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Two years ago, we spoke with Eric Wulf about his new role as executive director and CEO of the International Carwash Association™. Back then he said he was optimistic about the carwash industry and said his goals coincided with those of the Association’s:
• Support the buyer-seller marketplace;
• Provide education for operators and suppliers; and
• Obtain and maintain environmental recognition for the professional carwash industry.
Now, two years later, we’re sitting down with him again to see how those goals have unfolded and where the ICA will go from here.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How would you sum up 2010?
Eric Wulf: If I had to choose one word to describe our work in 2010, I might choose “partnership.“ We’ve been particularly mindful in recent years to make sure we are reaching out and responding to our members — especially in this market. A great example of an outcome of those efforts is our new WaterSavers™ Alliance with four other carwash associations (the Canadian, Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern and Western) to work collaboratively in growing the WaterSavers program.
Another example in 2010 was a partnership with many of our manufacturing members to develop a new carwash equipment sales report. (That report was released in December as part of our annual Leadership Summit report.) Finally, our member trip to Germany in September allowed us to build on our partnership with European members and associations, which is leading us toward a global summit of carwash associations in Italy in May.
PC&D: What else is happening with the WaterSavers program?
EW: We’re rolling! We’re at nearly 900 locations and with our new WaterSavers Alliance partnership with other carwash associations we anticipate growing the program considerably in 2011. It has already become the most successful membership program in the Association’s history. Letting consumers and water regulators know that carwashes are not “water hogs” and actually protect water quality is in all of our best interests.
I honestly can’t think of any reason why an operator would not participate — for a very affordable annual fee, WaterSavers participants are able to use our brand and marketing collateral to educate their customers and prospective customers about the benefits of professional carwashing. WaterSavers is also increasingly being noticed by media and water regulators, allowing participants to gain even more exposure (including through our online searchable database of locations).
PC&D: What does 2011 hold in store?
EW: Two of the things I mentioned as outcomes of 2010’s work will be kicking off in 2011. We’re extremely excited about working with other leading carwash associations to advance the WaterSavers program and message.
We are also looking forward to the global summit in Italy as a chance to develop relations with carwash associations in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
We’ll also of course be focused on Car Care World Expo (CCWE) 2011.
PC&D: What are the biggest obstacles facing operators/owners in 2011?
EW: My belief is that 2011 will be much like 2010 for our industry, with issues like the economy and lending continuing to impact our members significantly. In this environment, operational efficiency and cost management is paramount. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be asking ourselves how to better promote, package or price a given product, but we have to be looking at making every part of our operations more efficient.
But, even if our economy continues to be sluggish, I do anticipate that operators will begin making more capital investments. In many cases, maintenance and replacement has been deferred about as much as possible. At some point that cost-cutting begins to impact revenue because you put out a less attractive product.
PC&D: what more can you tell us about this year’s CCWE?
EW: What — and give away all the suspense? Seriously, we are planning for a great event. We are moving to a new venue (the Sands Convention Center) and that alone will be a big change for our attendees and exhibitors. We’re also building on the momentum of last year (which set a record for number of attendees participating in our educational sessions) by expanding our educational offerings.
We’re going to continue with the new kick-off event format on the first night and add a celebrity keynote to the agenda. In this market, it is more important than ever that we offer operators, distributors and manufacturers the chance to evaluate products and learn about business innovation — and being with us May 2-4 is simply the most efficient and effective way to do so!