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Baseball and carwashing

It was the most exciting day in your life. . .

August 27, 2012
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Imagine if you will, that you have recently purchased a professional baseball team.

You have always loved the game, and making this new investment seemed like a “no brainer.”

Your team will play in a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility.

This stadium is located in a decidedly up-scale neighborhood, and it is easy to get to for the team’s thousands of potential, raving fans.

You personally selected the modern, bright and flashy uniforms which your players will wear with great pride!

Professional baseball teams all have their ups and downs, you have learned, but most are considered “recession proof” in markets similar to yours.

Yet, at year’s end, your team had won less than half of its games, often against inferior teams, and your investment had failed to show a profit.

How did this happen?

Unknown to you, since you had other interests which required your close attention, your coach, though an “industry veteran,” nevertheless had two fatal flaws:

  1. In many games, he would only field six or seven players;
  2. Also, he had no defined batting order. Even worse, his players hit randomly, and rarely took instructional batting practice. There was no real attempt to score more runs.

As the owner of this failing, but potentially still very profitable venture, what would be your first steps to turn this struggling investment around?

  1. Replace the coach;
  2. Commit to field an entire team of nine players;
  3. Make a serious attempt to improve your team’s performance on the field.

In this unusual example, a purely hypothetical situation, there are two valuable lessons, nevertheless, which every astute carwash operator can learn.

This seriously flawed baseball team, actually mirrors the current state today of the carwash market.

The common uncorrected trends

Quite simply, two destructive and commonly uncorrected trends create an overwhelmingly negative impact upon the needed recovery of the industry:

  1. Most carwashes are operating at 70 percent capacity or less;
  2. Additionally, fewer than 20 percent of owners have assigned one capable person who truly “takes ownership” for their revenues, or who have a written marketing plan.

Moreover, this potentially fatal situation at so many carwash sites also puts every supplier (manufacturers and distributors alike) in a very perilous position, too.

Based on my experience in the industry, I have learned that nothing creates more stress and upset in the carwash value chain (manufacturer-distributor-operator-consumer) than declining carwash revenues in the field.

And over time, a listless, inconsistent and impotent marketing effort at the operator level migrates upward, and this hidden and frequently undiagnosed disease relentlessly will attack and erode both the image and the service capability (and ultimately, the sales and profitability) of even the best and most well-established manufacturers and distributors.

However, like fielding an entire team of nine players, or scoring more runs, these two life-threatening shortcomings can be corrected with timely and accurate diagnosis, and with the creation and implementation of an intelligent, results-oriented action plan.

It ain’t over until…

Yes, this contest is not yet over. But decisive action is required, however.

And at this late date, it remains to be seen how many forward-looking operators and suppliers with the best leadership and coaching (a clear vision of a different, and more profitable future, and an ability to plan, execute and maintain an operator-centric marketing program) will be able now to rally, in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The winners in this game, of course, will be those savvy carwash operators and executives who sincerely wish to gain a sustainable competitive advantage, and have the needed skills and supporting team in place to produce superior economic results.

To be sure, this could be a very disturbing time. This emerging battle will be won or lost in the field, at the operators’ sites, and it should be of no surprise to anyone to realize that both operators and suppliers have a lot of “skin” in this game!

Are you prepared yet to fight this looming battle? In your opinion, how many of your competitors are ahead of you, and are better equipped already to wash more vehicles?

Most carwash operators and execs would agree, this is a profound paradigm shift of supreme importance.

For regular readers of Professional Carwashing and Detailing, consider this sage advice: To achieve the best results during these uncertain and turbulent times, be sure you are looking for the correct solutions to the very real problems which now limit your growth.

In closing, I urge you to follow my blog each week at

As always, I welcome your thoughts and value your feedback.

Together, we can help you capture more customers, wash more cars and ultimately enable you to make more money.

Who can’t like that winning game plan?

Perry has more than 30 years' experience in retail marketing and in business-to-business sales. He can be reached at 770-330-2490, or at

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