Dry cleaning as a service is a commodity. One dry cleaner is usually the same as any other. You take your clothes in and pick them up cleaned, pressed and wrapped in plastic a week later.
In my town you can find numerous dry cleaning businesses. Some are family owned, a couple of others are corporate chains.
Since I’m pretty busy running a small business and being a mom, I try to keep things efficient. I plan out my errands and group like-minded tasks together. So it makes sense to pick a dry cleaner in my town — saves gas, saves time.
Except I don’t use a dry cleaner located just minutes from my home. No, I do business with Rick, whose dry cleaning business is located 20 minutes away in Massachusetts.
This is because Rick has made taking care of his customers’ clothes a high art. And, as Seth Godin describes in his book, Linchpin, he’s made himself indispensable, to me and hundreds of people like me. In short, he’s a wonderful example of a Linchpin.
Don’t let appearances deceive you
The first thing you must know, when you walk into Rick’s establishment, is that it is *filled* with clothes and similar items. (That’s how busy he is.) You walk in the door and you get maybe 24 inches of space between the door and the counter.
You can’t even see the back of his establishment. Too many clothes in the way.
The counter is usually piled high with clothes people have dropped off.
You also see dozens of police uniforms hanging from hooks — all pressed to exact military standards.
But even better, you see money hanging from metal clips. I’m not joking. If Rick finds cash in your pockets, he’ll hang it on a clip with your clothing tag so that it can dry out. Then he returns it to you when you pick up your clothes.
One of his customers took a picture of the money, framed it and titled it, “Laundering money.” (ha!) Rick hung it above the counter.
Rick remembers people’s name and asks them when they want to pick up their clothes (as opposed to telling you when they’ll be ready). He also tells you when he’s going to be closed or going on vacation.
What I love best about him is that he’s *smart.* Last year I provided a proposal to a company that sells items to dry cleaners like Rick and started hitting him up for insider information. In just a few conversations I learned more about the dry cleaning industry and its challenges than I would have reading trade journals.
Rick knew to the penny how much his attached laundromat cost him in terms of upkeep and water usage, what it would cost to convert over to energy efficient machines, and why he still used machines that accepted quarters rather than those new credit card type machines (which I hate).
What Rick does is magical
It’s not the fact that he has clothes ready when promised or that he doesn’t lose articles of clothing. Any dry cleaner can do that.
- Rick doesn’t have to return people’s money. If you’re like me, you have no memory of the money you leave in your pockets.
- He doesn’t have to ask people when it’s convenient to have their clothes ready. We’ve all been trained to have service people tell us what’s convenient for them.
- Heck, he doesn’t even have to remember people’s names. How many service people do you do business with that have no clue what your name is?
No, he doesn’t have to do any of this. But he does. And in the process, he’s turned his commodity business into an art, which is why I drive 20 minutes out of my way to do business with him.
Do you have an example of any business that’s indispensable to you? Is it because of one specific person and how he/she treats you? If so, please share it.