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In choosing the 2011 Most Valuable Carwasher (MVC), a few things stood out with the winner’s nomination form, which was submitted by Kevin Gavigan, who works with him at Crystal Clean Automotive Detailing in Grand Rapids, MI. First off, he’s willing to take on any task, whether or not it’s part of his job description. Secondly, he works hard behind the scenes to make sure the business runs smoothly and does this because he genuinely wants the business to succeed as a whole. And, thirdly, he juggles a lot of responsibilities — often all at once — and yet, other employees feel that they can still go to him with questions or concerns. When one looks up the word “teammate” in the dictionary, next to it should be a picture of Chad Cornell.
According to Gavigan’s nomination form, “Chad’s commitment to Crystal Clean is evident as he begins his workday at 3 a.m., five days a week, to ensure that the workload gets moving in the proper direction every day. …The time and effort he puts into each and every workday is astounding as he even takes on tasks that are not under his realm of responsibility to ensure that everything is done properly, on time, and up to our quality standards.”
How it all began
In 1996, Cornell got his first job in the industry at the Grand Rapids-based Cascade Car Wash. General Manager Roger Buys had been in the carwash industry for 20 years and showed him how to make a career out of cleaning cars. “And,” he said, “I still apply that attention to detail, work ethic, and customer focus that I learned from Roger.”
Cornell learned how to detail by working on cars in a tent that Buys put up behind the carwash. He would work on cars before and after his carwash shifts.
What it takes to be MVC
Cornell said to be successful it takes an extreme work ethic, and by extreme he means that if your competition opens for business at 7 a.m., you should open at 5 a.m.
“I also believe strongly that you lead from the front,” Cornell said. “I am willing to work any position in the shop, I will clean the bathrooms if it needs to be done; I am the boss by title only, I never ask my guys to do anything I am not willing or able to do myself, and no one will work a longer shift than me. If I ask them to work an 11-hour day, I will work 12.”
Cornell said he is also blessed to have an owner, Ross Timyan, supplying him with the best products, newest machines, and a 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that sees an average of 50 full high-end details a day, which equals about 200 man hours of labor per day. They also pick up and deliver cars to over 30 dealerships in the middle of the night. All of those cars mean that Cornell sometimes works 20 hours a day. And, that also means his days can sometimes start at around 3 a.m. Yet, it doesn’t bother him one bit.
“Maybe the main reason I work so much, is because after all these years, I still love to detail cars,” he said. “I love transforming something from old to new everyday. It never gets old.”
Getting the job done right
Upon hearing he was named MVC, Cornell said it was a huge honor, but then accepted the accolade with a lot of modesty.
“To be honest,” he said, “sometimes I don’t handle all of the responsibilities well every time. The people that work in this industry know that a lot of the time this business is organized chaos, with multiple deadlines, special requests, and let’s not forget that we all work on an item that is different every time. And, sometimes I am just flying by the seat of my pants making quick decisions.”
But, he once again credits his staff with helping him to get through it.
“It is a lot of teamwork, no one person alone could make this flow everyday, it is and always will be a team effort here,” said Cornell. “Without each and every one of them I would not be in this position.”