Car Wash Express & Splish Splash Car Wash
President Brett Meinberg shares his tips for success
1. What is the name and location of your washes?
2. What is your title?
3. When did your first wash open?
We opened our first carwash in 2002.
4. What type of carwash is it?
It is a Double Tunnel Express Carwash.
5. Number of employees?
We have about 70 employees company wide.
6. When and why did you get started in the carwashing industry?
I was 16 years old in high school working on the weekends at a Subway® located in the same shopping center as a carwash. I saw it being built and I was excited to go work there. My dad tried to talk me out of it telling me I should stick to Subway®.
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The carwash opened and gave away free carwashes for two weeks. I remember this guy running into Subway® and yelled ‘Hey everyone, the carwash is giving away free washes, you have to go check it out’ I think about half of our customer left to go get a free wash. I had never heard of anyone doing that before, I thought it was pretty exciting so I went to get my free carwash, with my free vacuum. I was hooked, and I wanted to be a part of it.
7. What do you like most about running a carwash?
The best part is building a new wash. You get to make all those changes that you are not able to do on your existing locations. There is so much to love about the industry. Taking the muddiest dirty car and [the customer saying] ‘I don’t know if you can clean this in one shot.’ Well, they obviously have not met our “Mud Blaster.” The look on their face is great when they are surprised it came clean. The pure joy of telling a customer that the vacuums really are free. They ask what the catch is, and they still can’t believe it.
The one thing that captured my attention as a teenager when I first started was that I could be helping customers one second, using a welder or cutting torch the next day, doing titrations on the chemicals the next. It seemed like the amount of things to learn was endless.
8. What advice do you have for other owners who are just starting out?
What is great about the carwash business to me is that it is mostly made up of small businesses and not a bunch of major franchises. This means that creativity and innovation are still driving the industry. My advice is to step away and build a wash that you would want to be a customer of. Take risks and challenge yourself to try something new. Those will be the things that separate you from the pack, and hopefully translate to successes. There are so many pieces of advice that would translate to any business, but at the end of the day it takes a lot of hard work.
9. What is the great obstacle you have encountered with the carwash? How did you overcome that obstacle?
I had just graduated college in 2008 [and] we had three washes. We had two washes under contract to build before the end of the year. I was the operations manager at the time. We also had a director of maintenance that was going to build the washes. He had been involved on the first three so he was the obvious choice. Well he quit the month we were supposed to start putting in the conveyor.
So it was now my job to run the three washes and build two back to back before the end of the year to qualify for the accelerated deprecation that was being offered. I had worked in carwashes, but I never had done an install before. So we got all the managers together and some maintenance guys and we built the carwash. I think the oldest person on the crew was 28 years old. Most of us were between 22 and 24. None of us really knew what we were doing, but we got it done. It might have taken a bit longer, but it really helped us understand the business more. We got both stores open on time, and that feeling of our first paid customer was amazing. To see someone come in and pay for something you designed and built was pretty amazing.
10. Do you have a lot of competition? How do you do to stand apart from them?
There are a lot of washes in our area I feel, but I think everyone feels that way. The difference is that I don’t think of them so much as competition. The major challenge we still have is to get people to wash their car more often, and not at home. So my biggest competition is my customer. I spend my time educating them to wash their car more often and at a professional carwash.
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Don’t get me wrong, we try to do our best to stand out from other washes. Well-built facilities, amazing customer service, fantastic landscaping are a few [things we do]. We keep things simple and do one thing really well, and that is creating a quick and friendly experience. And at the end of the tunnel a clean car.
11. Do you enjoy the business? Why or why not?
I love the carwash business. I have been in it now for 11 years, met some fantastic people, and could not have been happier to come work for the wash when I did. I was only 17 when I started so I don’t know too much else that is out there. But I could not imagine [anything] is better than what we do, and what challenge I have on a daily basis.
12. What are your goals with the carwashes?
I think like everyone I have volume goals. We all want to break that record of total cars washes in a day or a year. It is that great competitive spirit that drives the carwash industry so well.
My goal is to be doing this for a long time. To impact the industry for the better. To continue to innovate and problem solve. Maybe come up with some amazing piece of equipment that can wash the back of vehicles at 200 CPH chain speed. We want to build more, and have a great team of managers, that are able to make a living at the carwash and be challenged.
Carwash: Splish Splash Car Wash, Car Wash Express
Type: Double Tunnel Express Carwash
President: Brett Meinberg
Number of Locations:2
Locations: Car Wash Express, Denver, CO; Splish Splash Car Wash, Grand Junction, CO.
Number of employees: 70
Year opened: 2002