- Buyer's Guide
- Got A Question?
Just about everyone in the carwash industry knows who Mark Curtis is, his name is synonymous with WashUSA, the annual charitable event that unites carwashes nationwide to benefit kids through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.Wrong reasons, Right outcome
As the CEO of Splash, LLC, Greenwich, CT, and founder of WashUSA, Curtis has been recognized for his charitable efforts by just about everyone; NBC, CBS, and Professional Carwashing & Detailing even honored him with this award two years ago.
Well, he’s won again, but this year Curtis told PC&D a few secrets behind his success. First, he revealed that he originally became involved in charities and supported causes to gain publicity for his carwash.
What Curtis didn’t expect was how his involvement and experiences would change his heart and his life. He’s not the same person he was when he established WashUSA, and he’s glad.
In fact, according to Curtis, sometimes it’s okay for people to become involved with charities for the wrong reasons, because there’s a chance that someday they’ll do the right thing for the right reasons.A guiding force
Throughout his many endeavors and life choices, one thing has constantly guided Curtis — his family.
According to Curtis, he got a lot of his entrepreneurial spirit from his grandfather, an Italian immigrant who opened his own successful plumbing and heating firm, and his drive from his father, an “Old New Englander” who remained strong through the depression, WWII and cancer.
Curtis has followed their examples and tries to lead his employees by his own.
Curtis believes in recognizing the efforts of those working hard and understanding that their success contributes to his success. That is what he thinks really motivates people.
He was right, Bill Trabulsy an employee at Splash Car Wash was motivated enough to nominate Curtis for this honor, and his example has propelled him into the winner’s circle.
Henry Dubinsky, CEO and chairman of the board of Waterway Gas & Wash Company, Chester-field, MO, believes the only way to provide high-quality service and keep customers coming back is to employ talented, hardworking individuals.A long term relationship
Dubinsky has been in the carwash industry for over 30 years, was the International Carwash Association (ICA) president in 1996, owns 15 carwashes, has a law degree, a successful company and an excellent work philosophy.
Waterway could be considered a family business because Dubinsky’s washes have approximately 25-second generation employees. This surprising fact has to do with:
Dubinsky said the optimal candidate for a management position is someone who worked at one of the washes when he or she was in high school and returns after college looking for more responsibilities and a larger role with the company.
Dubinsky encourages his staff to return because he believes that building a solid foundation begins with trustworthy, reliable employees.
Customer service improves when employees are selected from a qualified pool, are properly trained and consistently evaluated.
Dubinsky offers incentives such as the scholarship program to his workers.
Superior employees will provide quality customer service, ensuring that customers will return and profits will rise.
At all six Flagstop Carwash locations in Virginia the customer is number one, and everyone knows it.
Bob Schrum, Flagstop owner, makes certain that each employee understands who’s at the top of the totem pole.Uncompromising customer service
Schrum dislikes when his employees call clients by their car types — he’d prefer “John Smith” over “Red Chevy.”
Schrum realizes that while the quality of the car-care service is important, sometimes customers are willing to overlook a mistake or a less than exceptional job, if they are treated with respect and courtesy. Taking that extra step may just make the difference.
So, although he claims he is an owner who likes to have fun with his employees, he admits that if his employees were questioned, they might say he is a bit obsessive about customer treatment. But, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Schrum’s facilities have gift shops, cozy fireplaces, anti-que collections and business centers. A customer can shop, relax, snack, or even fax at many of Schrum’s locations.
In the future, Schrum hopes to further the selection by adding Internet capabilities to his sites.
Schrum’s commitment to the customer and continuous efforts to meet every person’s needs has helped him stand out in the automatic industry and win a spot in Who’s Who in Car Care.
Dan Eckenberg, Enchantment Mobile Wash and Detail, Boise, ID, started the Mobile Works (www.mobileworks.com) online resource: a website for customers to find detailers in their area, and for detailers to trade tips and tricks.
Eckenberg’s website was first laun-ched in 1996, and is now a source for both business owners and consumers.
Mobile Works off-ers detailing information by detailers, and also hosts a number of online chat forums for users as well as exclusive vendor forums that target industry partners.
Eckenberg’s detailing directory (www.detailingdirectory.com), allows customers to find detailers in their area that can accommodate what they need for their vehicle without having to perform lengthy searches online or open a phone book.In reflection
Eckenberg said that he’s been humbled by the success of his websites, and appreciates the positive feedback that he’s received by everyone who has contributed to the sites.
“I’m always looking for new ways to expand the site and get more participation from professionals,” Eckenberg said.
