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Detailing

The American dream

October 11, 2010
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America is a great country; a country where one day you’re the employee, and the next day the entrepreneurial spirit bites you and you start your own business. There are some obstacles to overcome, but in America, you can do it. This is a freedom that is not always possible in other countries.

For many, this is the American dream to own your own business, be your own boss, and commit to doing it better than anyone else does. This is what drives our economy and country — American small businesses like your detail business.

Do it responsibly
However, the opportunity to start your own business comes with responsibilities and accountabilities that many detail entrepreneurs may never have expected or anticipated. Detailing the vehicle is only one facet of operating a detail business.

For instance, you must understand the legal responsibilities you have in regard to employees, the legal filings such as taxes and licenses, government compliance to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, and of course, the changing technologies are also another responsibility as a business owner. Remember the legal maxim: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

As an owner, it is imperative that you work to refine your technical skills and knowledge, but also how to operate a business. Knowing the differences between detailing cars and operating a detail business is a critical step in remaining in business. There are several resources available today to help you. One I recommend for existing and new detailers is Michael Gerber’s book, “The E Myth.”

Another is a company called, “Walk the Talk,” where you are encouraged to look at their message. Whether you own a mobile detail business with few employees, or a fixed operation with several employees, you need to realize that employees are constantly watching you, your actions, your reactions, and how you do what you say. It is a great message to all: "Let's do what we say we are going to do.” Good advice, but it may be difficult for many to follow.

One man’s tale
Let me tell you about a small business owner who was once a manager of a car dealership collision repair department. One day he decided to pursue the American dream and struck out on his own. In addition to his collision repair skills, he was also an accomplished musician and could write music and lyrics.

Read what he wrote after being in business for a while. As a business owner, you will certainly get a chuckle out of these lyrics. If you are a new owner, this can be a look at your future.

Somebody Pinch Me!
Words by: John Langford

With '06 gone, it's now '07…
… I dreamed that the body shop became just like heaven.

The men were all happy and glad to be here…
…What can we do "boss man," to make this a great year?

You're all grown up now, so be a big boy…
…Things could always be worse, so try to enjoy.

Roll up your hose at the end of the day…
…Treat the equipment with care, it's best that way.

Don't waste supplies, they cost us a bunch…
…Keep up the area where you all have lunch.

Put trash in cans and not on the floor…
…No parts laid on seats, but listenthere's more.

No keys taken home, or locked in the car…
…Interiors spotless, no doors left ajar.

Another dead battery will drive me insane…
…No cars without glass left out in the rain.

When you use the last item, please let someone know…
…Just write it down, be a good Joe.

Nobody wants a cabinet that's bare…
…Do the right thing, show that you care.

Do every car the best that you can…
…Check over your work; Sound like a plan?

No verbal orders, please write them down…
…All would be smiling, not even one frown.

Jumping like elves, the writers would see…
…Men working hard to "be all they can be".

No parts price increase, no parts to send back…
…Every work order gone over and safe in its rack.

Every car ready to deliver on time…
…All the lights working, paint looking fine.

No last minute panic, no five o'clock scare…
…Just grins and giggles and smiles everywhere.

In the distance I hear, "Does this car go tonight?"…
…I want to stay to make sure it's alright.

At the end of the day even if they worked late…
…They stop by my office to say, "This place is great."

You're the best boss that I've ever seen…
…All of those others were just down right mean!

The owner arrives, stunned, but he's calm…
…Finally he utters, "You guys are the bomb!"

Insurance companies would love us and form a big mob…
…Just waiting their turn to say, "What a great job!"

Just how do you do it? Tell us we pray…
…What is your secret? We're so blown away!

I'd point to my men, just like a proud dad…
…I'd shout, "My guys are awesome, they make me so glad."

And as I awake I hear myself say…
…"This must be a dream, IT'S NEVER THIS WAY!"

Permission to reprint has been granted by John Langford, Langford's Collision Repair, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana.

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 Western Carwash Association Board of Directors.

Abraham can be contacted at buda@detailplus.com.