A crew’s new uniforms not only lift spirits and increase business opportunities but also attract a lot of attention as a catwalk video goes viral.
By Domenic Olmeda
This Manageable Makeover series shares successful before and after transformations.
Peggy Lawless isn’t the one who wears her facility’s new tech uniforms, but she still feels like a million bucks. After years of dealing with poor service and hidden fees from uniform companies, the co-owner of Professional Fleet Services in Wichita, Kansas, finally found a vendor that makes her team—and wallet—happy.
Lawless collaborated with the new supplier to design a tech uniform that keeps her crew cool. Combining lightweight shirts with resilient jeans, she was confident her employees would represent her brand in comfort. What she didn’t expect, however, was how much the fresh threads would boost morale as well as business.
Prior to switching styles, the group’s old outfits were fashioned from thick polyester, making them ultra-tough but also ultra-hot to operate in. “The [new] shirts we chose are made of a breathable fabric,” she says. “And, we put the techs in more durable jeans because they work roadside and in customers’ shops.”
Lawless opted for a blue color over gray this time. She also used one of her business’ current logos for the brand design, but her staff had control over the shirt’s cut. “They picked short or long sleeves or half and half,” she says.
A salesperson then visited Lawless’ location with samples of the jeans and fabric, so team members could fit themselves appropriately. All said and done, she ordered 11 tech uniforms for each of her nine employees at the time.
The outfits arrived roughly six weeks later. And, upon seeing her crew clad in the new polyester, Lawless felt compelled to put on an impromptu fashion show. “I thought they looked sharp,” she says. “So, I asked them, ‘Would you do a catwalk for me on video?’”
With varying levels of enthusiasm, Lawless’ troupe strutted its new silhouettes across the shop while she recorded. The clip was then posted on the company’s Facebook page where it netted more than 1,000 views. “They exceeded my expectations,” Lawless says.
The staff became a social media sensation. “The video was popular with many likes and comments from customers, workers and their families as well as friends of our business,” Lawless says. In fact, the display reached more than 1,700 users online and was shared on 15 other Facebook pages, generating a great deal of buzz for her operation. In addition to receiving plenty of positive feedback on the web, the employees also gave the tech uniforms a resounding thumbs up. “They love not doing their own laundry,” Lawless says.
By promoting a strong first impression, Lawless hopes the outfits will help her crew close deals during roadside jobs. “The fact that we’re controlling how good they look [means] I have members who are capable of doing a sales call if necessary,” Lawless says. To this end, she equips her mobile personnel with company cards. That way, they can secure more business—even if they’re not silver-tongued salespeople.
Fronting the bill for tech uniforms also translates to higher morale among her employees. “I know they appreciate the fact that they don’t have to purchase workplace clothing,” she says. Lawless ensures there are no rips, tears or holes in the fabric by paying her provider to wash, sort and maintain the apparel, which also promotes safety on the job.
Professional Fleet Services even reimburses its staff for a new pair of steel toe boots each year [to learn more about creating dress code policies and procedures, read Why Surveys Boost Your Bottom Line]. Combined with a crisp, fresh getup, the comped kicks make for a protected and good-looking group.
Lawless spends between $600 to $700 each month with the supplier, which includes outfitting her crew and cleaning her shop’s rags and rugs. “I have never regretted the expenses that tech uniforms add to my budget,” she says. For her, being able to monitor how the team looks is well worth paying for their clothes out of pocket. “You’re guaranteeing their shirts have no inappropriate material on them,” Lawless says, “and the customer knows they are with Professional Fleet Services.”
Do’s and don’ts
After dealing with three vendors since her facility’s 2002 debut, Lawless urges other business owners to keep an eye out for hidden charges. These may include tech uniform replacement bills and additional starting costs. “Some companies have large setup fees when you switch to them,” she says. “There’s laundry identification and stitching the patches on the shirts, and you’re paying for them.”
Tech uniform pricing is absolutely negotiable.
However, you can turn the deal in your favor by sticking to your terms. “Tech uniform pricing is absolutely negotiable,” Lawless says, which is how she scored her current contract for half of her previous partner’s rate.
She also stresses the importance of reading the fine print when it comes to continuing or terminating your agreement. “[These companies] do as many increases as they want each year,” she says. “So, check if it’s an auto-renew and what the cancellation policy is if they aren’t doing their job correctly.”
Lastly, Lawless recommends researching how often a provider will replace weathered clothing. “You need to figure out what its [practices] are for damaged items and how long it expects a tech uniform to last,” she says. Otherwise, you could be stuck paying the usual price for worn out outfits.
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