Thursday, December 29, 2011

Do You Have to Clean Rugs?

Do you have to clean rugs to be in the rug cleaning business? I mean it is kind of obvious isn’t it to make money in the rug cleaning business you need to clean rugs, right? Actually no, one of my clients is a large and successful rug cleaner in a major metropolitan area and he does not clean rugs at all. How is he successful if he doesn’t clean rugs at all?

To protect his privacy I am going to call my client Bob. It is not his real name but we don’t need to use his real name or city to look at how he succeeds.

Ten years ago Bob had a staff that ranged from 9 to 13 washers and repair people working in very expensive real estate in the heart of the rug district in one of America’s largest cities. Bob took a hard look at payroll costs, benefits, and the cyclical nature of the rug business and decided to fire everyone except his repair department manager and a porter. At that point his business became much more profitable and began to grow.
Bob took most of the repair and washing departments and converted it to additional retail rug space. To cover his ongoing business Bob helped his old employees go into business for themselves and then he became their best customer in their new business.
Bob works closely with his manager Eli to maintain strict quality control. Every rug is inspected when it comes in. Based on the type of rug Eli decides who to send it to. Bob tells me that depending on the type of rug the majority of rugs go to one of three washers. Not all washers are good on all types of rugs. Repair is an important profit center and the pre-inspection finds a steady stream of very profitable repair work. Many people assume that the big money in repair is in large reweaving jobs. Actually even though it is expensive it is time consuming and the small repairs are far more profitable. Rewrapping selvedges, securing ends, and fixing small slits generates far more revenue and is easy to sell in the pre-inspection stage. If a customer is having a rug washed they are usually open to small repairs if it will head off later more expensive work.
Rugs are washed before they are repaired. So they go out to a washer and then the rugs comeback and Eli inspects them. We all know that rugs after a wash may not be as good as we like. The question is who is going to make that discovery. I have been in rug shops where the rug is unrolled and both the customer and the store agree that it should be rewashed. By involving the customer in this it gives your business a black eye with the customer. What Bob has done is by using Eli to provide a vigorous post inspection most of these problems are detected before the customer sees them. Then once the rug is clean it is either returned to the customer or sent for repair.
This move has been in place and it is good for Bob’s business and it has been good for many of his former employees. Bob continues to grow his business and in good times and bad his costs keep pace with his business. Many of his former employees are still doing his work but rather than as employees they are now small business owners. Some of them have employees of their own and have built up their own clientele. Rather than worry about them as competition Bob can compete because of his superior quality control. Plus he has expanded his retail rug business by better utilizing his space and working capital. Bob is a more successful rug cleaner than ever without washing a single rug.