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Chad Klinck and his wife, Sharon, had a unique advantage when they decided they wanted to become small business owners in the early 2000s. The Klincks had spent the past few years as accountants in both the public and corporate sectors, and over the years they had seen a myriad of financial statements from businesses of all types.
“We wanted a business where we owned real estate,” Klinck explained. The couple decided that a restaurant would be too much work at night for a growing family, and a deal to purchase a daycare fell through. Instead, the owner of the daycare they were trying to purchase turned them on to a nearby carwash for sale.
“I went down to Oakland, GA, and met with the guy. I looked at the numbers and thought, ‘Man, this looks good.’” Klinck recalled. The rest, as they say, is history.
Building a business
The couple got their first taste of the hurdles that were to come with that very first full-service wash in July 2003. The seller took them to his bank, where the banker told the Klincks he wasn’t satisfied with their financials. Instead, in a stroke of good luck, the seller decided to finance the deal.
That first year was a lot of hard work. “We lived and breathed that one,” Klinck remembered. “My wife worked a lot.”
Only 18 months after they closed on the deal, the seller approached them again. He had a carwash for sale about 10 miles away. Were they interested?
“At that time I didn’t have any more money,” Klinck said. “I decided to call some friends.” The friends who “chipped in” included a neighbor, his wife’s friend’s husband (who would later come on as the business’s operations director), as well as his best friend.
They purchased the second wash in March of 2005. Only a few short months later, the group found another opportunity for a full-serve/quick lube combo and pounced. Then followed another acquisition in 2009, which presented the group’s biggest challenge in the way of renovations. The updated and modernized site opened in the spring of 2010.
Guiding the growth
As Klinck explained, the growth of Diamond Auto Spa & Lube wasn’t entirely planned, although it was carefully managed. He accidently stumbled upon his last two washes through a habit of visiting other carwashes.
“I love to go to other carwashes,” Klinck explained. “I’ll take the day and just ramble. Most of the owners are pretty friendly, too, so we get to be friends.”
“Meanwhile, my wife hates me coming home and saying I bought another carwash. She’s probably ready to hear me say I sold one,” he joked.
But if the growth was accidental, Klinck has mindfully directed his staff and team to make sure the businesses mesh together and prosper as a group. With his last purchase, a neglected site in Buford, GA, Klinck took his time to repair and mold the business in his vision.
“It couldn’t be more difficult to build something from scratch than what we had to deal with on this project,” Klinck said. From dealing with city planning codes and commissions to managing his budget, Klinck experienced the gamut of problems normally reserved for new site construction. The final result is a stunning flex-serve/quick lube location that matches its Diamond Auto Spa counterparts in looks and operational standards, featuring “all of SONNY’S latest and greatest” equipment.
A people person
Perhaps Klinck’s greatest characteristic as an operator is his faith and trust of people. Klinck has empowered his employees and they are frequently his greatest source of innovation and progress. As the chain has grown, so has his team.
“I ran the first store just by force of personality,” Klinck recalled. “You know, I’m a control freak. I felt like I had everything under control.” But as his partners pushed for more locations, Klinck realized he had to build his staff, as well.
After the third acquisition, M. Scott Ballard (remember the wife’s friend’s husband? That’s him) came on as operations director. “By the time we got around to the renovations, we were in much better shape than before,” Klinck explained.
That’s not to say the other stores hadn’t been thriving, but instead the organization and process of renovating the store was conducted more smoothly than Klinck imagined it could have been done without Ballard, a former U.S. Marine.
“The uniqueness of each store is the people,” Klinck said. While the pricing, menu and look and feel of each store might be standardized, there are key staff members who give the location its personality and flavor, he said.
“We have one store manager who might buy candy to give out to the customers, or roses on Mother’s Day,” Klinck recalled. “If it works, we can put it in place at the other stores.”