One tactic that many have used to persevere through 2020 is to simply focus on what they do best. Multiplant laundry operator Linen King did just that - picking up additional customers while dealing with coronavirus lockdowns and other restrictions.
Linen King CEO Leonard McCullough said that his team has been focused on the core markets that have built their company over the last 20 years. "We've consistently focused on two things - our market and our geography," McCullough said. "We do healthcare laundry very well and we don't allow ourselves to get distracted with food and beverage, uniforms, dust control, or any other market.
Additionally, we have avoided going to areas that don't fit our culture or business model very well. We've received phone calls asking us to go to other parts of the country but we believe in a 'Super-Regional' approach - we stick to areas where our business model makes sense with regard to cost structure and culture."
Linen King was founded in 1999 by L.K. McCullough, Kevin Jordan, and Leonard McCullough. Linen King purchased its first healthcare laundry operation from the ServiceMaster Corporation in Sand Springs, OK. In a few short months, and with a great deal of hard work, early mornings, and late nights, Linen King took the struggling ServiceMaster laundry and turned it around, more than doubling the volume in the first year.
"Since then, we've gone from one plant processing about 2 million pounds a year to seven plants processing about 115 million pounds a year," McCullough said. "We've done this with an 'all-of-the-above' approach. We've grown our plants organically, acquired other private laundry facilities and have also purchased facilities from hospital systems."
Linen King's current regional footprint now includes healthcare laundry facilities located in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. One of the company's largest organic additions came at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. A regional hospital system in Missouri had been using a state prison for its outsourced laundry. When coronavirus infection rates in the correctional facility spiked during the summer, the prison shut down its laundry program without notice, leaving the hospital with no primary source for clean linen.
"The hospital had soiled linen piling up and were just a few days from what could have been a regional healthcare crisis," McCullough said. "We took the work on as an emergency contract and we essentially had to double production in our Columbia, MO plant immediately."
"No one else was either willing or crazy enough to do what we did, and it wasn't easy. We had to take on 10 million pounds of volume overnight. At the time, our government was paying people to stay home and not work, so trying to find employees during that period was almost impossible. One of the things that helped us was backup from our other plants and being able to move work around in our system. Additionally, our team has a "whatever it takes" attitude and that allowed us to persevere through the challenge," McCullough added.
Ultimately, that hospital system became a long-term contract for Linen King and they even picked up another local 2 million pound contract at the same time. The company added a new Milnor CBW® system to their Columbia plant to help accommodate the additional work and provide a cushion for back-up.
"We've been through two or three events like this in our company's history where, in order to try and help the market during an emergency, we took on extra work with extremely short notice. It can be stressful and challenging, but we've always found a way to come out the other side where it helps us in the long run."
In addition to a combination of HLAC and Hygienically Clean certifications, Linen King facilities are also TRSA Clean Green Certified by the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA). Clean Green Certification recognizes companies that demonstrate responsible leadership in sustainability and conservation to protect the environment. The program acknowledges a textile service company's continuing commitment to improving efficiencies in water and energy conservation and adoption of best management practices for reusing, reclaiming and recycling resources.
McCullough added that a central part of the company's success has been putting together a unique team of professionals with deep experience in the healthcare industry and who sincerely care about people.
"We are focused on doing one thing and it properly - providing unparalleled healthcare laundry service - when we do that, everything else takes care of itself," McCullough said.