Creating a system
Years of work inventing equipment and forming a workflow yielded speedy results for one detailer.
When Shane Constable first opened Mint Condition Auto Detailing, he envisioned a more traditional business. “Twelve years ago, my mental picture was a bunch of technical employees, spray bottles, pick up and delivery and big time ‘professionalism,’” he recalled. Yet, when Constable opened his business, he found that this model was not effective.
Today, Mint Condition has transformed into a truly unique operation. From the compact customer menu to the detailing equipment, many items in the shop are not common at other detail businesses. Gone is the large payroll, the excessive employee hours and even the spray bottles used throughout the industry. “We only have one spray bottle that is filled on a regular basis. I believe … eliminating all of the bottles has saved 30 percent of labor costs,” Constable stated.
Exteriors for free
The first thing a Mint Condition customer would notice is the business’ simple four-choice menu. Constable noted that it boggles his mind when he visits a detail shop and it has a tri-fold menu that almost requires a college degree to understand. At his shop, the basic, four-selection menu is split up by vehicle interior services.
Currently, the menu includes:
- $39 for a quick interior cleaning. This service is meant for new cars or cleaner cars.
- $59 for an express detail that includes the interior cleaning plus floormat washing, some extraction and a conditioning of the dashboard and consoles. This package is ideal for a car that is fairly dirty on the inside.
- $99 for a full detail that adds extraction of the entire interior. This selection is recommended for an extremely dirty interior.
- $179 for the final package includes everything in the full detail plus an engine detail and cleaning under the hood and in the trunk. This package is also recommended for SUVs, minivans and larger trucks that have dirty interiors.
Many will notice that no exterior offerings are listed. That is because a full exterior reconditioning and detail is included in all of the packages for free. This includes an exterior wash; a buff, polish and hand wax; rim details; headlight restoration; and a tire dressing.
This pricing structure works because Mint Condition’s labor cost is 90 percent dependent on the interior services. To save time and money, labor saving devices are used inside the car and out. Constable said the cleaning process at Mint Condition is equipment based and system based, not product and professional based. Further, the system allows Constable, his wife Margie and three employees (sometimes less) to perform all the needed detailing work.
Automation: Outside and in
Unlike many detailers, Constable utilizes a number of automated cleaning technologies. On the vehicle’s exterior, the shop uses a wheel and rim reconditioning system, an automated carwash and an automatic polisher. All three systems save time and reduce labor costs for Mint Condition.
The rim cleaning system can clean old wheels in two minutes, and the automatic carwash uses a cloth wash as well as high pressure in four key areas with zero degree nozzles and a spot-free rinse, according to Constable. “We simply park the car in it and … go to work on another car. We don’t sit in the wash and lose labor.”
For polishing, the business uses a Broadway automatic polisher. Constable noted that he has never met another detailer who owns a $45,000 polisher. While Mint Condition employees still hand buff scratches, oxidization, etc., the automated buffer makes polishing a fast process. Trouble spots can be corrected quickly; then the buffer rolls over the vehicle polishing and waxing it in 10 to 15 minutes. The polisher will leave the paint with a shine, touch and feel that “blows you away,” and it can buff the car as employees work on the interior of another car.
For a vehicle’s interior, Mint Condition takes advantage of many unique pieces of equipment. The shop’s floor mat cleaner was invented by Constable, and it high-pressure washes four floor mats at once. Then, the mats go through an automated floor mat cleaner. The specialized mat cleaner required a $15,000 investment for the business, and Constable developed it as a labor saving system.
The extractor Mint Condition uses can spray water from 10 psi all the way to 1,200 psi, and it can dispense the water either cold or at 210 degrees. “It is light weight and you can chisel down to the nap of the carpet and surface … properly extracting the ground in dirt in an extremely fast way,” Constable explained. “Just the handle could cost as much as $1,599 to manufacture, but, again, we only have one full-time employee.”
If Mint Condition employees hardly ever use spray bottles, how do they spray chemicals and cleaners? Constable said the shop has a prep gun system that not only dispenses all of the necessary cleaning products, but it also has high-pressure water, steam, air, cold and hot water and aerosol products.
Further, the company utilizes an interior dressing gun made for the dressing and detailing of air vents, cracks and crevices. The gun also dispenses vinyl, leather and plastic conditioners. In the past, the interior conditioning process took Constable around 30 minutes. With this automated system, he revealed that the time needed is now less than a minute, and the equipment used has the added bonus of rarely needing filling or maintenance.
