CHICAGO — Even before the pandemic gnawed at the economy, laundry and linen services were constantly looking to expand their businesses.
Some laundries are considering adding products and services. Others ask their reps to find and sign more clients.
And some may consider expanding their footprint, adding factories and moving to different parts of the country.
ImageFIRST, a healthcare linen and laundry company headquartered in King of Prussia, Pa., has grown its business in all of the previously mentioned ways, despite the pandemic.
Read on to find out how the company acquired local service providers and continually seeks to help its customers improve their end-user experience.
Beyond adding new product lines and new customers, laundry and linen services are also growing by entering new markets and building facilities or acquiring existing operations.
Bill Rottschaefer, vice president of business development for ImageFIRST, says the company is continually looking for opportunities to enhance its existing service capabilities, as well as expand its presence in new markets.
“When targeting specific geographic regions for expansion, we initially seek to partner with or acquire a local service provider that has a similar approach and focus,” he shares. “If such an option is not available, we can seek to acquire treatment capacity in the region or even create an operation ourselves, as we have done in recent situations.”
Rottschaefer points out that there are many reasons why a laundry/laundry service could develop. Each company must analyze and determine its situation and its options.
“In some cases, we may start targeting a region because of our existing customers, who are often national accounts, already in the region,” he says. “In other cases, we may already have routes that we service from a depot and are now looking to acquire processing capacity in the area given the existing growth. In some situations, we may be contacted by a person wishing to sell his business.
“In all cases, we build an acquisition thesis for opportunities that we try to validate (or invalidate) quickly by surveying the target.”
Recently, ImageFIRST made four acquisitions: Tucker, Georgia; McAllen, TX; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and more recently in Houston. In fact, Rottschaefer says the company has made more than those four acquisitions in the past year and a half.
“To date, we have acquired all of our franchises in the continental United States, expanded our service reach into new regions such as South Texas with the acquisition of Maverick, improved our service reach into such as Colorado through our acquisition of Central Lin and launched a few new factory sites in key regions,” he shares.
“These investments have enhanced our service capabilities and ImageFIRST’s national service footprint.
According to Rottschaefer, the key to integrating a new site into the ImageFIRST brand is retaining the employees and management team of the organizations it acquires.
“At the start of an acquisition, we develop a thorough integration plan to integrate the new organization into ImageFIRST’s operations,” he shares. “First, we meet the operational teams and the employees in the days following the closing of the transaction.
“During these meetings, as well as subsequent training sessions, we educate new members of our team on ImageFIRST’s operating principles, how to do business, and our expectations of them.”
“Being acquired by ImageFIRST has been a great experience,” says Rick Cortez, General Manager of Maverick (now an ImageFIRST company). “I now work with a team of amazing individuals, all with unique qualities and personalities, and have experienced firsthand what can be accomplished when a team works together towards the same goal.
“ImageFIRST’s values are inspiring and give me confidence that my long-time associates will be well taken care of.”
“It was strange at first to go from being an ImageFIRST competitor to being part of their team, but our culture and values are so similar that our associates onboarded quickly,” shares Ken Brandeis, Managing Director of Southern Medical Linen Services (now an ImageFIRST company) in Atlanta.
“When part of the people is positive, the rest have a way of coping.”
While COVID-19 has caused many negative effects on the industry, Rottschaefer says the pandemic has had limited, if any, impact on the company’s growth and acquisition strategy.
“Over the past year, we have made many acquisitions and built/launched a few new factory sites,” he points out. “If anything, COVID may have prompted some of those we had ongoing discussions with to consider entering into a sales process sooner than they may have considered.”
It’s always a risk for a laundry and linen service to add new products and services or add facilities, but by using the right processes, researching and merging cultures, many expansions can to succeed.
Bill Roberts, senior vice president of sales and marketing for ImageFIRST, says his key advice for developing new products and services is to always develop the products and services the company has in mind with input from a customer.
“If you’re developing a product without getting input from your customer, you’re probably doing it the wrong way,” he points out.
“Talk to your best customers. Ask them what are you looking for? How can we make your life better, easier, more efficient? How can we help improve the patient experience? »
When it comes to growth and acquisitions for laundry/linen services, Rottschaefer’s main suggestion is to look at corporate culture.
“Emphasize the importance of culture between organizations,” he says. “Acquisitions are not limited to what is described on paper.
“If the two companies have similar and/or compatible cultures, the combination will likely be successful, all things being equal. If the cultures of the organization are incompatible with each other, beware of such a combination.
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