educate our new team members on ImageFIRST’s operating principles, the way of conducting business and our expectations of them.”
“Being acquired by ImageFIRST has been a great experience,” says Rick Cortez, general manager of Maverick (now an ImageFIRST company). “I now work with a team of amazing individuals all with unique qualities and personalities, and I’ve experienced first-hand what can be accomplished when a team works together towards the same goal.
“ImageFIRST’s values are inspirational and give me confidence that my longtime associates will be well taken care of.”
“It was odd at first going from being a competitor of ImageFIRST to becoming part of their team, but our culture and values are so similar that our associates have integrated quickly,” shares Ken Brandeis, general manager of Southern Medical Linen Services (now an ImageFIRST company) in Atlanta.
“When the people part is positive, the rest has a way of working itself out.”
While COVID-19 caused many negative effects on the industry, Rottschaefer says the pandemic had limited to no impact on the company’s growth and acquisition strategy.
“During this past year, we have completed numerous acquisitions and built/launched a few new plant locations,” he points out. “If anything, COVID may have spurred some of those we had been in ongoing discussions with to consider entertaining a sale process earlier than they may hadve envisioned.”
It’s always a risk for a laundry and linen service to add new products and services or add facilities, but by using the proper processes, doing research and merging cultures, many expansions can be successful.
Bill Roberts, senior vice president of sales and marketing for ImageFIRST, says his key piece of advice for developing new products and services is to always develop the products and services the company has in mind with a client’s input.
“If you’re developing a product without getting the input from your client, you’re probably doing it the wrong way,” he points out.
“Speak with your top customers. Ask them what are you looking for? What ways can we make your lives better, easier, more effective? What way can we help improve the patient experience?”
When it comes to growth and acquisitions for laundry/linen services, Rottschaefer’s key suggestion is to look at company culture.
“Stress the importance of culture between the organizations,” he says. “Acquisitions are more than just what is outlined on paper.
“If the two companies have similar and/or compatible cultures, the combination most likely will be a successful one, other things being equal. If the organization’s cultures are incompatible with one another, caution against such a combination.”
Miss Part 1 on adding new products and services to lines and bringing on new customers? Click HERE now to read it!