Position Yourself Now to Thrive When Economy Rebounds

Eric Frederick |

There are storm clouds on the economic horizon. The experts have finally decided that this is not an economic slowdown, but a recession. Many of us in the laundry business could have told them that months ago.
The drycleaning side of our industry has been hit dramatically, as customers have decided to save their money once spent on drycleaning for other, more important items. Many marginal operations have simply gone out of business.
How can we not only survive this economic recession, but also best position ourselves to thrive as the economy rebounds? This kind of forward thinking requires us to critically look at our operation and our competition, and make realistic plans for the future.
If your business has slowed down, now may be the perfect time to advance your management and technical skills, to invest in yourself or your management team. Many of us have put off training because we’ve been too busy.
There is never a perfect time to train. And I can always find an excuse to avoid taking the time or spending the money. But in this economic climate, we must realize that only the best will survive. Only those organizations that have properly positioned themselves will be able to take full advantage of a recovering economy.
No one knows how long this slowdown will continue or when we will reach bottom. Six months ago, I never expected to see $1.43-a-gallon gas again. I don’t know how low it will go, but I’m confident that it will go back up. We’ve had just a small taste of what the future holds in that area. How did you react to the last run-up in gas prices? Did your customers like how you handled it? Is there a better solution available?
This year’s Clean Show — June 18-21 in New Orleans — will be a source of both management training and creative solutions to get us through the next two years. Clean is no longer just a trade show, but has become the premier event for the laundry industry. No other event can give you so much for so little.
This show will feature more educational opportunities than ever before. Take the time to review them and carefully map out which programs best meet your needs. Many of us have mapped out our time at previous shows to make sure we hit those vendors we really wanted to see. This year, it may be more important to plan for the educational programs, and even consider staying longer than you have in the past.
Once you’re there, discuss your challenges with other industry professionals. Too often, we feel like we’re the only one facing a particular challenge. But once we start asking questions, we quickly learn how many others are facing the same things. Learn from what others have done and build on their efforts.
I’ve found new and unexpected tools among the Clean exhibits over the years, often in the small, 10-by-10 booths. I’m like a child on an Easter egg hunt, looking for the one golden egg that holds the grand prize. The prize will be something different for each operation or manager, but I promise you it will be there and worth your time to find it. 
One of my required high school reading assignments says it best: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...” Now is the best time to plan for the future and invest in your education. In the face of great economic doom and gloom, it’s the time to believe in a brighter tomorrow.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at


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