My friend Stanley lives for laundry. He is a young entrepreneur who brings his intellect and creativity every day and night to his sliver of a laundromat in a strip mall in Homewood IL. The Starbucks and Panera Bread stores are the offices where he plots his forays into the lucrative land of institutional laundry.
Hospitals are the Valhalla of laundry. A decent sized hospital has a million dollar a year laundry tab. Stanley says once you get into a hospital’s billing system it takes explosives to evict you. So how does a tiny strip mall laundromat shop get into a gigantic hospital? Cold calling? Knocking on doors? Direct mail? –Hopeless. But Stanley feels like he has found the key—mops.
Hospitals use a lot of mops and they must be laundered every day. Institutional laundries tend to throw the mops in with the sheets when they return them to hospitals. This means lots of wasted time by housekeeping to fetch their cleaned mops. Stanley, the mop cleaning specialist, will return the mops clean and segregated, to the place where they are needed. These days, Stanley takes his digital camera on deliveries to document the waste of bundling mops and linens. He plans to illustrate his better approach to ten local hospitals. One hospital’s mops are a $700 week account, a pittance to an institutional laundry, but a nice account for Stanley. But the most important piece of the mop business is that it gets him into the hospital on a regular basis to build his relationships and credibility. And once you are in the billing system…
Every big company has a wedge, a dirty mop, which is begging for a better way. Stanley will eventually get the mop business at several of the local hospitals, not on price or even connections, but because he showed the tenacity and the creativity to scope out his opening. And one day, the soggy mops will lead to linen business.
Next time you think there is no way to pry open the door of a big account, consider my friend Stanley and the beautiful, soiled mops.