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Detailing

"That's the way we've always done it"

October 11, 2010
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You’ve all heard this definition of insanity: “Someone who does the same thing everyday and expects different results.”

Far too many detail business owners are doing the same thing again and again and hope to get more revenue, more profit, and a healthier income — in short, different results. Unfortunately, it won’t happen. Detail business owners need to use creative thinking and diversification if they want to improve their businesses.

Make thinking creatively a policy
You and your partners and staff should have a “creative thinking” policy in your business. Creative thinking means looking outside of your business for additional revenue and customer sources. Employees should be encouraged to make suggestions and customer requests should be considered opportunities to expand your business offerings.

If a customer asks for a service your business does not offer, do not say “No.” Instead, investigate the “how.” Even if you are not able to provide the service, you should be able to broker with another company or refer your customer to a preferred business.

If you do not already offer these services, you should have a team of cosmetic service subcontractors whom you can call in to do paintless dent repair, paint touchup, interior repair, body side molding, etc. You can make huge profits broking the services and at the same time providing top quality customer service.

We once had a customer call and ask us to detail her boat at her home on the other side of the town, while providing the same quality of service that we provided on her passenger cars. We were confident we could do it, but had never considered this “door-to-door” service. We did it, charged accordingly, and began to do more boats and RV’s at our customers’ residences.

It was this kind of creative thinking that made us into Portland’s premier detail center within six years. We even subcontracted our detail services to a few other detail shops in the area.

Creative thinking
Creative thinking can radically change your detail business.

Case in point: not too long ago, I was speaking with a detailer who has been in the business for over 20 years. He told me that 12 years ago, his business was doing okay, but he was working hard and not getting the kind of return he wanted for his efforts. He was always stressed and was not having as much fun as he thought he would owning his own company.

Then he attended a business seminar sponsored by his state’s Small Business Agency. The seminar’s instructor told the attendees to write out all of their current sources for business — something he had never done before. Then they were instructed to write out all of the possible sources of revenue for the business — something he’d never thought to do before.

He was at it for a long time before exhausting all reasonable sources of revenue for the company. The instructor told him to not worry whether the ideas were good or not, but just get them down on paper.

Then the instructor asked the attendees to write a list of what they wanted from life, including business and family goals. The detailer reviewed where he was today and set short-term and long-term goals.

Following the seminar, he developed an achievable plan for the year. Based on the plan, he wrote out how to implement these ideas. He did no know if his ideas would work or not, but he didn’t care. He had a renewed excitement and was energized about his business and couldn’t wait to get back to see if he could make it happen. And, guess what, it did.

With determination and hard work he decided that he could achieve his goals. In less than eight years, he had the largest detail business in his area. Today, after years of focusing on these ideas and goals, his revenues have jumped three times, despite increased competition and a downward economy.

When you think creatively, you become known to your clients as a company which is far more than just a “detailer.” And this alone makes it more difficult for them to replace you with another detailer.

If you want revenue growth in your detail business, stop calling it a “detail company.” Instead, call it an “automotive appearance provider.” This immediately, differentiates your from every other “detailer” in your area. With some creative thinking you will create a detail company that has many sources of revenue, and a career that is far more interesting and rewarding.




R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a nearly 40-year member of the car-care industry. He is also a member of the International Carwash Association and Western Carwash Association Board of Directors. He can be contacted at buda@detailplus.com.