WiUiam F. Glueck
The One-Day Laundry Company r.ecently s~rpassed
its chief competitor to become the largest laundry
and.dry-cleaning company in Syracuse, New York.
Only 4 years ago, the company was merely one of
many neighborhood dry-cleaners in the Syracuse
area, and was about seventh or eighth in size. The
rapid growth began when the company changed
hands in 1966.
The company was founded by Charles W. Brown
in 1932. Located in the downtown section of Syracuse, the firm quickly gained a reputation for quality
work and friendly service. The business was profitable and provided a comfortable living for Mr.
Brown and his family for many years. About a year
before the owner's death in 1955, he followed. the
trend to move to the suburbs and relocated the plant
near an older, middle-class neighborhood. His
widow ran the business for the next 10 Years. until
she was forced to sell it because of ill health. Richard
W. Silsby and Ruger L Swain purchased the business in the summer of 1966.
Mr. Silsby, a native of Ohio, graduated from
Michigan University with a degree in personnel
management in 1963.From 1963 to 1965 he was the
manager of a dry-cleaning company in Syracuse.
Silsby saw the advertisement to sell the One-Day
Laundry in the .newspaperand was immediately interested. He felt that the potential for a dry-cleaning
business in the Syracuse area was a promising one,
and also saw this as a chance to be his own boss.
Mr. Silsby was able to persuade Mr. Swain, whom
he met at a civic club, to leave his job with a state
agency and form a partnership to purchase OneDay. Mr. Swain is 32 yean old and has a degree in
The new owners decided to expand operations
rapidly by borrowing heavily and reinvesting all
profits for the next S yean. During the first year of
operations one dry-cleaning plant and one combination dry-cleaning and laundry plant were purchased.
Three dry-cleaning plants were added in 1968 and
one more in 1969. Two combination dry-cleaning
and laundry plants were added in 1969. In addition,
five pickup stations were established. Gross sales
increased fromS90,OOO in 1966 to Over S7S0,OOOin
I This is a disguised c:asc..1lw B, the facts in it are based on •
real company. But the names of the persons involved. the location. and the quantitative data have been changed because the
company requested it. It SC!"CS DO useful purpos,c to tty to deu:r.
mine whic:h"company is-the·-rcaJ" company;
Mr. Silsby is operations manager and director. He supervises purchasing,
advertising,' production, personnel, and transportation. He spends most of his
time troubleshooting, traveling to various plants. Mr. Swain serves as treasurer, accountant. and finance officer. Since he spends most of his time at the
main plant. he also acts as manager of that plant.
How One-Day operates
Plant 1 is the original facility and is used for laundry, dry cleaning, and clothes
storage. It is located in a deteriorating neighborhood on a heavily traveled
street. The area has been the subject of much local criticism due to its high
concentration of businesses and generally inadequate parking space. There is
room for three cars in One-Day's parking area. Curb service is featured.
Plant 2 is a dry-cleaning plant located near Syracuse University and close
to a number of apartment buildings. It is a modem building on a main traffic
route. Parking IS adequate.
Plant 3 was the first plant built by the partnership, It has both dry-cleaning
and laundry facilities. and contains the cold-storage vault used by the whole
company. It is a physically attractive building located on a commercial street
next to a middle-class neighborhood and close to a number of high-income
The founh plant is a dry-cleaning establishment located in the same building
as a self-service laundry (not owned by the company). The neighborhood
contains rather cheap houses and includes a large primary-secondary educational complex. Parking is shared with a grocery store. On the day the case
writer visited the outlet. there was a great deal of litter strewn both inside the
building and on the parking lot. On this and a subsequent visit, the attendant
was very slow in appearing.
Plants 50. 6. and 8 are all dry-cleaning plants located in newer, middle-class
suburban areas. In all cases. the buildings are less than S years old and are
well maintained. Plant 7 is a combination dry-cleaning and laundry unit in
an old and somewhat aristocratic neighborhood.
