Neil Hitchcock, former operator vice president of the International Carwash Association (ICA), also owns Oasis Development and Management in Ocean City, MD. In a recent conversation with PC&D, Hitchcock outlined his goals as president and explained why he is so invested in the ICA.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How and when did you get involved in the carwash industry?
Neil Hitchcock: Like so many of our members, I entered into the carwash industry because I saw a terrific business opportunity and decided to take a chance. I’ve been a builder and developer for more than 30 years and spent several years investigating the carwash industry before entering.
I’ve now been in the carwash industry for more than 15 years. I’ve been primarily an in-bay automatic and self service operator, but am opening my first conveyor wash this month.
PC&D: Why did you want to be a member of the ICA board of directors?
NH: Being a carwash owner I understand how important the ICA is to my daily business. I accepted an invitation to serve on the board of directors because I believe in giving back to an industry that has given me so much. Because a “rising tide helps all the boats,” I want to support the health of our industry, and thereby all our businesses, by giving my time to the ICA.
PC&D: You formerly served as Operator Vice President, what did that role entail?
NH: The ICA’s board of directors has a five-member executive committee, which includes the operator vice president. The position is more important from a leadership transition perspective rather than having a different role or authority than any other board member.
PC&D: What kinds of things do you hope to do as president?
NH: My goal is to do my part to help the board of directors and the ICA achieve its goals and mission.
My role as president is not to set the association’s priorities, but to ensure that priorities have been set — and are being effectively and efficiently pursued. Our board of directors is composed of leaders from the supply and operator side of our industry, some of the best minds I’ve ever met.
We challenge one another, and our management team, to deliver the best solutions for our members and our industry. It is our strategic plan, not any individual director that guides our association
PC&D: What are some of the challenges facing the industry that you would like to address as president?
NH: The ICA is committed to being our members’ most important business partner. I personally know that this has been a challenging year.
No one on the board of directors has been immune from the environmental and economic challenges faced by carwash operators and suppliers. I, and our board of directors, believe that a carwash operator’s most important investment is in his or her self.
Therefore, the ICA has invested heavily capturing operational and managerial best practices from carwashes across the country. You’ve seen these distributed in the form of The Cleaning Edge, our monthly video program.
Also, in 2007 we’ll be conducting the industry’s most comprehensive consumer study, with preliminary data scheduled to be released in late summer.
We’ll also be hosting five New Investor Seminars and continuing with our peer-to-peer consulting groups (BIGs, or, business improvement groups).
PC&D: What does the future hold for the ICA?
NH: Great organizations get in front of trends, they don’t just follow them.
In order to remain the leader of the professional carwash industry, our board of directors spends the bulk of its time identifying the future trends and needs of our industry.
We are fortunate that Car Care World Expo remains our industry’s most important trade event, and there is even more we can do to facilitate carwash commerce. We are privileged to be the industry’s voice to media and government, and there are more opportunities for us to share the good news of our industry from a small business, environmental, investment and community involvement perspective.
We receive rave reviews on our educational sessions, The Cleaning Edge videos and our Business Improvement Groups, and there is a huge market for the Association to provide knowledge and networking to carwashers. As successful as the ICA has been over the past 50 years, I believe the future is even brighter.