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Mobilize your detail operation

October 11, 2010
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Many entrepreneurs coming into the mobile detailing scene have grown up with microwaves, personal computers, cell phones and a host of other gadgets that have spurred the I-want-it-now movement — and they can exploit it to their advantage.

Why should your customers:

  • Have to wait a couple days to make an appointment with a traditional fixed base detailer?
  • Have to make arrangements to drop their car off and still get to work on time?
  • Have to leave work early enough to pick up their car before the shop closes?

Technology makes mobile an easy offer
Some recent improvements in technology and manufacturing will help get your mobile detailing business rolling towards profitability:

Generators: It used to be that the only generators you knew of were used at log cabins or in giant office towers.

A generator is a basic tool that has a motor that runs off gasoline or diesel and generates electricity — the larger the generator, the greater the amount of electricity that can be used.

Most mobile detailing operations should consider models that have an electricity output of between 2,500 and 4,000 watts, depending on what equipment will be used, and if you will be using pieces of equipment one at a time, or simultaneously if you have a partner.

Power washer: What used to be giant brutes that could only be purchased by large companies are now available to the general public from just over $100.

You can purchase them as gas powered or electrical units and you should give equal consideration to both types.

Typically, the gas models are more powerful and expensive to purchase, and need fuel to run. The electrical supply models usually carry a lower PSI rating and don’t carry as extensive of a warranty and will require an electrical supply — either from a generator or customer-supplied source.

Cell phone: Can you call a cell phone a business tool? Many people think so.

Effective use of the cell phone can keep you in touch with your present and future customers while you are mobile. The new phones with a built in camera allow you to email pictures of the before and after to your customer, or even take a 30 second break between detailing operations and show pictures of your progress.

Set your business phone to a different ring tone than your personal phone so you remember to answer it in that professional manner you’ve been practicing.

Digital imaging: Digital cameras with 3+ megapixels are dropping in price dramatically; the use of digital retouching of photos is becoming more and more common and accessible to everyone with a computer and basic skills.

Online photofinishing is easy, just upload your pictures in a familiar format and you can have them back in a day or less.

You can even go the next step and create your brochures, posters and giant banners online with some printing houses, supplying your own text and graphics and control the whole process yourself.

Vehicles and trailers: Today’s economy has massive discounts on brand new vehicles since manufacturers are overstocked and need to keep on selling product.

Most domestic and some import manufacturers are offering zero percent interest over the term of a lease.

You can ride around in a brand new, smart looking vehicle that portrays pride and quality.

Slap on a few vinyl or magnetic graphics and advertise yourself while writing off your lease payments, gas expenses and any repairs you might have as well.

You do have a couple options, each with pros and cons when it comes to your choice of vehicle:

Truck/SUV/van: Without the added expense of a trailer, you can save some money with just a vehicle, but you may find that getting your equipment in and out of the vehicle may be a hassle day after day.

While there is some security in being able to lock the vehicle and keep everything safe at the same time, there is also a trade off in not being able to use the vehicle for personal use after hours if all your gear is still tucked away inside.

Vehicle plus trailer: A good quality trailer will cost extra, and customizing it so that your equipment is bolted down securely can cost you some time.

Storing the trailer while it is not in use and hooking and unhooking it up day after day might get tedious. But, your gear is easily accessible, provided you plan ahead and layout your storage with some thought —when the day is over, you can leave the trailer behind and use your vehicle for personal purposes without the risk of damaging or losing your equipment.

Liquid containment systems: Portable wash pads are an interesting item that people are starting to see more and more around town.

Local municipalities, state and provincial governments as well as their federal counterparts are cracking down on polluters each and every day.

These systems provide an extremely safe way to capture and clean the water used in the wash process before returning it to the ground.

Mobile detailers need to be aware of the regulations concerning runoff in their service areas and know and keep on hand the MSDS sheets from the products they use in their operation.

In today’s marketplace, there is definitely more room for good, quality mobile detailers with a solid business plan.

Be creative, you don’t have to stick with traditional tools and equipment, but you still need to be able to get a quality job done to stay in business and get referrals.

Blake Corkill is a freelance writer with extensive experience within the detailing industry. He is also a frequent contributor to Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine.