Almost every new entrant into the dry cleaning industry talks about delivering "quality" to their customers.
These new entrants believe that the "right" location, the "right" cleaning and pressing equipment, the "right" eco-friendly dry cleaning solvent, the "right" computer system, the "right" app and the "right" amount of effort will miraculously produce "quality" and, as a consequence, financial success.
This belief is stunning given that 99.99% of these individuals have, in all probability, never operated or worked in a dry cleaning plant that produced true quality cleaning and, as a direct consequence, have no idea what true quality in the dry cleaning business actually means.
This focus on "quality" -- without being able to define true quality cleaning -- is music to the ears of every commercial real estate broker, dry cleaning equipment salesperson, dry cleaning solvent manufacturer, dry cleaning supplies distributor and dry cleaning store franchisor.
I can just picture them salivating at the prospect of separating another neophyte from their limited financial resources and/or pushing them deep into debt that they personally guarantee.
(Aside: I know what I'm talking about. 35 years ago I was right there! Luckily, I recognized the problem, found an experienced and willing mentor at the top of the field and took remedial action to learn everything there was to know about true quality cleaning at that time.)
The genesis for the belief that "quality" is the route to success can typically be traced to an individual's dissatisfaction with some local cleaner who once damaged some garment or failed to remove some stain.
This small event often leads them to a life-changing conclusion: that they can outperform any local dry cleaner (and achieve financial success) because of their focus on "quality" and their drive to "try harder."
It's analogous to the restauranteur who watched a show on the Food Network and who then concludes that he/she can succeed in the restaurant business by serving "quality" food and "trying harder".
So, after cashing in their life savings and going deeply into debt, they open their new "Tip Top Professional Quality Cleaners" with great fanfare and wait for the customers (and the cash) to roll in.
However, despite their best intentions and an avalanche of Grand Opening coupons, they soon realize that:
Bottom line: They soon realize that the overwhelming majority of their customers just want their garments "cleaned and pressed" for the lowest possible price and in the fastest time -- the two major impediments to delivering true quality cleaning.
So they quickly shift their goal from "quality of product" to "growth in piece count" as a way to generate the cash necessary to keep the doors open and pay themselves a meager wage.
And the most common reasons for the shift?
They finally realize that:
In other words, it's far easier to deliver average care to average consumers by average employees than it is to deliver true quality cleaning to a discriminating clientele by technically skilled craftspeople.
In summary, they realize building a sustainable business delivering true quality cleaning comes from overwhelming a relatively small audience with a product that so delights that they insist that their friends and colleagues use it -- an exceedingly difficult, time consuming and financially draining undertaking.
Delivering true quality cleaning requires a significant investment in technically skilled craftspeople, equipment, facilities and processes over a long period of time.
It also requires an understanding that, despite that significant investment, there is no guarantee that the financial rewards will be worth the investment of money and time.
True quality cleaning is achieved by systematically and diligently executing hundreds of small tasks every day over a relatively short period of time.
And then raising the the bar on quality once again. And again. And again. And again. Year after year.
In other words, delivering true quality cleaning is complicated, time consuming and stressful.
So it's easy to see why the overwhelming majority of cleaners abandon their quest for "quality" and end up operating discount or ordinary cleaners that deliver average care to average consumers by average people.
To all those new entrants who believe that they'll achieve success in the dry cleaning business delivering true quality cleaning, just know this: The 20 or so true quality cleaners in the USA (out of a total of approximately 20,000 dry cleaners) welcome your competition and wish you luck.
Here's some unsolicited advice from someone who's been there and done that: Before you embark on that journey, say goodbye to the next 20 plus years of your life.