Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Burned out? Rekindle your passion

October 11, 2010

Many detailers are on the verge of burnout. Contributing factors include work or stress overload, poor working conditions, difficult customers and co-workers and unfair compensation — all prevalent in the detailing industry.

Burnout affects employees of all ages, genders and races. Burned out employees become angry or depressed, decrease productivity and eventually quit or are fired.

An employee experiencing burnout will have a negative effect on co-workers and the business as a whole.

There are measures employees can take to refuel and recharge, but what if the person experiencing burnout is you — the business owner, decision-maker and driving force behind the company?

Your employees look to you for guidance and answers to their questions. Think of the impact an owner with burnout would have on employees and the detail business in general.

You can take steps to avoid burnout and, if you are already feeling as though you’ve lost control, there are ways to rise above it.

I spoke with numerous detailers throughout the U.S. for their thoughts on burnout, how they relieve stress and some of the pros and cons in the detail industry.

Leaving the business
An informal survey showed 95 percent of the operators I interviewed knew at least one detail business owner who had either ceased operation or sold the business due to burnout.

Only three percent didn’t know any owner who had ceased operation or sold the business due to burnout and two percent weren’t sure.

If you take on all tasks involved in running a detail business, you will eventually become overwhelmed. This is especially true if several things go wrong at the same time. The only way to avoid this is to delegate responsibilities.

The first thing you need to know is you can't do it all yourself. You must hire at least one person to assist in running the company. Often the right-hand person is a spouse which makes management much easier and takes some pressure off you.

But what if you can’t hire an extra person or don’t have a spouse to work in the business?”

As far as a spouse is concerned, well, I’m not recommending you run off and get married. Bottom line — you can’t afford not to hire someone.

This industry can be overwhelming, and even the best business person needs help. Another person offers a fresh perspective which can help you be more productive and make more money.

If you have people you can rely on to help you get the job done, it becomes easier and faster. With a good staff you’ll want to get to work every morning. You can even leave for a vacation or attend a trade show with the confidence your business will be in good hands.

If your business is so lean you can’t even consider another key person, you ought to consider what you are doing wrong.

Be sure to cross-train your staff. Choose your most capable employees and make them knowledgeable in every aspect of detailing and your business.

When you hire the right people and give them the right training, you can practically watch your business run on autopilot.

There are many ways you can relieve stress. Engaging in a favorite hobby, taking time for some outdoor activities, vacation, or simply kicking back and relaxing with a good book are all excellent ideas.

It is important for you to engage in non-work-related activities. Just like a vehicle, life needs preventive maintenance.

Stress is a known cause of heart attacks, strokes and even cancer. It is critical to find outlets to relax.

For many business owners the greatest get-away is the family. Friends are also an excellent outlet.

Everything in life is about actions and reactions, and if you make the right things in your life important, the other things are easier to deal with.

Consider taking off at least one day per week even if it's just to sit and relax or do yard work. You know when your busiest times are and you know how bad the stress can be, so it just makes sense to be relaxed as you enter into it and then unwind after the busy season.

Accentuate the positive
One of the greatest challenges with any job, career or business is maintaining a passion for it. A constant barrage of tasks and financial challenges can cloud the enjoyable aspects of your work.

In this industry, it's easy to become lost in the myriad of bills, labor problems and mechanical difficulties. What once was exciting and challenging has now become a never-ending saga of mundane work.

If you begin to have these feelings toward your detail business, it is time to concentrate on the positive aspects of the business.

Refocus on the things you love about the detail industry. By focusing on the more enjoyable aspects of detailing, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment that tends to get lost in the everyday grind.

Personally, one of the greatest benefits of both the detail and carwash business are the people I have met along the way. I have made many friends in both industries and this is something I concentrate on when things get rough. In fact, I often call these people to chat and relieve stress.

If you can get away to a trade show, you will find they will help energize and refresh your outlook as well as offer you a fresh perspective toward the industry.

Consider charity work, it can provide enjoyment and a way to re-energize your passion for the industry. There's nothing better than the feeling you get from giving to someone else.

It's great to be in a position where you can do so many things to help others. In addition to financial contributions, you can help to create a better image for the detail industry.

When things get overwhelming, remember why you got into the business in the first place and what you most enjoy about detailing are vital to making your company's atmosphere exciting.

The reasons people start a detail business are as diverse as the people themselves.

While the owners I spoke with agree the detail industry provides many challenges, they also cite a variety of benefits. Many operators have a unique perspective on the industry because of the way they became acquainted with it.

Find the spark that first brought you to the business and nurture it. It is the ember which can rekindle your passion.

R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 37-year member of the car-care industry. He is also a member of the International Carwash Association Board of Directors and can be contacted at