small business fights back and wins

Winning Big in the SMALL Game

One question at the forefront of every independent textile rental president’s mind is, “What is the best way to compete with large corporate uniform and linen rental companies?” After all, the big 6 (Alsco, Ameripride, Aramark, Cintas, G&K & Unifirst) pulled in an excess of over $10 billion of revenue in 2013. This is nearly half of the estimated $22 billion in sales of the textile rental market of the United States! This doesn’t take into consideration other large, more regional companies.

With all of the resources available to companies that do in excess of a billion dollars a year, such as marketing, training, geographical coverage and access to cash one might wonder how a local, independent textile rental service provider might be able to compete with large corporate entities.

Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better

Contrary to what the big 6 would like customers to believe, most prospects and textile rental customers prefer doing business with a smaller, local independent provider. Businesses that utilize a textile rental service often indicate that local independent rental services do a better job in areas of quality, service, flexibility and billing compared to national chain companies. It is important that as an independent you and your staff educate your prospects and customers of the differentiating factors about your company. There are many attributes of being an independent that are attractive to your prospects and customers.

  • Family or privately owned
  • Active in the community (Chamber of Commerce, Restaurant Association, Trade Associations, etc.)
  • Support of local charities
  • Name recognition of the owner
  • Financial resources staying in the local economy

Big corporations are great if you have 1,000 locations spread across 50 states. However, they are often inflexible to the individual needs of smaller customers. Being smaller gives you the opportunity to customize your products and services to the specific needs of your market and customers. Use the strengths inherent in your business’ size to your advantage.

Emphasize Service

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard from prospects that they couldn’t get their national chain supplier to return their calls, adjust their inventory, correct a problem or respond promptly to a specific need. Managers for the big chains spend several hours each week on conference calls and filling out reports to the corporate office that distracts them from the fundamental task of caring for their customers. It is important to emphasize how important customers are to your business precisely because you are smaller. Use customer testimonials to reinforce how responsive your team is when a customer has a need.

Use Business Relationships

Because of their local presence, many independent textile rental companies have established professional relationships that can be utilized to help secure or retain business. Maybe your company has investors or minority stock holders that can make an introduction for you and your sales team? Often partners or officers in the law firm, accounting firm or bank that your company uses can help make connections with business owners you are trying to secure or companies whose business you are trying to keep. The data is clear, when a local, independent option for textile rental services is available; businesses prefer to do business locally when they can. Remember, your town and region is your home field. Use existing business connections to strengthen your position.

Longevity of Key Personnel

Key managers and sales people of national chain companies move from one location to another every few years, while owners and key personnel of independent companies stay for decades. This continuity of key personnel provides security to your prospects and customers that the same person who promises specific pricing, product or service commitments will still be around to fulfill them throughout the entire service agreement and subsequent agreements for years to come.

Fair Pricing

While most independent companies will agree that national chains offer lower unit prices, it is not necessarily required that you reduce your prices to get or retain business. Many national chains will offer below cost unit prices with the objective of making up for it in ancillary charges or multiple price increases with a year.
It has been my experience that people want to do business with people they like and trust. They want a relationship with their vendor that goes beyond the price of a mat or set of uniforms. Being a local, independent textile rental service gives your company a face, name and reputation. Take advantage of it.
Great Selling! is a Remote Sales Management organization that provides digital sales training and support to the Textile Rental Industry.,