Working with consultants and vendors
Whether you are breaking ground on a new facility or renovating an existing carwash, it is important to carefully select the professionals with whom you will be working.
From the accountant to the architect, the attorney to the consultant, the civil engineer to the insurance agent and vendors, you will rely on the expertise and services of these carefully chosen professionals to help you make good decisions.
Dos & don’ts
Some dos and don’ts for forming business relationships:
DO assess your needs before selecting an advisor. How much of the project work can you or your company complete? How much of the work are you going to outsource to vendors? What resources are available from consultants, vendors and equipment manufacturers? How much money are you going to devote to the project?
DO spell out exactly what your expectations are and identify where the consultant can take you. After you agree on a scope of work, the consultant can give an accurate estimate of what to charge.
You should also evaluate the consultant’s qualifications, such as:
- Does the consultant have a positive peer reputation?
- Does the consultant have professional experience working in the carwash industry?
- Before calling to check customer recommendations, think of questions beyond those for which the customer has answers they are supposed to say. This also applies to vendors and manufacturers.
DO hire a consultant with a background in the carwash industry. Providing advice related to investing in the carwash industry and operating a professional carwash is a specialized field and consultants need to know something about what’s going on in the industry in terms of both the internal and external environment before they can design appropriate solutions.
DON’T hire a consultant with a carwash-only background. Industry experience is essential, but a consultant also needs other skills. A consultant who provides analytical services should have the educational background, professional experience and tools to provide technical services in accordance with generally accepted methods and principals.
Consultants also need to have a clear understanding of the carwash planning and development process, the economics of car washing, operations and management and marketing. A carwash consultant should also have experience from the business world that will bring a critical eye and fresh ideas.
DO protect your interests. An independent consultant can help you develop criteria and specifications to form part of the contractor and vendor agreements. Consider the likelihood of a situation where a salesperson, employed by the manufacturer or vendor, would hold up payment to their own company if either the carwash system or installation does not meet specifications.
DON’T choose an independent consultant who receives compensation from vendors and equipment manufacturers. The risk is these vendor/consultants won’t tell you if the products won’t fit the plan. Instead, they will try to fit the plan to the vendor’s or manufacturer’s products. Your solution will be invariably tied to their service.
DON’T use manufacturers and vendors which use their employees to provide investment advice and consulting services. These folks have a clear conflict of interest and a biased opinion. After all, calling an employee an instructor, sales consultant, sales engineer or trainer does not change the individual’s relationship with the profit motive.
If a vendor offers “free consulting,” consider the possibility the expense for these services is buried elsewhere.
An independent, non-vendor carwash consultant has no ties or allegiances to any manufacturer or vendor. Employed directly by you, the advice is entirely in your best interest. You should ensure you, and only you, are paying for the consulting services involved in your project.
Bob is president of RJR Enterprises — Carwash Consultants (www.carwashplan.com). Bob is a member of PC&D’s Honorary Advisory Board and the International Carwash Association. Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org