According to OPEN’s March 2010 Small Business Monitor, 21 percent of small businesses were either “riding high” and growing or “smooth sailing,” meaning they were mainly unaffected by the recession. Even given their success, I doubt many would say what Bob Kearn of COIT Services told me:“Last year was the best year in our company’s history.” And, given it was the company’s 60th anniversary, that’s saying a lot.
COIT Services was founded by Bob’s father, Lou, as dry cleaning business in San Francisco in 1950. Shortly after opening, Lou realized there was a lucrative, untapped market in the area of drapery cleaning, so he changed over to this specialized service. “People will go further to have their drapes cleaned by the right person,” Bob told me. And, his father offered something new for that industry – a customer satisfaction guarantee, which has continued to help differentiate them against competitors.
The commitment to innovation continued. When COIT built the first specialty drapery cleaning plant, dry cleaners from around the country asked to take a tour. Realizing there was an interest and a demand for knowledge, Lou created a school for drapery cleaning – and those graduates became the first COIT franchisees.
By then, the practice of innovation had become entrenched, and COIT continued to evolve. Carpet and upholstery cleaning were added, then air duct cleaning, tile and grout, natural stone care and disaster restoration services. In the past year, air duct cleaning services and tile and stone repair, and refinishing services have really taken off, helping to buoy them through the last year.
What has also helped was the early pay discount that they get with the Plum Card. “We use our Plum card extensively – over $2 million a year – because it allows us to manage cash better. We always pay early and take advantage of the discount. Using the Plum Card has given us enough back to cover the equivalent of two full-time employees or outfitting four trucks with new equipment. The Plum Card helps us to continue to innovate by making these things possible.”
Today, COIT has more than 600+ employees and over 40 franchises in 60 major markets, and Bob is investing in new equipment and processes to further extend his service offering, as well as to make the company greener. When I asked what advice he’d want to share with other entrepreneurs, he said, “Always be on the watch for your next offering. Too many business owners get complacent, and then costs creep up and markets change. As some products and services become less vibrant, you have to be ready with new ones.”
If you have a story about using your Card to manage cash flow or save money, and you’d like to it share with OPEN Forum, e-mail me at marcy @ openforum.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @marcyshinder and follow OPEN Forum @openforum.
For more information on Bob Kearn (Cardmember since 1982) and COIT Services, visit www.coit.com.
* If you pay at least 10% of the balance from new activity on your billing statement plus the entire amount of any previously deferred payment or amounts past due by the Please Pay By date on that statement, you may defer payment of the remainder of that balance until the closing date of your next billing cycle without penalty.