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Business Operations

Family matters

October 11, 2010
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So what do you get when you add over 750 years of carwashing experience with Louisiana heat, a carwash tour and pig roasting? A magazine editor willing to try raw oysters, that’s what. (And yes, with the help of a saltine cracker and a whole lot of hot sauce, I did manage to get it down.)

But an editor with an overly adventurous appetite isn’t all you’ll get. When multiple generations of some of carwashing’s most fabled families joined together for food, fun and carwash conversation in Baton Rouge, LA, this August, operators got advice, tips and insider tricks to business success.

The “father/son” meeting, organized by well-known second generation washers Jimmy Branch and Benny Alford, was focused on issues of inheritance and passing on the family business. But, like any gathering of carwashers, the conversation soon turned to other topics. From chemical costs to reclaim technology to crime management and cars per hour, these owner/operator shared family secrets and lessons learned from generations of carwashing.

Over the generations
Three families at the meeting boasted over 60 years in the business, a rarity since less than ten percent of most family businesses (regardless of the type of industry) barely make it to the third generation.

Sonny Fazio, a carwashing legend and father to carwashing sons Mike and Paul Fazio, shared story after story of carwashing in the days of pulling chains and dollar-per-hour labor, and also his secret to manufacturing success. (Okay, it’s not such a big secret: hard work coupled with fairness and, of course, lots of that famous Italian passion.)

Jimmy Branch, who had a fourth generation grandson on hand to oversee the action, had another secret to add to the mix: family.

“In any successful business, you’re either part of the family — or you feel like you’re part of the family,” Branch said in his opening remarks at the meeting. Branch rattled off several famous names that are family companies operating in America today: Anheuser-Busch, Wal-Mart, and Ford to name a few. He said many of today’s most reputed carwash chains are family businesses. (Chuck Howard, president/CEO of the second largest conveyor carwash chain in America — Autobell — attended the meeting with his wife, Carmen, son Carl, and two daughters, Kelly and Leigh.)

Continued coverage
Professional Carwashing & Detailing staff braved the heat to attend the Louisiana meeting and flew home (after a four-hour delay, naturally) with more than a few good ideas.

Now that we’re home — armed with pencil, paper and air conditioner units — I’m ready to keep the story going. Look for upcoming coverage on the meeting and on topics that were raised in Louisiana in our November and December issues.

In the meantime, if you have a family story you’d like to share, send us your pictures and recollections. We’re looking for operators who have had success in this business for years and years, and have the memories to prove it.

If your family should be included, shoot me an e-mail at or give me a call, (518) 783 – 1281 ext. 3146. I’m looking forward to hearing your tales!

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