Congratulations, you’ve made it to 2010. You grabbed hold of the reins, kept your chin up and trudged through into the New Year. It wasn’t without difficulty and persistence, but your hard work has paid off and another year of opportunities is upon us.
I’m sure you will keep a positive focus as we move into 2010, and it’s likely that you’ve already made a few personal resolutions as well as business ones, but I’d like to add one more to your line-up: I pledge to be more active in my community. After all, charity involvement and community activism is the easiest way for any business operator to attract new customers, retain existing ones and foster goodwill.
Perhaps the best example of the effectiveness of this policy was November’s Grace for Vets. Started five years ago by Cloister founder Mike Mountz, this program unites carwash operators (and even other retailers) throughout the country who wish to offer veterans free services on Veteran’s Day. It’s a cause particularly close to my own heart (I’m married to the Navy), and to many other operators — including Mountz, who is himself a veteran. This year, over 60,000 washes were given away for free and over 248 operators (representing more than 500 retail sites) participated. And while that number is significant, it’s really only the beginning as Mountz and others see it.
I could preach here about the importance of giving back no matter the economic climate. In highs and in lows and in the in-betweens, operators are faced with the difficulties of turning their attention away from their business to devote to worthy causes. But let’s not think of these as divided endeavors; what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Reaching out to a local community or charity group will come back to your business tenfold in positive press coverage and market reach.
Our industry has not been without some crusaders in this regard. Whether it be an individual chain like Autobell which devotes time to cleaning up local waterways, or to an organized industry effort such as the WashUSA program started by Mark Curtis of Splash, LLC in Stamford, CT, there are many opportunities for operators to become involved without having to reinvent the wheel. Simply use these programs and operators as a guide for creating your own community/charity program, or become involved in a collective effort like Grace for Vets. GfV even has a website devoted to helping operators gain access to media materials and sample coupons, www.graceforvets.org.
On an unrelated, but as equally important note, the New Year also presents the perfect time to remind your staff members about the necessity of safety at the carwash. Take a moment to review your safety signage and policies as an operator. There were several unfortunate incidents in November, one involving a customer’s death, as vehicles (under control of customer or employee) careened out of control at conveyor carwashes across the country. In total, there were three incidents within two weeks. If you need help designing a program, please refer to the International Carwash Association’s We Care initiative, which can be found on their website, www.carwash.org.
This year will undoubtedly present new challenges and hurdles, but let us also remember the opportunities and chances for success that are given with every new day. Take a moment to review the mistakes and also the triumphs of 2009, plan ahead, and flip the calendar.