Well Deserved Kudos- and a lesson for us all!

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I had my post all picked out today.  (Actually,  I generally have four or five of them saved, ready to be posted on a given day).  But, today, I was moved by a blog I read.  And, I was compelled to tell you the story- so that Cary’s knowledge can help you, too.

First, I belong to a blog discussion group.  If you write a blog, I suggest you find one, too.  And, as I said, today, Dani McGrath of our group, TLCClub, gave me this idea.

I have always been an entrepreneur.  Long before we knew what that meant.  Oh, I worked for companies – big and small- and learned from them.  And, I’ve been a professor.  But, I understand entrepreneurs- and big business- and have been privileged to offer my talents to help them improve.  Today, I will pass along what I learned from Cary and Harry of Arlee Cleaners and Launderers.

When I was six, I began selling Christmas cards.  (Look, you can’t be the only “other” in a town of 2000 or so and not recognize that they were all buying them.)    At eight, I added magazines to my portfolio.  By the time I was 11 or so, I was also “leafleting”  (ok, they were closed to sheets of paper) the neighborhood – I had convinced several shops in the area that I could build their businesses with advertising.

When I was just shy of 14, I got a job.  It wasn’t much- I was hired to sweep the floors and “mark” the clothes (an identifier so the clothes would not be lost and to notify anyone when the work was promised).   Within two weeks, I notified my bosses that I was being underpaid and underutilized.  And, they agreed (or, maybe they were just astonished at my chutzpa).  Anyway, I began working the counter, too.

The younger owner (Cary) considered me his surrogate son.  And, he taught me a most valuable lesson.  To the best of my ability, this is what I recall of his missive to me.

We have a really up-to-date store. And, I’m certified by the International Dry Cleaning Institute (he was one of about 100 in the US at the time- yes, I am THAT old). But, remember this. Everybody has the same equipment that we do. Everybody can clean our customer’s clothes.  We can be the cheapest or the most expensive.  But, that’s not what will make us or break us.

We have to make them WANT to come here. We have to give them something they can’t get anywhere else. We do that either by listening to the stories of their families, of how their clothes got stained, or why their day is great or  why it’s lousy. You do that, Roy,  and we’ll be the biggest dry cleaner in the area.

I stayed with this outfit (while I finished college and worked another job, too) for 6 years. I managed the store.  I did their collections.  I did their accounting.  I did their taxes.  I helped them expand to offer drapery services (a story for another day).  And, you know what- they did! And, I loved the people there. Both owners are dead, unfortunately.

Here’s to you Harry and Cary!  And, Jo, I think about you ,too!

Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

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