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Business Operations

New carwash company takes flight

October 11, 2010
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At a time when some companies are closing down shop or struggling to stay afloat, Paul Fazio, president of Sonny’s Enterprises, bucked the trend and purchased a new business to add to his already successful carwash equipment and supply lines. Fazio moved NY-based Compuwash, a manufacturer of carwash controllers and POS systems, to his company’s headquarters in Florida and re-introduced it to the industry as Auto Pilot Carwash Control Systems.

Fazio spoke with Professional Carwashing & Detailing about his efforts to re-brand the business and how it’s doing in this touchy economic climate.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Please tell us how Auto Pilot Carwash Control Systems got started.

Paul Fazio: The original company started as a carwash controller manufacturer and is, in fact, the oldest existing controller company in the industry.

About five years ago they decided to add a point-of-sale system to their mix. What was different about their approach was that this POS product was based on a software-as-a-service (SAAS) model rather than a hardware and server installation. Because of that, the cost of ownership is a fraction of the popular POS being delivered today.

Although the company already had a solid controller, it was the potential of this new product that got me excited about investing in the company. Since then, the original business has been re-launched as Autopilot Carwash Control Systems.

PC&D: What kind of company will it be and what will it specialize in?

PF: Autopilot will continue to develop its Wash Pilot controller. It is a solid product and will continue to have features added to it that will help monitor carwash equipment and make it possible to progressively add functionality to that equipment as a business grows.

The POS product may be in its infancy, but it is a great solution for those looking to get away from a cash register or a generic POS product and into a carwash specific product with all of the specialized reports and functions that operators need.

It is in the continual development of software and management features that we see a great benefit for users. In the future, we will be incorporating tools that help monitor chemical usage, direct preventative maintenance schedules according to actual usage, and coordinate inventory and supply with your vendors.

A growing percentage of operators have more than one site. We know we need to offer a complete, cost effective solution that includes education, equipment, equipment controls, POS and cash management, real time web-based management tools, marketing and loyalty program support, as well as direct parts and supply fulfillment.

The operators can choose any or all of these pieces. So rather than making a large investment to develop these processes internally and independently, they can outsource them at a lower cost and get a complete, integrated solution, which allows them to concentrate on their operations.

So although Autopilot will continue to have a solid controller and POS, we see this company specializing in web based POS and management tools for the carwash market in the future.

PC&D: What kind of work does it take to re-brand a company?

PF: We felt the re-branding was a necessary step, as much internally as externally. Handling the name change and marketing collateral was easy compared to easing the seamless transition for the staff and clients. We wanted both to know that any changes we might have would be made as smoothly as possible, and not cause a disruption.

The ownership change was completed in February, and the company was relocated to Florida so that it could share the energy and knowledge of Sonny’s Enterprises, as well as to leverage the strength of our infrastructure. There would be a complete culture change for the company internally.

Externally, we were moving from a more regional player to a national player and, as with Sonny’s, we were going to focus on customer service. We had to stop adding inconsistent features and solidify the core functionality of the product that was in the field. We knew we had some clients that loved the idea of the POS product, but were not crazy about the actual performance.

To show them we felt that this was indeed a new beginning for the company, we re-launched in August under Autopilot once the product was stabilized. In fact, we are already back to adding features again. We did a search for the right person to run this company and found our new company President in Montana of all places.

The company is now fully staffed and in place in Florida. To us the re-branding was to announce the new beginning. The company is positioned well and ready to move forward. It may sound easy, but I can assure you it was a lot of work.