For 28 years now, Professional Carwashing & Detailing (PC&D) has asked its readers annually to submit nominations for the title of Most Valuable Carwasher (MVC), and every year, we receive a number of highly qualified nominees. Like any most valuable player, the MVC is on the front lines of the carwash and is an integral member of the team in addition to showing leadership and going above and beyond the call of his or her carwashing duties.
This year’s MVC demonstrates all of these qualities in abundance. The PC&D team is pleased to present the 2018 MVC award to Jason LeBlanc, general manager of Benny’s Car Wash, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
A passion for car care
In the early 2000s, LeBlanc faced shutting down the video store he owned with his wife due to increasing online competition. Looking for a new job, LeBlanc responded to an ad for a windshield repair position for a company contracted with Benny’s. According to Justin Alford, owner of Benny’s Car Wash, the team did not believe LeBlanc was the right fit for that position; however, they sent him to the carwash’s general manager for a second opinion.
As a result, LeBlanc was hired in March 2003 as the site manager for one of Benny’s full-serve locations. “This was my first job in the auto care industry,” LeBlanc explains. “I was always very particular and very OCD with my vehicles and was the type of person out there cleaning my cars with a toothbrush, so this felt natural for me. I am a car guy, and I always loved making a vehicle look great.”
Like many others, LeBlanc took the offer at the time while waiting to pursue a “real job,” and yet, 13 years later, he remains at the company, now as a general manager. After working at the high-volume, full service location for eight years, he moved on to two other locations successively; he currently manages Benny’s flex-serve location in Gonzales, a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
What made LeBlanc decide to stay? Ultimately, it came down to how Benny’s made him feel appreciated as an employee.
“Over the years, I worked for quite a few other companies … and the bosses or owners always had the temperament that they couldn’t care less about you and other staff members. They always made you feel like you were expendable,” LeBlanc intimates.
As such, LeBlanc never felt comfortable making lifelong decisions for his family in these other job sectors, which included networking, commercial telephones and fire alarms and a local cable company. However, after he started working at Benny’s, LeBlanc never felt that his job was insecure, and he felt safe making financial decisions for his family.
LeBlanc is not the only one who feels rewarded from his tenure there. According to Alford’s nomination, “In Jason’s 13 years with Benny’s, he has not only developed a passion for the carwash industry but also a passion for fulfilling the Benny’s mission of providing excellent customer service to each guest. We are lucky to have him on our team and look forward to many more years of watching him grow and develop with the company.”
For customer and carwash
As a general manager, LeBlanc is responsible for all day-to-day operations of the Gonzales carwash (which also happens to be the farthest location from headquarters) — from labor control and finances to sales and equipment maintenance. He is also responsible for staff training and ensuring that said staff gives customers not only the services they pay for but the quality as well.
In creating the customer experience, LeBlanc refers back to something Walt Disney once said: “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
With this in mind, LeBlanc says that his team is not just there to clean cars — they are there to give customers a feeling. They want customers to feel great about their clean cars, and they want their customers’ friends to see their cars and seek to have the same feelings about their own.
According to LeBlanc, when customers love the results and you are consistent with them, they will keep coming back; furthermore, building a relationship with customers is of vital importance. Altogether, he notes, “This will help the customers feel confident in you and your team.”
“Jason takes time to really get to know his customers,” Alford notes. “They bring him food, donuts, cards and many kind words and gestures. We can set up a carwash to clean the car, but it is hard to teach passion.”
However, LeBlanc’s passion for customer service is not the only way Benny’s has benefited from his work ethic. In fact, LeBlanc also developed a method of collecting customer claim checks to reduce the number of unpaid washes and theft — a strategy adopted by the entire company.
Proposing this idea is actually one of LeBlanc’s favorite memories from his time working at the carwash.
LeBlanc recalls, “We were having a meeting with all the site managers and general managers with our owner. For years, our cashiers stapled these little paper, colored tickets with their receipts. We had many thefts with this system — employees giving customers the tickets so the customers did not have to pay for our services.
“I came up with the idea to get rid of our tickets and have a claim stub to print with the customers’ receipts, and a manager or supervisor had to come collect the customer’s receipt and tear off the stub at the bottom when the customer came to collect their vehicle. When I mentioned the idea at the meeting, our owner jumped up and went straight to the corporate staff to get that idea into effect.”
In addition to getting to know the customers, LeBlanc is big on getting to know his carwash team and bringing them together. But, the leadership he displays now is the result of many years of learning, mistakes and experiences.
LeBlanc attended the Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, for a year, where he progressed to platoon sergeant. “That obviously helped me a lot as far as leadership skills and just the hard work mentality,” LeBlanc relates. It also made him a front-lines sort of guy when it came to working at the carwash. “That’s one thing that I do is whenever we are busy, I get out there and get dirty with the guys,” he adds.
With that militaristic mindset, LeBlanc started his first several years at Benny’s by operating his sites with the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality, which, in retrospect, he says was a mistake.
“After several years, I realized that I was always training new people and [they] never progressed. I learned that was not the best way to lead a crew of people that have no military experience. So, I had to change. Now, I have the best crew ever, and [they] have been with me for a long time.”
Just as LeBlanc reflects that his own journey contained mistakes that he learned from, he believes this is a crucial part of development for others as well. “I learned that I want [my team] to make mistakes,” LeBlanc asserts. “As long as they learn from their mistakes, we can grow. The people who cannot learn from their mistakes are the type of people you do not want.”