Most recently, Eckenberg has formed an additional section to the detailing directory to cover airline detailing as well.
Jim Hammill is working to promote and maintain an association for professional detailers. He currently works as a detailer for a General Motors dealership.
According to Hammill, the dealership work maintains a medium pace so as not to rush the detailing, and also allows him access to technical information from auto makers.A full-time job
While not working on the dealer’s cars, Hammill runs his own detailing business called Det-Tek, and also acts as the co-founder of the Professional Det-ailing Technician’s Association (PDTA), a grassroots organization that kicked off last year in an effort to become a foundation for the detailing market and those involved in the industry.
“We’re starting to develop some relationships, not only with the OEMs but the suppliers themselves,” said Hammill, whose technical knowledge and connections allow for the exchange of vehicle model information through the PDTA’s network.
For the coming year, Hammill said that he hopes to push forward with the PDTA and hopefully offer a type of license agreement to car-care suppliers in order to certify or test products used by detailers.
“We want everyone in the association to have access to the right information — right from the source,” said Hammill, who added that with the help of the association’s information exchange, detailers can make more informed decisions, rather than just trial and error detailing.
White Glove Auto Detailing was first established about six years ago in Aurora, CO, with owner Kevin Reflow later relocating in Westhills, CA, where he is now able to profit from detailing mostly high-end vehicles in the car-care friendly California weather.
Aside from automobiles, Reflow and his White Glove crew also work, from time to time, on trucks, RVs, boats and even airplanes.Making a good impression
Reflow said that he’s earned a name for himself as a detailer, but credits most of his success to hard work and word-of-mouth from impressed clients.
According to Reflow, most of his customers drive luxurious models and live in and around Beverly Hills, where he targets his advertising.
Reflow said he’s done well from an annual flier business campaign which targets businesses and residential areas in Westhills and four or five of the surrounding towns.
“It’s a difficult business,” said Reflow, “but as long as you have good prices, do good work and are reliable, then you’ll absolutely have no problem in this business in California.”
As far as for the year ahead, Reflow said he has two new detailing services in store for his customers.
Finish treatments may be suggested to some customers who may want to protect the front end and the side mirrors from harsh rocks and debris, Reflow said.
Reflow also said that he’s started to off-er window chip repair to customers.
Keith Brasuell, owner of a CITGO Fast Lube in Ruston, LA, that is part of the LCar of Ruston car-care facility — a four bay lube shop with eight self-serve bays, 10 vacuum bays, one in-bay automatic, c-store and a complete hand wash and detailing service — said that he believes in the 1+1+1 = 5 theory.
“[It’s] new math…the combination of offerings we make available to out customer is clearly greater than the sum of the individual parts,” Brasuell said.
According to nominator Dave Kunkel of CITGO, this “new math” simply means that Brasuell cross-promotes every profit center he has onsite and makes a killing doing so.
Brasuell’s car-care facility is located just minutes from Louisiana Tech University and he sees college students, university employees, and local professionals; Brasuell markets his business to all walks of life.
Recently, Brasuell went so far as to cross promote his lube business with his pizza shop — the Brasuell family also owns a franchised Pizza Inn location — and sent about 10,000 coupons to the campus offering a free one topping pizza with the purchase of an oil change. The response has been tremendous, he said.A winning combination
The fast lube wasn’t always part of Brasuell’s center — the c-store came first, followed soon after by his self-serve bays and then the lube center was installed.
A typical stand-alone lube location in Brasuell’s area might work on about 40 or 50 cars a day, Brasuell’s location does between 70 and 80.
The whole really is greater than the sum of LCar’s parts. Each business boosts the other, proving that Brasuell has found a winning formula.
Jeff Brooks, general manager of Jiffy Lube, Knox-ville, TN, is the quick lube guru for Pinnacle Sales Com-pany’s (doing business as Jiffy Lube) seven Jiffy Lube locations in the Knoxville area.
With over eight years of experience as a Jiffy Lube manager, nominator Matt Paine, senior account executive for Pinnacle, said that Brooks is the resident “go-to” guy for any issue had by the six other operations.
“When it’s time to train a new manager [Pinnacle] sends that individual directly to Brooks,” Paine said.
According to the nomination, Brooks has trained more than 30 individuals into Pinnacle’s management ranks.Competing against yourself
Not only is Brooks is a guru, he is also a strong competitor and has not let new locations, even those built by his location’s parent company, halt his growth.
Paine said that, in spite of new locations taking a few cars away from his business, Brooks built his car counts back up to 11 percent higher than they were before the new locations opened.
