Prudential Overall Supply
Prudential Overall Supply was founded in 1932 as a one-man operation in Los Angeles. John Clark had worked briefly for a Standard Oil station and identified the need for individuals in the service industries to have their uniforms cleaned. “He saw the need for cleaning uniforms, and that is our core business today,” says CEO Dan Clark, John Clark’s son.
When Clark started the business, the operation was rather basic. He picked up uniforms each day from gas stations, had them laundered at a family laundry, folded and packed them and delivered them the following day. “It was a good service,” Dan Clark says.
But the company didn’t remain a one-man operation for long. Eighteen months after launching his business, John Clark took on a partner and opened his first cleaning plant. He continued to expand the company with new capacity until he expanded into the Commerce, Calif., location in 1952, which remains the company’s oldest continually operating location.
The company experienced steady growth over the years, including the addition of garment rental in 1943. It exceeded $1 million in revenue a decade later. Initially, Dan Clark did not want to join the business because he did not want to disrupt the good relationship he enjoyed with his father, he recalls. But he came aboard in 1968 because key positions in the company’s management team had unexpectedly become available.
Clark knew the operation because he had worked at the company during summer breaks, but had no plans to succeed his father. He took on greater responsibilities over time, working as a general manager, regional manager and vice president before becoming president in 1984 and CEO five years later. He has witnessed the significant growth from $7.5 million in 1968 to $168 million in 2015. “Every day we take steps and keep working,” says Clark, whose son, John, is a regional manager. “It’s organic growth.”
Today, Prudential Overall Supply services include uniforms for rental, lease and purchase for industrial uniform programs and related services. The company provides work clothes to a variety of industries including hospitality, manufacturing and healthcare. Additionally, it offers protective apparel and outerwear. Prudential Overall Supply partners with leading work apparel manufacturers including RedKap, Wrangler, American Dawn, Milliken and Dickies.
The majority of the company’s plants and service centers are located in California. But it also maintains locations in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. The service centers or plants in those states deliver to an additional 12 states where Prudential Overall Supply does not have operations.
“Our core business is uniforms on the industrial side,” Clark says. “That’s how we started.” In fact, providing and cleaning uniforms, mats, towels and wet and dry mops represent about 60 percent of the company’s business. Prudential Overall Supply also services restaurants and the hospitality industry with napkins, paper towels, soap and air fresheners. The remainder of the business involves cleanroom apparel services, a market added in 1960.
Staying In Touch
Clark says a key to the company’s success is his belief in staying closely involved with all phases of the operation. “I [participate] in 25 delivery routes a year as well 100 customer visitations,” Clark says. “It keeps me in constant contact with our business. I enjoy it.”
But Clark does more than observe when on delivery routes. Instead, he takes on some of the drivers’ work to get a true sense of the daily challenges they face, he says. He also encourages drivers to be honest about the good and bad aspects of their job. “Sometimes we become pretty good friends,” he says. In addition to their delivering duties, drivers are expected to generate new business by promoting other services.
Additionally, Clark meets with the general manager at each plant and service center at least once a year and tours the facilities with them. “I need to know what’s wrong,” Clark says. “All of us have to look and see and be aware. I don’t even know what I’m looking for sometimes.”
Clark also participates in the monthly regional managers’ meeting group. “That group really runs this company,” he says. Clark’s own philosophy for the company is simple. “Growth, profit, care for employees and care for the customer,” he says. “If we do those four things, we’ll be OK.”
Clark says he enjoys the business primarily because of the regular interaction with clients. “We have a weekly connection with our customers,” he says. The regular connect gives customer sales representatives a routine opportunity to find out whether clients are satisfied or in need of other services. Thanks to such dedication to customer service, he says, “I think we’ve been a success.”