CHICAGO — It seems like a lot of the news in the laundry and linen services industry today involves acquisitions.
Larger companies and private investment firms are buying laundry operations for many reasons: financial concerns, growth, getting out of the family business, etc.
However, there are still laundry businesses in the industry that have stood the test of time. How have these companies achieved decades of being in business?
And how do they plan on continuing to do so?
American Laundry News heard from 10 companies that shared how they have neared (and gone well past in some cases) the century mark in the industry. Two more companies share their strategies.
Spin Linen Services says it has been trusted locally in Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; and the surrounding areas for more than 90 years.
Founded as Spic & Span Linen in 1932 by Gus and Vic Shiro, the business was originally a dry cleaning and shirt laundry company in downtown Omaha.
The two owners responded to popular demand by expanding their services to include linen supply, and by the time the new owners, Del Ringling and his father-in-law Mike Nisker, took ownership of Spin in 1979, they were providing linen rental services to the hospitality and healthcare industries in the area.
Today, Del’s daughter, Angie, is the owner of Spin Linen and has continued to grow her family’s business to more than 800 customers by serving the community with one mindset: Don’t give customers a reason to look elsewhere.
Spin says its success comes from simply offering more: more diverse products, more services, and more committed and hard-working team members who truly care.
Over 90 years, Spin has faced its share of challenges, including major fires, recessions, equipment failures, staffing challenges and financial stressors.
The one thing that has gotten it through those tough times? Pure grit. The ability to do the hard work that needs to be done. Spin says it hasn’t allowed itself to not come through for its customers.
During these rough patches, the company says it did everything to make sure the customer got what they needed.
Efforts to continuously improve its processes, technology and communication, as well as dedication and passion for its customers and community, have allowed Spin to succeed.
The company adds that one of its strengths is focus—focusing on what it is good at and staying away from what it is not.
Spin says it follows its core values and hires staff that aligns with that: Integrity, Customer Service, Teamwork, Accountability and Innovation. The company also wants partner customers that fit within its core values and culture.
Clearly defined roles and processes ensure everyone on the team has what they need to succeed.
“Prepare to work really hard,” says Angie. “You have to be all in and committed. You have to put your customers and your staff first. And you have to be curious. Curious about how to do things better and then be able to implement when you know there is a better way.
“Competition is healthy in this industry, and you have to always strive to improve.”
PRUDENTIAL OVERALL SUPPLY
Founded by John D. Clark in 1932, Prudential Overall Supply, a provider of reusable image work apparel and related textiles, has grown from a one-man operation in Southern California to a national brand serving customers throughout North America.
While working as a gas station attendant and a salesman for a company that catered to laundry needs for the medical profession in the area, Clark got the idea to open a laundry that picked up, cleaned and delivered uniforms to workers who didn’t have the time to clean their workwear.
He called the company Prudential Laundry because he saw a sign for Prudential Van & Storage in Los Angeles and liked the strength and character of the name. He started work in a small tin shed behind a laundry, and the company grew from there.
“It was a lot of hard work,” says Jerry Martin, vice president of sales and marketing. “The first week’s revenue was $4.84, and now, we’re at about $250 million a year.”
He says that many laundry operations that started years ago have been acquired by other companies, but Prudential has remained an independent business over the decades.
“I think Prudential has a very unique way of developing talent from a generational standpoint, and when one generation is retiring from the business, the next generation of leadership has already been developed to the point where they can then step in and help bring the business to the next plateau,” Martin shares.
“And that’s really the thing that I’ve always been very impressed with, that the company has been able to do that. Ultimately, it stems from the ownership from the Clark family, their commitment to the business, to the employees and, of course, to the customers that make all that possible.”
Until about the 1980s, Prudential mainly grew its business through its routes.
“We did have some outside sales representatives,” Martin says. “It was limited, and we just gained a lot of business by referral and then through our route sales and that type of thing.
“The ’80s brought more competition into the marketplace, and then we had to outfit a professional sales organization.”
However, he says the main factor for the company has been customer retention. Prudential has a goal to retain 95% or more of its customers every year.
The company also works to retain its employees. One way is through its year-long management potential training program to develop leadership in college graduates or people coming out of the military.
“And we’re always looking for route representatives, production employees, salespeople to help bring them on and run the business,” Martin shares.
“The Clark family is committed to the employees. They’re really into helping develop our people through training through different programs that we have.”
Besides training programs, Prudential helps its employees by providing benefits such as profit sharing, tuition reimbursement and health benefit programs.
“When we add up all of those programs as an employee, you say, this company cares about its employees, cares about his customers,” Martin points out. “This could be the kind of place that I see myself making a career.”
CEO John Clark, the third generation of the family in the company, has launched a century initiative. As the company celebrates its 90th anniversary, it’s thinking about the next 90 to 100 years.
“What’s that going to look like? What types of things do we need to think about investing in to push us along?” Martin says.
“There’s a budget for these initiatives, and we’re listening to our employees, listening to our leadership team about the types of things we may need to think about to help position us to be competitive and be a good option for our customers.”
Click HERE to read Part 1. Check back Tuesday for three more stories.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].