Wildman Business Group

Wildman Business Group has been offering laundry services in north-central Indiana since 1952. But as it diversified into additional businesses, growth accelerated. “We’ve been growing about 15 percent on average with our distribution companies,” CEO Josh Wildman reports. “Since the year 2000, we have completed four five-year strategic plans, each one being accomplished a year ahead of schedule. Our revenue today is 10 times what it was 15 years ago, going from 60 employees to 216, and it’s all organic growth. We are currently planning our next five-year plan, set to launch in October.”

Wildman Business Group was listed No. 2,985 on Inc.’s 2014 list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies. The company reported a 120 percent growth index over the last three years. Besides laundering and renting uniforms, Wildman Business Group also has several companies that distribute or provide janitorial, maintenance, repair, operations (MRO) and first aid supplies; printing services; corporate and sports apparel; and sports-branded products and memorabilia.

Keeping track of this merchandise and related operations is the company’s Sage 100 enterprise resource planning software. The Wildman Business Group has developed enhancements to the software’s forecasting modules. “We’ve taken the data and have a developer on staff who has created some additional forecasting methods based on the data from Sage,” Wildman points out. “We have manipulated the data from the service module depending on our business practices to make it a little more effective and user-friendly.”

Wildman Business Group has a 54,000-square-foot warehouse for its sports products that are sold through Wildman’s IDNA Products company. The company also has 12,000 square feet of space devoted to facilities services products and corporate apparel, and 70,000 square feet for inventory and manufacture of uniforms and linen along with the laundry operation.

Coming Out in the Wash

Wildman estimates that approximately 45 percent of the business group’s revenue is from uniform laundering. That service is offered to companies within an approximately 60-mile radius of the company’s headquarters in Warsaw, Ind. “It’s a large operation,” Wildman says. “We’re cleaning between 12,000 and 15,000 uniforms a day.

“The laundry business is profitable, but very capital-intensive,” Wildman points out. “It costs a lot to grow it. You have a lot of machinery and equipment you have to put in service before you make dollar one. Once that infrastructure is put into service, over the long term, it can have a very nice return. We’ve used our laundry business to diversify and add on the other products through logistical relationships that make sense for our customers. They may as well get it from somebody they know and trust. That’s been our traditional growth model. We’re a laundry business that got into distribution, not a distribution company that happens to have laundry.”

For the laundry business, Wildman Business Group leases approximately 40 vehicles, many of which are stepvans from 18 to 22 feet in length. The company also leases a smaller number of stepvans from 14 to 16 feet in length, a number of vans and a few 26-foot trucks. It has purchased vehicles in the past depending on the financial market, but it has always kept the maintenance in-house except for major repairs. “We’ve been able to control our cost better by doing maintenance ourselves,” Wildman maintains.

The company’s delivery drivers are more sales and service representatives than mere drivers. “We look more for retail experience than driving,” Wildman says. “It’s a hard mix to find.” The delivery vans use Geotab routing software that also provides feedback on metrics such as driver braking, acceleration and idle time.

Wildman Business Group takes safe driving seriously. “We have an accident escalation clause,” Wildman says. “The driver pays the deductible if it’s their fault, and that can lead up to terminations.” A driver involved in three accidents might be terminated, but it could be as few as one if it is a serious accident.

Recruiting Employees

The company’s average tenure for employees and customers is more than 10 years. “We have service reps that have been with us for 20-some years,” Wildman maintains. “Some senior managers have been here more than 30 years. We don’t have people jumping jobs, so we’ve got a lot of tenure and seniority within the company.”

Recruitment of employees is encouraged by a $1,000 bonus given to an employee who refers a recruit who stays with the company for 90 days. “That has been our most effective tool,” Wildman asserts. “Ninety percent of our employees come through referral. We made a big investment in human resources because of the changing labor market.”

The highest turnover is in the laundry area. “It’s a tough job sorting dirty laundry,” Wildman points out. “The laundry equipment is very automated, but they haven’t come up with a robot that can sort dirty laundry.”

Wildman Business Group strives to be a one-stop shop for uniforms. It can direct import uniforms for companies, rent or sell them and provide laundry services. Many of the products Wildman Business Group offers for distribution are ones usually bought by the companies that use its uniform services, such as manufacturing, retail, service, healthcare and hospitality.

“Pretty much every company is now in some type of a uniform program or is using some type of branded product or uniform that our company supplies,” Wildman declares. This portion of the business relies on third-party carriers.

Material Handling

The distribution center stocks products from the size of pins to large coffee tables. It uses manual picking with the assistance of some lifts that can elevate pickers to bins three stories high. Handheld scanners direct the pickers to their locations and confirm the product selection through bar code scans. The company distributes its products throughout the United States and Canada.

Wildman Business Group is investing heavily in the business. “We have invested significant capital into a manufacturing facility,” Wildman says. “That reinvestment has opened up a lot of additional warehouse space. We’re constantly evaluating and putting in new technology to help us track our inventory turnover, utilization and speed to the customer, so we can keep our cost of inventory-on-hand extremely low and responsiveness extremely fast. We’re reinvesting very heavily as a growth company to keep up.”

The company participates in many fundraising and charitable activities. “We’re 100 percent committed to the communities that we live and work in,” Wildman emphasizes. “We give monetarily and with our people volunteering. That’s a big piece of our culture. 

“Living out our faith and taking care of our people is the single greatest factor to any success we have had as a company,” Wildman continues. “We believe if we have healthy people, we will have a healthy business. And a profitable, healthy business is the lifeblood that gives us the opportunity to continue impacting lives within these walls, our community and around the world. Business just happens to be the vessel that God gave us to steward resources for good.”

Wildman Business Group is not so much following lean practices as just applying common sense. “Our target this year is a 10 percent reduction in inventory overall with a 15 percent sales increase,” Wildman declares. “This is the first year we’ve really taken this initiative from our CFO. We’ve got some low-hanging fruit with some items that aren’t turning fast enough, so we think we can do it. It’s just more what gets measured gets managed, and we‘re finding if we look closer at it, we can improve it.” 

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