Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Searching for a successful staff

October 11, 2010

One thing carwash operators are learning today is that a good detail manager and staff of employees are a critical part of a successful detail operation.

A manager must be equal parts customer service rep, sales person, team leader, detailer and cleanliness inspector.

A people person
The key traits of a good manager or employee are leadership skills and/or good values.

Try to find people whose personal values align with your business’ values.

Individuals who really care for other people, who like to interact with others, who are open and honest, and who can help others develop and grow are the top choice. Those individuals help create a team.

The detail business is dependent on volume as well as speed. Detail managers and/or employees need to be individuals who thrive in a quick-paced environment.

Plus, they need to ensure the image of the detail department is appealing to the customer and that the customer goes away completely satisfied.

The manager must have the ability to effectively communicate with employees, suppliers and customers. Finding the right person for the job is no easy task; a fact that many operators can attest to.

An owner must invest a lot of time, energy and money in finding and developing a manager and staff that are team players.

Lead rather than manage
When thinking of a manager the term leader represents the philosophies of team building, as opposed to manager, which sounds more authoritarian.

A good leader is a person that people want to work for, not feel they have to work for, and there is a big difference.

A manager is fine, but if you want someone with leadership skills who can direct the operation, you’ll need more than a person who simply manages.

A detail shop owner should look for candidates who have led people, rather than decent detailers, or people who have just managed.

But, how does an owner find these store leaders or directors? For many businesses the first place to look is from within.

Moving up
Some companies have a policy that focuses 100 percent on internal recruiting for management positions.

If you use consultants you should have a management training program where you can identify employees who are performing well and give them training in both management and detailing. These programs also offer the benefit of carrying some prestige.

For instance, a carwash line person who has been deemed a management trainee will feel slightly elevated.

When an owner promotes from within it is likely these individuals have been in the system for a few months/years and know what the company is all about.

More and more companies, in all fields, are adopting this system of internal recruiting and promoting existing employees.

The key is to identify set criteria. Find a candidate and put them in the role of an assistant manager. After that they should spend a few months learning how to lead and manage.

The successful companies will keep potential management candidates as assistant managers for up to a year before they give them responsibility to manage the detail department.

By then they should be almost the ideal of what the carwash owner wants from his managers.

They have experience with what the carwash stands for in terms of value system and image, they have their managerial skills refined and they are able to walk into the role and take the reins of the operation with success.

Training is essential
An operator needs to train his or her detail manager and/or employees on the soft skills like customer service and team building, as well as the technical aspects of detailing.

Some areas of the country pose a challenge in terms of recruiting for detail shop managers/employees. It is difficult to recruit in California, for example, simply because of the concentration of people and the labor pool available there.

There are some areas of the country where it is more difficult to find qualified candidates, especially in small states and the far-reaching communities where there is not a large population.

One important thing to look for is the willingness to move and relocate out of a region, state or city. There are some great candidates that can and will move for the job.

Reducing turnover
Reducing employee turnover in the detail industry is one of the greatest challenges that owners face at both the line and management levels.

If you do not give employees the respect and treatment they deserve, you will likely lose your best managers and employees to another industry, or worse, to the competition.

You must offer incentives such as:

  • Benefit packages;
  • Tuition reimbursement; and
  • Reward programs to all employees.

It will not only attract good candidates, but it will help keep existing employees happy and proud to come to work every morning.

Carwash managers can be paid anywhere from $36,000 to $75,000 or more. Why? Because the operator knows this is necessary to get a quality candidate.

How can you expect to have a profitable, well-run detail department paying only a few dollars an hour?

Keep in mind with the turnover like it is in our industry, if you can find the right people pay them well and your customers will return. If you have a high turnover of employees and managers you will lose customers.

Give your employees a reason to want to make their way to the top. Offer salaries and benefit packages equivalent to a good job in a larger company.


R.L.”Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR. Bud is a 36 year veteran of the carwash and detail industries and currently serves on the International Carwash Association Board of Directors. He can be contacted at buda@detailplus.com.