The ninth unit is in the process of being built, It is One-Day's first venture
into the northwest section of Syracuse, an area which consists of luxury
housing and some lake shore apanments. The new facility will be a combination ordry cleaning and laundry.
The five pickup stations are located in areas where customers do not have
ready access to any of One-Day's main facilities. Most are located in neighborc"
hood shopping centers. In each instance, these stations share the same building
with coin-operated laundri~ owned by another firm. One attendant takes care
of both facilities.
One-Day Laundry is a full-service company, serving the laundry, dry-cleaning, and clothes storage (both normal storage and cold storage fot furs) needs
of their customers. These services are available at all stations, If the receiving
station does not have the facilities to perform the desired work., the items are
transferred to another station and then returned to the original station for
pickup,' 'One-hour-service-is ·availablc-for-aU-dr-y-eleaning •..Laundqds..on ..an..
"in-by-nine. out-by-five" basis. In most areas of the city, laundry accounts for
One-Day Laundry Company
about 30 percent of the business. Near the university, however, it amounts to
nearly 60 percent of the total volume. "Instant" curb service is adVertised.A
study showed that the average time spent by a customer at a drive-in facility
is 2 minutes,
The full cycle for dry-cleaning operations includes the actual dr)'-cleaning
and drying process, steam pressing (pants, coats, and dresses), steam finishing
(pants), clothes wrapping, racking, and delivery.
In the laundry, clothes are marked, and then washed and dried. Shins,
pants, and dresses undergo both a preliminary and a final steam pressing.
Sheets are pressed only once. After an. item has been pressed, it is folded Or
packaged for delivery.
The equipment for a laundry facility consists of a boiler and compressor
to supply steam, washing machines, a dryer (although most clothes are ironed
wet), three or four types of ironers, a packaging rack, and a repair area. The
dry-cleaning equipment includes a dry-cleaning machine, a dryer, a number
of semiautomatic ironers, a packaging rack, and a repair station. With the
exception of the original plant, the equipment is fairly new and modern in
design. The equipment in the old plant is less efficient and has caused some
maintenance problems. Mr. Silsby stated that labor is the major production
cost in this industry, and that they are using automated equipment wherever
possible. He added that he subscribed to 'an industry periodical, and that he
closely followed any recommendations on how. to improve efficieDC)'.
The design of the work areas in most of the plants is generally good from
the standpoint of efficiency.Storage areas are inadequate, however. For example, the passageways at some of the plants are cluttered with large drums of
detergent. There are no plans to expand existing facilities although they are
presently operating at 80 to 90 percent capacity. Management would rather
build new plants to meet future needs than expand old ones, as they feel that
small plants are more efficienL
Mr. Silsby said that as far as he can predict, One-Day Laundry will limit its
marketing area to Syracuse. Syracuse, which is the fourth largest city in New
York, is located midway between Albany and Buffalo. The city contains a wide
variety of medium and light industry, with products such as rnachinery, metal
products, paper products, auto parts, and clothing. The town also has four
colleges, including Syracuse University. It is not a rapidly growing community. In fact, the population actually declined from 220,000 in 1950 to 216,000
in 1960. Many seem to be moving from Syracuse to other metropolitan areas
in the state.
One-Day serves many types of persons in the community, and management
has tried to vary its promotion accordingly. For example, an appeal is made
to the town's established residents with advenising slogans such as ''Serving
You with Quality for Over 35 Years," and "We Care-and
liave Cared for
Over 3S Years." On the other hand, ads are placed in a student newspaper
emphasizing the growth and progressiveness of the company. Members of the
football team sometimes pose for these ads. Some advertising is aimed at the
town '5 wealthier residentsLgiv!~g assurance that expensive clothes -wi11--be
Enterprise objectives and strategic planning
handled competently, and explaining in detail the elaborate precautions taken
in clothes and fur storage. Delivery service is furnished to a small number of
customers who live in the town's most exclusive residential area. Delivery
service is not provided to other cUStomers.
