On March 24, 2008, Archie Johnson, a well-known industry veteran, sold his company, Superior Car Wash Systems, to Jim Graham and James Gillespie.
Graham was a previous shareholder of Carwash Services, a Sonny's distributor in Arizona, while Gillespie had a background as president of Twisted Cactus Enterprises, a relationship which ended in December 2007.
Graham, acting CEO, spoke with PC&D to discuss changes within the company and how it is bracing itself for the future.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is your involvement with Superior Car Wash Systems?
Jim Graham: I am the acting CEO of Superior — what that means is there is someone more suited than me for this position, however, in the meantime, I’ll fill the spot. I am the sales and marketing arm of Superior, delivering my vision to folks interested in improving or developing their carwash business.
In February 2007, I was asked to become a distributor for Superior to handle the Southern California territory. Within three weeks, I had delivered more tunnel orders to Superior than they had seen in 15 years. Archie Johnson called me in for a meeting one Saturday morning to talk about things. One of the topics was helping him retire. I never expected to get into the manufacturing side of the business, but with the team we’ve assembled, it looks like we’re going to have a lot of fun. So the deal was born on a napkin in a coffee house just like the old days.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Do you know why Superior Car Wash Systems decided to sell?
JG: I believe Archie wanted to see his company grow to its full potential. He saw the energy and vision we were delivering to our customers and I believe he felt that we would be a good fit. I know that others had made offers to purchase Superior, but were not entertained.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What are your plans for Superior? Will it stay the same or will changes be made?
JG: Wow, do you have a week? Superior has wonderful products which in the past have been poorly marketed. We’ll be introducing a new line of equipment later this summer called “Express Carwash Solutions.” In addition to the line, Superior’s culture is changing. I want our customers to feel as though they are family with direct and easy communication and quick access to all of our resources. This will only enhance our value to the quality products being brought to market.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: With the current economy, it could be risky being part of a big business transaction, how will Superior do?
JG: Quite honestly, we are not a company with large overhead and we have room for tremendous growth. By leaning out our manufacturing process, our price points will be decreasing while other manufacturers are having to increase prices to meet or maintain their margins or overhead. Our future is bright.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Why did you decide to get involved in the industry?
JG: This is a long story, so here is the short version.
When I was 13 years old, my family became friends with the Callender family, founders of the Marie Callender restaurant chain. I started working in the restaurants for Don Callender, my mentor, and soon worked my way up from dishwasher/bus boy to bartender/shift restaurant manager and finally to pie crew manager, the most important position at Marie Callenders.
Around the same time, I became a pilot. At 21 years old, I thought my life would be fulfilled with restaurant operations and world class flying.
Then I graduated from school. At my family graduation dinner, Don Callender told me that I wouldn’t make any money by working at restaurants or by flying, and that I should go see a golfing friend of his, Joe Kusmanic, in Temecula, CA. I met Joe the very next day at his twin tunnel full-service carwash, asked many questions, and reported back to Don that the carwash business looked like a good opportunity.
Don told me that he thought that a neighborhood in North Phoenix, AZ, might be a good location for carwash and the very next day, I was off to Arizona not really knowing that my future was waiting for me on seven acres next to one of his best performing restaurants.
I’ve learned many things from Don over the years. He always told me location, location, location, build it beautiful and provide incredible service with fair pricing, and treat your staff like family. He did this 140+ times and was the most successful person professionally and personally I’ve ever known. I worked hard at duplicating his influence.