Since 1991, Professional Carwashing & Detailing (PC&D) has asked its readers annually to submit nominations for the title of Most Valuable Carwasher (MVC). This is our magazine’s chance to honor the frontline workers who help keep individual wash locations running and succeeding. When judging what makes a candidate stand out, the editors of PC&D look for a combination of dedication, leadership and an impactful presence at the carwash.
This year’s MVC has all of these qualities in spades. The PC&D team is pleased to present the 2020 MVC honor to Vaughn Mead, a site manager and member of the technician response team for Breeze Thru Car Wash in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming.
Before landing a job as a customer service attendant (CSA) at Breeze Thru in December 2015, Mead had worked several different types of jobs, ranging from construction and carpentry to bike technician, ski technician and cook. What did all these jobs have in common? Hands-on work.
“I’ve always liked working with my hands and getting dirty,” Mead says. “That’s what first attracted me to this job [at Breeze Thru]. In the ad, they had promised to teach employees how to repair motors and pumps.”
Indeed, he got his wish. One of Mead’s best memories of working at Breeze Thru concerns the time when he was entrusted with fixing a site’s high-pressure applicator with motion sensors. “I was just a couple months into my employment at Breeze Thru, and the [equipment] seemed like a very complex piece of machinery to me. I didn’t know anything about it going in but spent several hours reading the manual and wiring schematics until it made sense. I fixed it that night on my own, which was a huge boost of confidence,” he relates.
Moreover, the training and trust that were bestowed upon him, coupled with the authentic care and attention Mead later received as an employee of the company, were part of the reasons he stayed on.
“When I was a brand-new employee, John Agnew, the company owner, had somehow found out that I was taking machining classes down in Boulder, Colorado. He stopped by the site just to give me a basic manual on machining. It was a small gesture but one that meant a lot, since I was one out of 100 employees, and it was the first time the owner of a company had shown me authentic care,” Mead recollects.
In fact, it was this moment that later inspired Mead to follow in Agnew’s footsteps and show employees the same care he had received once he became a site manager.
Mead recalls one particular instance just after his promotion, saying, “When I arrived to the site, there was a CSA that stood out. He was a pretty new employee, but his knowledge of all the equipment and our procedures was what you’d expect from an advanced CSA. I knew pretty much immediately that he could become a site manager in no time. I put a lot of work into developing him, and eight months later, he replaced me as the site manager at that location.”
The moment when Mead handed over the keys of the location to the new site manager became his most memorable one at the carwash.
“This moment stuck out the most to me because I was able to help prepare someone for the future and show authentic care like John had shown to me,” Mead explains.
Related: A carwash manager’s guide to success
Professionalism and friendliness
Showing authentic care to employees is so important to Mead that he even makes sure he’s not the only one doing so.
Wade Keith, brand manager for Breeze Thru Car Wash and the one who nominated Mead for MVC, says, “Vaughn manages up. He calls me out when I don’t shake employees’ hands when I come on-site. This is a best practice that [was] instilled into the culture of our company many years ago. I respect that effort.”
In fact, Keith notes, Mead is the personification of the company’s Quality Policy (formally known as the Organizational ID), which consists of its vision and mission statements, values, goals, products and definitions of who the customer is and what the company is through its employees.
According to Keith, Mead “represents everything our company stands for,” referring to Breeze Thru’s two primary values: professionalism — as defined by respect, responsibility, honesty and hard work — and friendliness — as defined by smiling and having a positive attitude.
“Vaughn is professional in that he puts his job duties ahead of all personal responsibilities,” Keith notes. “I have asked him to go rock climbing multiple times on his days off, and he always has to make sure his managers are performing at the level they need to be before he can commit. He will go in on his day off if they are not performing like they need to be.”
Mead even has a similarly focused attitude when it comes to attaining his own personal goals outside the wash — though the path he has chosen is atypical. For instance, Mead’s goal is to one day invest in a rental property in Northern Colorado. In order to save up for that investment, he has voluntarily chosen to become homeless and has lived in his car for the majority of the last year. That’s dedication.
Mead is also just as dedicated to his team members. According to Keith, Mead treats all employees, regardless of background, the same (keeping his own worldviews to himself) and is passionate about the growth and potential of each one.
Additionally, if Mead disagrees with a way in which the wash is being run, he will be open about it, although in a very respectful manner, Keith states. He is also always the first to confess to a mistake before the company even knows about it.
And, of course, Mead is a hard worker who is never late, is always in the correct uniform and is always smiling, even when the job gets tough, Keith says. But it’s not just in how Mead manages the employees and himself that has Keith impressed. It’s also in how he treats customers.
“I have witnessed Vaughn handle the most intense customer service situations imaginable. During these interactions, he keeps his cool and listens to the customer. Therefore, he handles the situations in the most respectful and professional manner possible. This behavior is a requirement at Breeze Thru. His employees see him and learn. This is leading by example,” Keith relates.