With this new approach, LeBlanc set out to create a teamwork environment, and he succeeded beyond Benny’s wildest dreams.
“On our employee satisfaction surveys, he took [the Gonzales] location from 70 percent to 95 percent in two years. Turnover went down, and employee satisfaction went up,” Alford describes. “He developed a good staff and made work ‘fun’ again. Our corporate staff spends the least amount of time supporting this location because of Jason. He knows what to do and just does it.”
How exactly did LeBlanc bring together his team? As with any great crew, it all came down to inspiring camaraderie through group events. LeBlanc frequently takes the team out for bowling parties and pizza nights, and he coordinates other events, such as a Christmas party at his home or participating in the company-wide Halloween costume contest at the carwash. In addition, the entire team uses a group instant messenger app called WhatsApp to socialize as well as plan for work events.
“Friendship is the strongest bond,” LeBlanc declares. “Friends won’t let their friend fail.”
In fact, LeBlanc’s team feels such strong kinship with each other that they proudly identify as “Team Gonzales” and wear matching T-shirts to all company events.
LeBlanc’s secrets to success also revolve around his team. Firstly, he says that to succeed, you need to keep an open mind and stay positive. “Stay away from negativity, especially with your team,” he recommends. “The way you are feeling will affect your team drastically.”
Secondly, LeBlanc adds, “My team is the secret to my success; [I] couldn’t do it without them [just] as they couldn’t do it without me.”
One of the unique ways in which LeBlanc has helped his team succeed is by writing multiple training manuals, including ones on guiding and driving safety, wash and detail procedures as well as his personal favorite, a maintenance and terminology handbook.
“The one I am proudest of is our maintenance and terminology handbook,” LeBlanc states. “This is where I cover most of the carwash equipment in the wash and in the equipment rooms with pictures of each piece of equipment with the names, purpose and how it works. It has proven to help the staff understand how the machines work. The better your staff understands how everything works, the better help they are to you.”
The makings of an MVC
LeBlanc believes he was nominated for this award because of the skills and experience he’s attained. “Everyone has the potential to gain the knowledge of this business at my level, but it’s through my endurance and bearing the load of customer service, employee communication and mechanical skill that’s granted me the capabilities that I possess today,” he explains.
These were all certainly aspects of the nomination that Alford echoed, stating that LeBlanc is “a crucial part of our growth and success.” In addition, Alford is even more impressed with LeBlanc’s work because LeBlanc suffers from diabetes, meaning he has to constantly monitor his sugar intake. Even with this hardship, Alford notices, he still puts forth his best efforts daily.
“I just watched Jason grow over the years in maturity, leadership, work ethic and passion for the business,” Alford elucidates. “He was at three of our locations and always left them better than when he arrived. The current location, Gonzales, is one of our best locations and always leads the way in profitability and employee satisfaction.”
Alford concludes, “I would not have seen Jason in this position five years ago. He finds a way to continue to develop and surpass our expectations. As we continue to grow as a company, I know he will be a part of it.”
Past MVC award winners
|2017: Noel Saldaña, The Wash Tub, San Antonio, TX|
|2016: Jose Luis Cruz, Splash Car Wash, Greenwich, CT|
|2015: Mike Hulburt, Autobell Car Wash, Virginia Beach, VA|
|2014: Mark Fox, Cornhusker Auto Wash, Bellevue, NE|
|2013: Elias “Lou” Spellos, Squeeky Clean Mobile Car Wash and Detailing, Virginia Beach, VA|
|2012: José “Joe” Fernandez, Superior Shine in Covina, CA|
|2011: Chad Cornell, Crystal Clean Automotive Detailing, Grand Rapids, MI|
|2010: Sandra Silvestre, Valencia AutoSpa, Valencia, CA|
|2009: Trudy Carlton, Car Pool LLC, Mechanicsville, VA|
|2008: Shawn Stevens, Adirondack Car Wash, Queensbury, NY|
|2007: Aaron Rusbuldt, Shur-Kleen Car Wash, Lacey, WA|
|2006: Juan Avila, Splash Car Wash, Wilton, CT|
|2005: Brian Daigle, Willimantic Car Wash, Willimantic, CT|
|2004: Bob Handt, Mister Car Wash, Roseville, MN|
|2003: Gary Pendleton, Wilshire West Car Wash, Santa Monica, CA|
|2002: Casey Bowmaster, Champion Car Wash, Trevose, PA|
|2001: Roman Zelek, Koziol Car Wash, Chicago|
|2000: Darold Evans, Sandwich Car Wash, Sandwich, MA|
|1999: Marcel Vargas, Splash Car Wash, Norwalk, CT|
|1998: Clifford Mitchell, Bebo’s Car Wash, Mobile, AL|
|1997: Chalmers “Lefty” Jackson, Jax Kar Wash Inc., Southfield, MI|
|1996: Michael Garrison, Beaverton Car Wash, Beaverton, OR; and Marjorie E. McNeil, Clarkston Auto Wash Co., Clarkson, MI|
|1995: Jose Ruiz, Auto Valet Car Wash, Trenton, NJ|
|1994: G. Walker “Paul” Calisme, Exit 13 Car Wash, Darien, CT|
|1993: Mark Ellis, Soft Touch Express Wash, Valparaiso, IN|
|1992: Gary L. Daily, Happy Wheels Inc., Wilmington, DE|
|1991: Norris Brown, Weiss Guys Car Wash, Phoenix, AZ|