Facing Facts About the Future: Quality, Upcoming Managers Are Scarce

An Exclusive

CHICAGO — For the last four months, I have written about some direct management issues that affect us all, no matter who we are or what we do. My thanks go out to all of you who have called or written; the good and the bad comments are always appreciated.
So what about the future? No matter what sector of our business you examine — laundry plant operations, linen distribution, or operational support elements such as the equipment, chemical or textile segments of the industry — we must all look into the mirror, not to see ourselves but to see who and what are behind us.
Chances are you will see very little. This challenge is what most concerns me about the future of our industry, as there is little happening in regard to bringing up good managers who have a vested interest in the industry. While the support elements of our industry seem to survive, there should be a demonstrated concern by the people heading those programs to figure out what we are going to do if a valuable employee or owner becomes unavailable.
I visualize a potential for some major voids in our industry, which will eventually impact us all. I do think, for example, that sales managers, regardless of the support industry, in most cases have difficulty managing sales and operational teams, as those responsible for manufacturing equipment have challenges when it comes to managing people. It’s just the nature of any complex industry like ours. Too much to do and too little time to get things accomplished.
On the operational side of our industry, little has been done to focus on the future managers who will someday be responsible for key operational elements. The voids exist regardless of the type or size of the operation. It’s not really the operational managers’ fault in most cases, as most scream to the high heavens, letting the management of their institution know that “I’m not going to be around forever.” Maybe all of this energy could be better spent trying to convince those responsible that a transition plan is very much needed, and that with those plans comes researching who and what is available. Our industry is fortunate enough to have some pretty good educational programs; unfortunately, the well is running dry when it comes to up-and-coming managers.
While it’s hard for many to understand, managers in our industry — the good ones — are becoming extinct, and in most cases replacing them is in many respects impossible, as corporate knowledge is a good part of what distinguishes the good from the not-so-good.
So what should we all do? It’s really time for professional organizations to establish a summit that would bring all of these elements together in one room for the purpose of discussing this issue. Not to discuss anything else, not to attend a social function, not to attend a show, not to attend anything that we currently have on the table — but to get to the basics of establishing some programs that will reconcile and support the future of our industry as a whole. We have to work on this together, and we have to be honest about how we really feel. Our industry as a whole needs a marketing program.
While we’re discussing the future of the industry, another issue should be raised, and that’s asking what efforts can be made to curtail the economic flux we’re in today.
There’s no doubt that chemical, equipment and textile costs are up and will escalate as the oil crisis continues. The construction, automobile and agriculture industries are meeting on these issues now. We need to step out in front to see what we can do while at the same time investigate methods by which we can improve operations and efficiencies throughout.
We can’t continue to march in place; we must adapt as other industries are doing.


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