Led by CEO Mike Watson, Benson Laundry exemplifies the innovation of Independents within the Universal Unilink family. Their “consultative selling” approach and commitment to exceptional service has produced significant growth as they compete against the nationals in the greater St. Cloud, MN marketplace.
Mike believes that to achieve success, smaller companies must work harder. He and his team are dedicated to “taking care of the customer” which he defines as “listening to our customers, learning about their needs and plans and then, finding ways to help them succeed.”
Benson Laundry, a uniform and linen operation in Willmar, MN was acquired by Mike in 2011. Today, the company has grown to 26 employees including ten of the original staff who each has more than 20 years laundry experience.
Presently, the company is operating 12 hours a day to take care of current customers and the outlook for continuing growth is good. Mike has acquired adjacent property and is planning to build a large production facility there while converting the current property into additional parking and warehousing.
At Benson, taking care of the customer also means diversifying product and service to meet more of their customers’ needs. In 2014, Mike acquired a Jan/San business after discovering that many firms no longer employed a janitor or custodian. Outsourcing to cleaning companies has become the norm for most. To address that change, Benson Laundry makes sure that chemicals and supplies needed by the cleaning companies are in stock at his customers’ facilities. They also provide current SDS sheets for each chemical supplied.
In addition to typical “towels & tissue” that many laundries supply, they also look for other opportunities to meet customer needs by adding unique products. Benson currently provides mop buckets, garbage cans, and safety signs along with many other products not typically found in an IL facility service program. This practice not only increased revenue significantly but has helped to build strong relationships with customers.
To ensure the success of their new facility services program, Mike sought a different way to do business. His goal was to switch some items currently being purchased to a rental basis, but he quickly learned that his software would not support the changes.
After researching IL software available on the market, Mike and his team decided to create their own combining the best features of programs they used in the past while working for the nationals. This in-house designed software program, which the team at Benson called Spincycle, quickly made Benson’s operation more efficient.
With improvements over the years, Spincycle is now a Windows based operating system which gives Mike the ability to check on the operations at all times affording him much more freedom than he has had in the past.
With the new software in place, Mike was able to analyze rental pricing and create ancillary charges. “I needed a way to make the accounts more profitable while still taking care of the customer,” Mike shares. “Spincycle gives us the ability to locate the linen at all times, which has been invaluable in controlling inventory costs and, in turn, increasing profit significantly.”
The reporting aspect also saved time and helped in future planning. The Benson team has the ability to see important future loads, which has helped considerably by eliminating surprise shortages. The Route Sales Representatives have seen advantages when loading their trucks. Mike added “They have cut loading time in half, allowing them to leave on time and to better serve their customers.” With the various reporting functions, Mike has been able to accomplish his goal of being both more efficient and profitable.
As information about the new software spread, the Spincycle team became aware that other similar operations were also trying to find improved software. Their first install at an outside facility in November 2017 was successfully implemented with the resulting improvements. Since then they have fine-tuned the processes to make future installs even more effective for new users. While continuing to make sure Benson Laundry operates efficiently, Mike is actively involved with installs of Spincycle.
Mike’s decision to join Universal Unilink was also part of his strategy of operating efficiently and profitably. He points out that using Preferred Suppliers whenever possible frees his time to focus on gaining new business.
Congratulations on continued growth to Mike and the team at Benson. By working harder and using an entirely different approach than that of the nationals, they are adding revenue and increasing margins.