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Business Operations

This is 2011, a new year with new opportunities

January 26, 2011
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This is the time of year when businesses reflect on the past year and sets goals for the New Year. It should be no different for the detail business owner. In fact, it should be a necessity.

You really need to evaluate your business from top to bottom, from the front door to the bathroom, or from the driver’s seat to the back of the trailer. You need to figure out what works and what needs to be improved. You need to come up with ways to give your business a facelift.

You are selling cleanliness
The easiest and least expensive way to refresh a detail business, building, truck, or trailer is to make sure it is sparkling clean. You are selling cleanliness, so it is a critical for you to look clean. People are coming to you to clean their most personal item, their car, and they want you to do that in or from a facility that is clean with clean employees. A little personal detailing and a modest investment in paint and supplies will make a huge difference.

In a shop, start with the restroom. Many detail customers are women, some with children, so a clean restroom is a priority. Are the pipes dripping? Is the sink stained? Is the soap dispenser empty? If your answer is "yes", you are not making a positive impression. Mop the floor, put on a new coat of paint, and attend to any plumbing issues. Make sure the restroom is stocked with the necessities —­ soap, toilet paper, and towels.

Without saying, a clean customer service area/waiting room is a necessity. Clean the windows, the floor, shampoo the upholstery; pay attention to detail. Give the walls and trim a fresh coat of paint, do not ignore anything the customer will see.

Emphasis on the exterior
Look at the exterior of your store or mobile van, and be sure that the area surrounding the building is clean and kept up and the van is as detailed and shiny as the service you sell. Clean out planters and remove dead or dying plants. Wash the windows, and be sure all the lighting is working and any signs in good condition. Repainting the faded striping in the parking lot is an easy way to instantly give the store a new, refreshed look as well.

Another way to brighten up the exterior, if you can afford it, is to install an awning. It is not that expensive, and it immediately adds color and personality. It is also a great way to differentiate your detail business from neighboring businesses. The key is to call attention to your business.

Strengthening ties with the supplier
Reconnect with your chemical supplier. They can look at your business with different eyes, point out little things, and suggest ways to improve it. They are also experts on the market and will know if the competition down the street have done anything different or are offering special deals. They can help evaluate your equipment needs and make sure you are on top of the latest technologies available.

Replacing old vacuums with newer, more powerful units can save time. A larger extractor with a 3-stage motor and high watt heater means cleaner carpets, faster.

Have you looked into vapor steamers to help increase interior cleaning? Your supplier can suggest the best brands to consider.

Amenities
What amenities do you offer to your customers? Can you add more or upgrade those you have? Maybe Starbucks coffee instead of coffee from a can in an old, glass coffee pot? How old are the magazines in your waiting area? If they are more than a month old, it tells the customer that you do not care about them.

What about adding something new for your customers? Consider adding a TV or free Wi-Fi. If you are unsure about what to add, talk to your customers. They are your best resource for determining everything — from what kind of soap to stock in the restroom, to whether you are employing the right people.

It’s worth the effort
Without question, it is well worth your effort to take some time at the start of this year and focus on ways to reinvest in your detail business to realize a greater ROI.

Let your passion and pride in detailing be reflected in a shop or mobile van that sends a clear message to your customers — you care about them and want to provide them with an experience that will keep them as a customer.

A modest investment of time, money, and effort intelligently applied, will reap great rewards.

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R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a nearly 40-year member of the car care industry. He is also the executive director of the International Detailing Association and a member of the Western Carwash Association Board of Directors. Abraham can be contacted at buda@detailplus.com.

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