In fact, another competitor located just 200 yards from Brooks’ center went out of business due to the stiff competition from Brooks’ location.
“Jeff earns the deep customer trust that brings in friend and family referrals,” Joe Gleason, vice president of sales and marketing for Pinnacle, said. “That’s the mark of a great manager.”
Three years ago, RocketLube opened in Tulsa, OK.
What is unique about this location is that it has maintained the same group of employees for those three years; this is due largely to the work ethic of Rocket-Lube Manager Tim Rollyson.Employee retention = customer retention
Citgo’s Dave Kunkel, Rollyson’s nominator, said that Rollyson’s ability to maintain his staff has lead to a customer retention rate exceeding 85 percent since the facility first opened its doors.
Maintaining the majority of his technician crew and everyone who is part of his management team is one of the many qualities that set Elliot apart from the rest.
Another differentiating quality that Rollyson mentions is that this location is one of the few places where customers can get a 15-point oil change service and a complete carwash with vacuuming and hand dry in less than 30 minutes.
Scott Eichlin started the first Miracle Car Wash in Harrisonburg, VA; seven years later, he owns four successful washes.
He attributes his success to his fabulous marketing plan.Cost-effective marketing
In any business, marketing and advertising can get quite costly, but Eichlin manages to use only three percent of his revenue on marketing.
He is able to spend so little capital because his most effective form of marketing is free.
Eichlin’s relies most on word-of-mouth advertising. He encourages customers who are happy with their service to tell their family and friends.
The main objective for Eichlin is customer satisfaction, not picking up the revenue once a week.
At Miracle Car Wash, the employees are an important piece to the puzzle — they are friendly and genuinely care about the customer and their needs.
It is very important for an employee to pay attention to details. Oftentimes, they will notify customers that they need some repair work before they even realize that something is broken.
Eichlin keeps customers happy by offering wash cards that keep track of the customer’s usage and give them every sixth wash free, as well as a free wash in the month of their birthday.
In a small town like Vernal, UT, customer loyalty is easy to gain and easy to lose.
That’s where Rory Morton of Mort’s Car Wash Inc. says customer service comes into play.
Morton said that if his equipment doesn’t work properly he’s out there hand washing the customer’s car and providing them with a full refund.Customer service isn’t just about the employees
Morton said that he has six employees that take care of his 10-bay self-serve carwash and one in-bay automatic during all operating hours.
Morton said that the equipment at his wash sets it apart from the rest.
Of the four competing washes in Vernon, Morton’s has the most water pressure, the cleanest wash, the best staff and is just able to do more business and keep more customers happy.
This is also evident in Morton’s WashCard transactions.
Ryan Carlson of WashCard Systems, Hugo, MN, said that the numbers he sees coming in from Mort’s wash on a weekly basis are unreal.
“They do an insane amount of volume,” Carlson said.
The WashCards are used in the in-bay, self-serve bays and vacuums, but Morton said that approximately 70 percent of transactions from the WashCard occurs in the self-serve bays.
According to Morton, what really sets his wash apart from the rest is cleanliness.
“There are plenty of bays and we’re always cleaning them. We’ll wait for a car to pull out and we’ll shovel (the mud out) and wash it down so that the next car can have (a clean bay).”
In Morton’s area, where he said mud is quite an issue, that’s reason enough for customers to keep coming back for more. And come back they do.
Shel Spivey, owner of eight Happy Bays Car Washes in Arkansas recognizes that carwashes need to evolve with the times.
Spivey’s belief is that a carwash is just like any other business; it’s got to reinvent itself all the time or it will go stale.
Happy Bays Car Wash provides customers with a clean car, but beyond that it offers entertainment.
Rather than stick to the basics that have already been established in the carwash industry, Spivey decided to reinvent the carwash concept with his theme wash. The 50s theme includes music from the oldies, bubbles, light shows and kiddie rides.
The new idea was to sell an experience. In Spivey’s own words, “either you’re going forward or you’re going backward. It’s hard to just run in place.”Dual relationships
Spivey has multiple relationships with his customers.
According to Spivey, at a bank, if a customer only had a checking account, and he or she became angry with the bank they had no problem leaving.
However, if a customer had a loan, a credit card and a safety deposit box with the bank, and they became unhappy with one of those things, it was less likely that they would leave.
Spivey sees the same thing with his wash. If for some reason, a customer isn’t completely satisfied with a wash one time, he or she is less likely to go somewhere else because Spivey offers entertainment on top of washing.