World-Class Act

Randy Bartsch took over the family business after a successful career as a professional skier.

Randy Bartsch went from pro skier to pro launderer, turning Ecotex into a premier linen-management company for health-care providers

Long ago, Randy Bartsch toured the world for six years as a freestyle skier on the World Cup circuit, schussing down slopes on multiple continents to the cheers of onlookers. To wonder how exactly he got from there to his current position as president and CEO of Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service Group, his family’s linen-management and laundry-service company specializing in health-care clients, is a fair question. However, Bartsch, who spent several years in the sports promotion arena, has a simple answer. “I wanted to stay in the neighbourhood and hopefully marry my high school sweetheart,” he explains with a laugh. “The best way to accomplish this was to join the family business.”

Through the Years

1976
Joins the family business, Act One Uniform Rentals, on a part-time basis

1977
Qualifies for the World Freestyle Skiing Championships in Heavenly Valley, CA

1978
Qualifies to represent Canada on the FIS World Cup freestyle ski circuit

1979
Launches the Pepsi Ski Show, a sports exhibition venture

1982
Begins transforming Act One into Ecotex

1989
Is elected to the board of the Textile Rental Services Association of America

1990
Joins the Young Presidents’ Organization

2008
Is elected to the Board of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association

2010
Is appointed to the University of the Fraser Valley Board of Governors

2012
Comes in as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Pacific Region

Beginning with this modest wish, Bartsch immersed himself in the commercial laundry industry, and his initiatives have since helped build Ecotex into a multinational company serving more than 100 hospitals in British Columbia and the Western United States. The drive began in the early 1980s, when Bartsch had the foresight to recognize that rampant consolidation was coming to the industrial-uniform sector of the laundry business, which was the initial focus of his family’s company. He saw promise in another field instead. “One of the things I began to appreciate was that the health-care space was emerging,” he says. “Textiles in a hospital environment are fundamentally important because they’re critical for practitioners and clinicians to be able to treat patients.”

Bartsch seized on the market shift and expanded the company’s offerings beyond uniforms, gradually reaching out to hospitals in British Columbia and selling them on Ecotex’s track record of exceptional customer service. “Our mission has always been to create raving fans who will tell others about our company,” he says.

Ecotex now offers clients tested solutions for controlling costs, including better management of linen use through specialized software called Ecotex Linen Manager and an on-site linen-management system called Logistex. “We’ve seen great results where hospitals have been able to save money on linen service and redirect those savings towards improved clinical care,” Bartsch says. “We feel that, as a company, we make a difference.”

Bartsch credits the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), which he has been a part of for nearly 20 years, as a source of inspiration in his work. The group has helped him meet other successful leaders and learn their secrets for making their companies more effective, efficient, and profitable. “I’m always looking for an idea that can help change the way we do business for the better,” he says. Two programs Bartsch has integrated into Ecotex’s operations are Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. He has combined them into an effort called Lean Six Sigma, which has helped Ecotex reach productivity levels in the top tier of the industry.

Attended YPO events and listening to world-class speakers has inspired Bartsch to think differently. “I’ve pushed the boundaries of the way I look at things,” he says. He compares conventional perspectives to a Rubik’s Cube, explaining that “if you turn it, sometimes you can start to see things a little more clearly.” His efforts to innovate made him a finalist for the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Pacific Region.

Now, with the recent birth of his first grandchild, Bartsch says his perspective continues to evolve as his role in the family business shifts. “I’m in an enviable spot,” he says. “I took the business from my father, changed its direction, and I’m now at a crossroads where that baton is being passed, once again, to the next generation.” He now spends time not only making decisions and directing the company as CEO but also working to impart as much knowledge as he can to his children. “I’m teaching my sons why I do what I do and why we make the decisions we do,” he says. “Hopefully they can gain some perspective and have a building block for decisions that they will need to make down the road.”