One-Day advertises on radio, on television, and in the newspapers. Radio
advenising consists of spots on the i:30 morning and 6:15 evening weather
reports of a local station. Sixty-second television commercials are placed on
an eleven o'clock news program on Sunday and Monday nights. It is estimated
that 85,000 people watch this program. Ads are placed in a major newspaper
every few days although management does not feel that this has yielded
worthwhile results. Mr. Silsby said that at one time they tried a direct-mail
campaign, but did not find it very effective.Mr. Silsby writes all of the company's advertising copy and delivers the television advertisements himself. The
total advertising budget is S1600 a month. An independent organization estimates that 168,000 people are being ~eached by the advertising campaign.
Occasionally, one of Mr. Silsby's children delivers the television commercials.
One-Day's prices are comparable to those of competitors in the area. with
one exception. A fast-growing chain, Styler Cleaning and Laundry, is underselling all the others. Mr. Silsby commented, "They're wearing out their
equipment, but they're not making any money. I don't think they can keep
offering such low prices for very long." He admitted, however, that he was
surprised that they had been able to keep prices low for as long as they had.
Styler dropped prices to a level about 10 to 15 percent below the prevailing
rates in late 1968 and has not raised them since. Styler is now the second largest
of thethree major chains in the area.
The One-Day marketing concept cont~nds that all dry cleaning and laundry
are basically the same. "We're selling service, and nothing else," said Mr.
There's not much differencein quality from one outfit to the next. Even if there is a
difference. people are not apt to notice it, What they do notice, however, are things
like how fast they are waited on, whether or not they can get.a ncarby parking place,
how friendly the peoplebehind the counterare, and whether or not the ashtrays have
been emptied recently. It's the little things that really make the difference.
Mr. Silsby said that persons employed to work behind the counter are carefully
selected on the basis of appearance and personality. Many college students are
hired pan-time for this job.
Mr. Silsby does all the hiring and firing. In reference to hiring policies, he said,
"My first impression of a person usually determines whether or not he gets
hired. I look at his personal appearance, personality, interest in the job, and
whether or not he's got a wine bottle in his pocket, All references are checked,
and no applications are taken over the phone. The company does not discriminate racially, and this is reflected by the fact that nearly one-third of the work
force is black.
Labor turnover, a serious--problem-in-most-eleaning businesses. is no problem to One-Day. Management feels that this is largely due to the fact that their
One-Day laundry Company
pay scales are above the area average for the industrY. The major job categories
and hourly wages are as follows:.
1 Laundry pressers
SI.4O per hour
SUO to S2.10 per bour
S2.20 to S2.6Oper hour
SI.70 per hour
5 LaUDdry markers
6 Front pcrsannel
1 Managers of outlets
S1.40 per bour
S1.4O per bour
SIOOper week. plus 3 percent of sales
Mr. Silsby said that each worker is guaranteed a minimum weekly wage of
S50, regardless of how many hours he or she has worked. Time and a half
is given for all time over 45 hours.
Fringe benefits include a "surprise" cake given on an employee's birthday,
cokes sold at cost. with free cokes during rush periods. a 50 percent discount
OD all work. and a I-week vacation.
In llddition, a 55 award is given to all
employees when no gannents are lost in a given month. This is awarded for
Promotion. like hiring, is based on Silsby's personal evaluation of the employee. Mr. Silsby emphasized that qualified employees who have the desire
to "bener themselves" have the opportUnity to work up in the organization.
Pan of the 135-member work force comes to work at 7 ·A.M.and works until
4 P.M., whereas the otbers work from 8 A.M. unti15 P.M. Only the dry-cleaning
staff works on SaturdaY, working from 8 until 11 A.M. There are two cofl'ee
breaks per day, one at 10 A.M.. and the other at 3 P.M.
Most training is done on the job. Many applicants have had previous experience in the production end of the business, and an efl'on is made to hire these
individuals. If their past experience has been limited or specialized, they are
routed through a number of jobs so that they will be able to work wherever
needed. There is no educational requirement for production workers. The front
workers. who are often high school or college students, do not normally have
prior experience. Mr. Silsby trains them personally. emphasizing the importance of good customer relations.
