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Why Would a Laundry Turn Down Business?

Author says can ultimately lead to more fruitful, sustainable partnerships

SANTA FE, N.M. — It can be said that, at its most basic, the purpose of a business is to provide value to customers, who pay for the value thereby resulting in revenue to cover the business’ expenses, pay its employees and, hopefully, provide profit to the bottom line. 

To achieve this purpose, businesses employ a variety of means, most particularly sales and marketing each of which should bring prospects who convert into customers and who refer additional prospects in a self-regenerating cycle. 

Sometimes, however, those prospects and their requirements may prove incompatible with the business, presenting the owner or manager with the following potentially terrifying question: Should I turn down this business opportunity? 

As someone who has spent most of his career in sales-related roles and who trains and coaches teams and individuals in sales and customer service, believe me when I say that I understand that it looks and feels counterintuitive to reject potential clients, particularly in what many believe to be a challenging business environment, it’s a well-considered practice that can safeguard the stability and reputation your company, your existing customers’ level of satisfaction, and your team’s continuing engagement and morale. 

There can be several reasons why a laundry might turn down business, starting with a lack of capacity or a misalignment with the existing production. 

One of the first things we always do when we start working with a new client, whether on the engineering or coaching side of our business, is to determine the current state of their operation. 

Our analysis begins with a data dump of existing production (down to even the smallest volume items), equipment, operating hours, available labor, number of routes, etc. 

Before beginning any sales effort, I strongly believe that every laundry needs to go through the same type of analysis to ensure that sales and service are aligned with production and operations in regards to compatibility of product classification and customer types (e.g., a dedicated healthcare laundry is likely not the best candidate to take on a new food & beverage account), but also that the plant has enough available capacity to handle the additional work. 

The worst thing that can happen is for the sales department to engage with a prospect when the operation lacks the resources or capacity to take on those new customers. In other words, don’t let sales write checks that production can’t cash.

Beyond capacity and alignment, there could be other good reasons to turn down business, including the possibility of conflicting commitments or perhaps geographic or logistical issues. 

If an operation already has existing commitments or obligations, it is important to ensure that new customers do not conflict with commitments made to existing customers. 

A simplistic example comes to mind: your plant is already maxed out at 20 million pounds per year and a customer comes along who wants you to process 10 million pounds per year for them. 

As alluring as that new business might be (and believe me, I understand the temptation), unless you have a plan in place to add capacity to your existing plant, build a new facility or partner with a nearby trusted colleague, I would urge you to take a long second look before even starting to work on a written sales proposal. 

The same goes for those times that someone really wants you to service their textile processing needs, but they’re located so far outside your existing service area that adding them as a new customer simply is not feasible.

There’s a saying among some in our industry that the easiest stain to deal with is the stain that was avoided in the first place, and the same goes for turning down business. This is where a solid strategic plan comes into play. 

When you have clearly defined your company’s mission, vision, values, strategic position, and core competencies, and when you make these the foundation of your company culture, then you can ensure that sales, service, operations and production are in lock step alignment. 

This is how you avoid the stain in the first place and how the issue of turning down business becomes moot. 

Still, occasions arise when even though a prospect who seems on the surface to be a perfect match for your business, you soon learn that it is better to let them be someone else’s problem. 

Consider the prospect who fails to see the value you provide by trying to drive your price down or the one who adds products or services that go above and beyond your typical offerings. 

You deserve to be paid a fair price for the products and services you provide, and a reasonable customer should want your business to make a reasonable profit. That is, unless they want to find themselves someday soon looking for a new provider.  

Similarly, don’t hesitate to set limits on what your company will and will not provide and if you find that a customer wants more than you can or will provide, you owe it to yourself, your business, and your team to say no. 

If and when you or your team member must let a prospect down, do so in a way that is constructive and that ensures that you haven’t burned any bridges. Give the prospect clear, concise and objective reasons why they or their company are not a good fit. 

Do it professionally, respectfully, and without rancor or judgment, but then be prepared to provide them with some suggested alternatives. Doing so shows them that you and your company have integrity, that you were willing and able to help them in some way, and gives them a leg up on their ongoing search. 

Remember the old story of the mouse who pulled the thorn out of the lion’s paw? Like that mouse, you may have just made your new best friend and when their business or yours changes in the future, guess who they will call or e-mail first?

The decision to turn down a business opportunity is a complex but essential aspect of maintaining the stability and reputation of a company. 

While the primary goal of any business is to provide value to customers and generate revenue, there are occasions when prospects and their demands may not align with the capabilities or mission of the organization. 

Establishing clear boundaries, evaluating compatibility with existing operations, and practicing integrity in these decisions are crucial. By doing so, businesses can maintain their focus, serve their customers effectively, and ensure long-term success. 

Saying “no” when necessary can ultimately lead to more fruitful and sustainable partnerships, benefiting both the company, its team members and its existing and future clients. 


When It’s Time to Say ‘No’ to New Business (Part 1), Dec. 21, 2023

When It’s Time to Say ‘No’ to New Business (Conclusion), Dec. 26, 2023

Why Would a Laundry Turn Down Business

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].