Following the rules
In addition to using technology, Constable has rules to keep the operation efficient when it comes to employee labor as well. Today, Mint Condition’s business is approximately 90 percent retail and 10 percent car dealerships. Even so, the shop’s employees have not picked up or delivered a single vehicle in two years. “If the dealership can’t deliver the car to us and pick it up, we don’t do it. We only pay for labor that gets the car done.”
Also, the car dealership or retail customers must empty their own cars, and customers are responsible for the vehicle’s contents. The shop almost never details boats, motor homes, motorcycles or trucks over 7 feet tall. “We can do 10 cars faster than any one boat, motor home, etc. How much do you charge for a boat if you can do 10 cars faster and easier than the one boat?”
Inside the shop, the rules and system are set as well. “Everything you ever need should either be within two steps of the car or on your person,” Constable said. “If you’re working on a car and have to stop to fill a bottle, empty the extractor/vacuum, etc., you lose. The game is over.”
What are the results of Mint Condition’s complete detailing system? “Today we get to the shop around 9:45 a.m. with retail customers sitting in their cars waiting for us to open at 10 a.m. We simply unlock the doors, turn on air, power, water and that’s it. Bottom line, it isn’t unusual for us to do 17 full complete details in less than 10 hours with three or four of us, then shut off [the] air, power, water and go home.”
Constable recalled that in August of 2011, Mint Condition completed 97 details in a 43-hour work week with only four employees working. He said these were used, dirty vehicles, not brand-new cars from a dealership. “It was everything from a 20-year-old Suburban to a brand new Mercedes. Ten man hours anywhere else in the world is equal to one man hour at our shop because of my technology.”
The beginnings of Constable’s detailing system started with the almost implosion of his young detail business. Early on, the shop had become almost total chaos, and it would have collapsed except that Constable was “too stubborn and passionate.” First, he fired all of the business’s employees and began doing everything himself, with the help of his now wife Margie.
“There were times I’d work 36 hours straight with no sleep for a lousy eight to 11 cars,” Constable remembered. “Margie would help me drive cars, and I’d work all afternoon and all through the night. The pain of the work led to thinking, my thoughts drove me to experimentation. I can look you in the eyes and tell you honestly that in those first seven years I spent way over $100,000 of hard-earned money on research and development, experimentation, trial and error.”
Constable said he was so passionate that he even became homeless so he could dump money into developing the tools that he has perfected today. At that time he slept in cars, motor homes, on pallets in the shop and snuck into Margie’s parents’ house. On top of that, the shop was located in an area where Constable was getting $55 for a dealership full detail and was lucky to get $95 for a retail minivan.
Still, Constable and his wife sacrificed and put every penny into serving more customers faster and at a lower price. The system the shop uses today eliminates labor in every way possible and is “something magnificent that I know for a fact no one in the world can do.” Through the years, Constable estimates he and his wife have completed more than 40,000 details by themselves. The total grows to over 60,000 with employee help.
Selling the system
One of the benefits Mint Condition’s system offers is that it allows new shop employees to start without extensive training. Constable stated that the system has allowed him to hire a young person that never detailed a car in his life, and it helped him detail cars better and faster than many professionals.
Due to its advantages and success, Constable feels his system “will revolutionize the detail industry” and he is offering it to other businesses. “We are now outfitting a second shop in Connecticut, so we have done two shops other than ours. This came about because I realized bigger businesses than Mint Condition were taking longer, charging more and not even coming close to the quality we deliver.”
With a shop in Bountiful, UT, Constable met and nurtured a relationship with the owner; then he and his wife personally took more than three months to install the system at the shop. Constable hired the electrician and professionals needed to install everything under his direction, and he was personally on-site at the business for 98 days.
In the end, the shop was taken from 30 percent labor costs down to 17 percent, and it dropped product costs since the new system uses only five regular products. Constable relayed a quote from the shop’s manager: “I will never do it the old way again. If this system went away, I’d go with it.”
Constable said he was glad to act as a resource for other detailers, and he invited anyone interested to visit his shop in Ogden, UT. Curious parties can learn more about the system on Mint Condition’s website, search for Mint Condition on Facebook or search YouTube for “buffnshine.”
Carwash: Mint Condition Auto Detail
Owners: Shane Constable
Number of employees: 1 full-time and 2 part-time
Number of locations: 1
Year opened: 1999
Location: Ogden, UT