Thereare no written personnel policies. Mr. Silsby has a number ofinfonnal
policies that reflect several precepts which are especially dear to him. These
1 Never ask of a man what you would not do yourself.
2 The success of the company depends on the worker. and workers produce in a direct
relationship to the way management treats them.
3 Employees are people. and tbey bring their personal troubles to work with them.
Help the employees solve their problems, and they work bener. (Mr. Silsby has been
known to cosign notes. secure legal aid. and perform other services for his employees.)
4 The workers are sensitive to changes in production processes and managemenL It
is better to explain things than to have the employees come to the wrong conclusions.
Mr. Silsby pointed out that the employees have a strong sense of identification with the company, and that this would tend to thwart any attempts at
unionization. Many cleaners in the.area.
competitors. are unionized.
One-Day has rio centralized personnel records. Records for each employee
are kept at the plant in which he. works for a period of I Y?f·
Jiri- .. "'-U --:::a~ .
e:>. ...;.J, I'"Y"" "'to.
The company has reliedupon debt to provide the funds for its rapid expansion.
All new locations are 100 percent debt-financed with S-year notes. It costs the
company about S3~.OOOto set up a dry-cleaning plant. and a~ut$7S,OOOto
build and equip a full-service plant. Everything needed to start a facility is
financed with a "package" note at the company'sbank. Pickup stations are
leased. Mr. Swain said that the break-even points for pickup stations, drycleaning plants, and full.service plants are S400 per month, S4000 per month,
and $8500 per month. respectively.
Short-term debt is occasionally used to finance inventory. Mr. Swain said
that he never used a budget. but he prepared trial balances monthly. Balance
sheet and income statements are prepared semiannually. Depreciation is
figured on a straight-line basis which assumes an 8-year life for all machinery
Mr. Swain said that he was worried that the financial structure of the
company was becommg debt-heavy. "I'm not certain that we can continue to
expand indefinitely using long-term debt as a source of funds," he said. ''The
way I see it. we're driving ourselves up against a wall as far as future financing
is concerned. The more we go into debt, the higher interest rates we must pay
to offset the increased risk.." He continued:
_ This also limitsthe possibilityof future equity financing, since investorswould not be
willingto pay as muchior the stock becauseof the risk factor. No. I'm becomingmore
and more convincedthat wc sbould start a franchising operation.
He went on to describe the details concerning a franchise plan which he
has been "playing around with." Under this plan. the original partnership
would act more or less as a holding company, owning two-thirds of the new
plants and providing "professional services" for a fee. The franchise holderwould put up S 10,000 of his own money. Seven thousand of this would pay.
for the franchise. S~OOO would go into "paid-in-surplus," and SIOOOwould
go into "paid-in-cqwty." He would then be entitled to draw SII,OOOin salarY.
_plUSone-third of net profits. The controlling pannership would pay two-thirdt
_ of expenses and take two-thirds of the profits. For S percent of sales, the parent. company would furnish advertising and bookkeeping services. Laundry service,
would be provided to plants having only dry-cleaning facilities at a 2S percent.
"I think that in the long run this arrangement would work out best for us," ~
Mr. Swain concluded.
I'vc talked it overwithDick, but be's not willing to go along with the ideaat the present
time. He's concernedthat wc might lose control over the openatiOli.and that it would
be difficult to maintain our quality image. I feel just the opposite about this. It's
becoming virtually impossiblefor two men to personally supervise the entire chain.
Why, wc'rc spendingalmost all of our time traveling from one unit to another as it
is. Right now, wc're placing an enormous reliance on the individual plant manager.
If they owned apiece of the action, they would work. even harder to ~_
The two partners arc:still arguing over the possibility of a franchise operation.
One-Day Laundry Company
TABLE 1 •
ONE-DAY COMP.NY. INCOME STATEMENT
Cost of sales
All other expenses net
Profit before taxes
Net profit or loss
Due to banks
Due to trade
R. W. Silsby
R. L Swain
Total liabilities and equitY
Purchase answer to see full