For Mead, however, behavior like this just makes sense, because he knows that the customer experience is everything in driving a business’ success. According to him, it’s not enough to just have the best products and lowest prices.
While Mead says that Breeze Thru aims to provide a quick, easy, professional and friendly experience, he adds, “We don’t aim to exceed customer expectations; rather, we set the expectations and hold them, as this will create consistency with the customer’s experience. The carwash industry is growing very quickly. With ever-increasing competition, the carwashes that survive are the ones that can create a great customer experience and do it consistently.”
Secrets to success
Today, Mead manages two sites for Breeze Thru and is also part of the technician response team. A typical day for him involves training employees; monitoring performance and each team member’s adherence to procedure; maintaining the functionality and appearance of all carwash equipment; handling customer complaints and damage claims; scheduling; instituting disciplinary actions; monitoring chemical usage and maintaining inventory; and managing labor costs and administrative tasks, such as payroll, auditing, checklists and cash management.
With so much to do on any given day, what is Mead’s secret to getting it all done?
According to him, there is no one secret. Part of his success he attributes to his teams at both locations. In fact, he says, the team at his first location was so well-trained that it afforded him the opportunity to run a second location.
“I guess you could say that the secret is to spend as much time as possible with your team, showing authentic care, nonstop training and making sure every single member is the right person for the job,” Mead says. “If you can do that, the site pretty much runs itself, which just leaves the basic manager responsibilities.”
He also notes that completing his own tasks is just a matter of using his time well. For him, this means pausing every 30 minutes to ask himself if what he’s doing is actually making a difference.
And, of course, having a positive attitude helps get the job done.
“Staying positive is all about reframing every obstacle throughout the day. Instead of seeing problems as problems, see them as opportunities for growth for yourself and your teammates,” Mead advises.
As for Mead’s future prospects, Keith believes that, even though Mead works well with employees and customers, he will end up playing a major part in the technical aspect of Breeze Thru’s operation because “the mechanical part of the business really floats his boat.”
“Every company needs a Vaughn,” Keith concludes. “He is a brand ambassador for us. I wish every employee would represent the brand to the level he does. After all, our employees are our brand.”
Past MVC award winners
|2019: Jeff Wagner, Champion Xpress Car Wash, Roswell, NM|
|2018: Jason LeBlanc, Benny’s Car Wash, Baton Rouge, LA|
|2017: Noel Saldaña, The Wash Tub, San Antonio, TX|
|2016: Jose Luis Cruz, Splash Car Wash, Greenwich, CT|
|2015: Mike Hulburt, Autobell Car Wash, Virginia Beach, VA|
|2014: Mark Fox, Cornhusker Auto Wash, Bellevue, NE|
|2013: Elias “Lou” Spellos, Squeeky Clean Mobile Car Wash and Detailing, Virginia Beach, VA|
|2012: José “Joe” Fernandez, Superior Shine in Covina, CA|
|2011: Chad Cornell, Crystal Clean Automotive Detailing, Grand Rapids, MI|
|2010: Sandra Silvestre, Valencia AutoSpa, Valencia, CA|
|2009: Trudy Carlton, Car Pool LLC, Mechanicsville, VA|
|2008: Shawn Stevens, Adirondack Car Wash, Queensbury, NY|
|2007: Aaron Rusbuldt, Shur-Kleen Car Wash, Lacey, WA|
|2006: Juan Avila, Splash Car Wash, Wilton, CT|
|2005: Brian Daigle, Willimantic Car Wash, Willimantic, CT|
|2004: Bob Handt, Mister Car Wash, Roseville, MN|
|2003: Gary Pendleton, Wilshire West Car Wash, Santa Monica, CA|
|2002: Casey Bowmaster, Champion Car Wash, Trevose, PA|
|2001: Roman Zelek, Koziol Car Wash, Chicago|
|2000: Darold Evans, Sandwich Car Wash, Sandwich, MA|
|1999: Marcel Vargas, Splash Car Wash, Norwalk, CT|
|1998: Clifford Mitchell, Bebo’s Car Wash, Mobile, AL|
|1997: Chalmers “Lefty” Jackson, Jax Kar Wash Inc., Southfield, MI|
|1996: Michael Garrison, Beaverton Car Wash, Beaverton, OR; and Marjorie E. McNeil, Clarkston Auto Wash Co., Clarkson, MI|
|1995: Jose Ruiz, Auto Valet Car Wash, Trenton, NJ|
|1994: G. Walker “Paul” Calisme, Exit 13 Car Wash, Darien, CT|
|1993: Mark Ellis, Soft Touch Express Wash, Valparaiso, IN|
|1992: Gary L. