Professional Carwashing & Detailing

What responsibilities and compensation should a manager receive?

October 11, 2010

Summary: In this installment, Professional Carwashing & Detailing asked Ricky Price, a car-care business owner who teaches the Manager Certification course for the Automotive Oil Change Association, to answer a question posted on the Professional Car Care Online Bulletin Board by a wash owner regarding what responsibilities managers should be given.

Question: What responsibilities and compensation should I give the manager of my site?

Ricky E. Price: There are no simple or easy answers to either of these questions without first determining what responsibilities and authority the owner is ready to relinquish.

In the carwash and fast lube industries, as with many other small businesses, we find that owners are very reluctant to release control; therefore managers are given very little responsibility in running or managing the business.

It might help to list the various duties an owner expects their managers to perform. The list normally looks something like:

  • Take care of the customer;
  • Prepare work schedules;
  • Maintain the facility's equipment;
  • Maintain cleanliness of facility;
  • Order supplies;
  • Conduct inventories;
  • Open and close the shop;
  • Recruit, interview and hire employees;
  • Prepare employee performance reports;
  • Maintain good order and discipline;
  • Discipline employees;
  • Prepare and/or update operating procedures;
  • Ensure daily closeouts are conducted and deposits made;
  • Train employees;
  • Build fleet customer base;
  • Handle customer complaints;
  • Deal with vendors;
  • Plan and prepare advertising; and
  • Ensure shop is Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliant.

Some owners even go so far as to request that managers become responsible for bookkeeping and bill paying. This is a very encompassing list of duties that a true manager may perform.

However, when owners are asked what their manager is actually responsible for, the list decreases significantly.

In fact, most small business managers, such as at a carwash or lube, never perform or are rarely held responsible for most of the items on the list. The owner is responsible for most of the items on the list.

Therefore, the owner is the manager.

Supervisors, not managers

The person titled as manager is more often a supervisor.

He/she is supervising the daily operations, which may include:

  • Opening and closing the shop,
  • Directing the actual work being performed; and
  • Possibly preparing a work schedule among other routine daily duties.
  • Many, if not most of our industry managers, are not prepared to take on all the duties and responsibilities listed before.

    Today's manager may often be yesterday's lube tech or general carwash staff.

  • Can an owner really expect this individual to recruit, interview and hire technicians and other employees?
  • Can it really be expected that this individual will administer discipline to the individuals who were his peers just the day before?
  • Can an owner believe this individual is ready to prepare and implement a comprehensive safety program?
  • And finally, should the owner really let him/her manage assets valued at $650,000 or more?
Moving up

Supervisors fill a very important role in our businesses: they ensure the work gets done.

Supervisors are often the technician or staff member that has excellent skills, but has also shown the initiative to learn more about the business.

However, this does not automatically make him/her a qualified manager.

Maybe, with time, this individual will develop the skills to become an effective manager; however, at this point he/she should be considered a supervisor.

Salary for a supervisor/manager

As to the important question of what to pay a manager, the majority of individuals with the title of manager in the fast lube industry are supervisors.

Therefore, $33,640 is the average annual salary for the supervising individual who is overseeing the daily operation.

Logically, while $33,640 is a good salary for a supervisory position, is it not sufficient to attract a top notch individual to perform all the aforementioned managerial duties and responsibilities.

If the average annual salary for an owner, working as a full-time employee, is $47,331, it must be assumed that he/she is managing the business and is the person taking care of most of the items in the list above.

So the questions should be — if I want to stop managing my business myself, what will I have to pay a manager?

The answer should be obvious. If you are worth $47,331 per year to manage your shop then why would you consider paying a qualified and proven leader and business manager anything less?

Share the burden

If an owner is to ever truly enjoy the rewards of business ownership then a manager, in addition to the supervisor, must be included in the business plan.

Business owners may feel that the business is controlling their life and that they are trapped in 12-16 hour days with no relief in site. The answer is the manager.

Ricky E. Price is the owner of two Flagship Fast Lube centers in Hawaii and helps teach the Manager Certification Course offered by the AOCA. Ricky can be contacted at