We have grown to, as of this date, have 1,350 customers, a 4% monthly growth rate, and recognition as the primary, recognized and trusted pickup and delivery laundry service in the North Bay. We have achieved this in only slightly over four years.
Far more importantly, during this time we have had a chance to get to know many, if not most, of our customers personally. Our drivers have met, our founders have spoken with, and our senior production team has come to know and care for the personal priorities, as well as the laundry preferences, of most of our customers. In short, we have come to care about each of you.
For large commercial customers, everything will remain the same, as we have a separate, special team for you. The following applies only to our residential customers.
Our expectation and objective was to continue to grow much more beyond this level.
Unfortunately, we have had one major challenge. We have not been able to successfully expand our production team to reliably meet our commitment to you of near perfect attention to detail with near perfect consistency.
Moreover, we have also not been able to expand our production team with team members that can provide reliable attention to detail at an industry standard rate of speed.
With an industry appropriate production speed, we would be a profitable business with industry appropriate net margins and appropriate profit.
But, because of the slow speed of most of our production team, we have remained a business that loses money. We have achieved a gross annual revenue that would be the envy of most pick up and delivery laundry services after only four years in operation. Yet, we have been losing a very significant amount of money, requiring ongoing investment from our founders to keep the business alive.
Perhaps this fatal flaw and enormous problem with our production team’s rate of speed has been caused by our founders’ picking two different operations managers over four years and delegating the hiring of our production team to them. Given that our founders’ carefully screened and hand selected our driving team, not doing the same with our production team was clearly a mistake. And, it is a difficult to recover from mistake.
Very, very, importantly, we should emphasize that the core small production team with which we started can complete laundry at a faster than industry standard rate, with great attention to detail, never making any mistake since we launched, and probably in the decade during which they were doing drop off laundry service before they joined us to launch this business.
You might be able to imagine that none of this has been helpful to minimizing stress and maximizing the health and well-being of our founders, our General Manager (who is one of the just mentioned senior production team members), and our senior driving team members.
This has led to a hard to imagine decision, especially since business psychology tends to involve the objective of growth. Perhaps we should have made this decision a year ago. But, one of our two founders (namely, the husband who has had a tendency to barrel through things without pulling back from his objectives to get perspective) could not imagine solving for this problem in the way we are about to explain.
We must – for now – find a way to actually scale back and reduce our customer base to a level that can be managed by a smaller number of our most high-quality production team members and our most senior and trusted drivers.
It is better to be around for the long-term as a profitable, small business serving a smaller number of customers than alternative solutions. We believe the common expression applies here. Sometimes, one needs to fall back, regroup, and live to fight another day. Only, in this case, we are talking about the ability to move forward serving customers.
In the future, this might change and we might resume our focus on growth again. If and when we do, we will be able to let you know through our messaging system and perhaps hope that those we have lost in this process might return.
For now, we must figure out how to reduce our customer base, and at the same time continue to attract enough new customers to maintain a specific level of customers (if we inadvertently lose too many customers).
This will obviously be an imperfect formula, that we must achieve by trial and error.
And, we hope that with the understanding of the situation we have just explained, our customer base will refrain from negative reviews that might hurt our attempts to successfully maintain the business’s survival during this unsettling transition.
In most business turnarounds, the objective is to figure out how to reduce debt and grow to achieve revenue. In our case, the objective is to shrink to a sustainable level without losing more customers then we need to stop serving.
Here are the parts of our plan to find this balance.
- Please monitor the pricing page of our website for ongoing updates about pricing and minimum prices. These will go up to temporarily reduce customers, and then may come down again periodically.
- We may also use a waitlist system. However, our software does not provide for this feature. So, presumably, new customers who sign up should expect to have their initial pick up date adjusted, as they are put on a waiting list. We will attempt to figure out how to communicate this to our new customers. And, we expect to continue to need an ongoing inflow of customers to offset the normal loss of some irregular customers.
- Existing customers should please communicate through our customer service team when you absolutely have to have your laundry returned on time. We will prioritize you. For others, there is a possibility that we may have some delays of returns while working out the balance of inflow and outflow.
- Our small business and commercial customers will always be prioritized, and always have their items returned according to our current schedule, or our specially arranged schedules. We understand that you need your laundry back quickly to serve your own customers.
- Though we anticipate that everything will remain the same in Marin, it is remotely possible that we may temporarily adjust our route days in Marin. In the unlikely event that this occurs, we will send another message.
- We will continue our Tuesday and Thursday pickups and returns in Sonoma County, with return on the next of those two days. We will only discontinue our Saturday Sonoma County route. Unfortunately, we will no longer serve the Town of Sonoma. (While we have been very popular in towns running along 101, we have only had a limited number of customers in the Town of Sonoma.)
Importantly, we will continue to seek and serve larger commercial customers. This is because the production time and pick up amounts support sustained profitability.
This is also because this is the best path to covering the costs mentioned above of the previously shut down laundromat taken over by our service during the pandemic phases of Covid.
Secondarily, we believe that this may look like a smaller, higher price, concierge type of laundry service. This is not because we favor higher income customers, who can pay a higher price for the time saving value of our service. Rather, this is simply because the volume for pick ups at a lower price designed to maximize growth to a broader customer base is not sustainable as a smaller business. One might imagine the financial metrics behind why we lose money as a full scale pick up and delivery laundry service on the customers who only send us enough laundry to meet our current minimum service charge.
Third, we can suggest an alternative option for our many Tiburon customers. Some people may be aware that when the pandemic began, in addition to our primary facility, we took over the Tiburon laundromat. This large floor space laundromat with big opening windows was an ideal location for keeping our production team members distant from each other and protected from Covid.
This was an easy decision, because the founders of Marin Wash and Fold happened to also own that store. It was necessary from the Covid perspective, but financially unwise from a business perspective. This is because self-service Laundry has exponentially higher margins than a full scale pick up in delivery service. Suddenly, we were attempting to maintain roughly $7000 per month of fixed costs for rent and machinery finance payments for all of the machines purchased in 2018, but attempting to do this under the much lower margins of a pick up and delivery service.
The Tiburon laundromat used to have an independently owned wash and fold sublessee. Technically, she was not a sublessee, because she did not pay us any money to offset the increasingly expensive rent in that location. Rather, she used some of The laundromat’s floor space and provided a drop off wash and fold laundry service. Practically, she was our largest customer, using our machines and paying their vend prices.
We are hopeful that one of the many production team members who will be losing their jobs as a result of our downsizing might choose to do something similar to what this person had been doing for the prior roughly 25 or 30 years. If nobody from our team chooses to take this option, then somebody else in Marin County may choose to do so.
The net take away from this section of this overview is that Tiburon residents may eventually once again have a drop off option. If so, the location is at 1690 Tiburon Blvd., which is roughly across from the fire station about a block and a half from Main Street and the bay.
We thank you for your trust in us over the years. We hope to be around for many years to continue serving a smaller customer base. And, while we don’t know what the future holds, we do believe it is possible for us to regroup and eventually serve a much larger customer base again in the future.
Very sincerely yours,
The Marin Wash and Fold Laundry Services Team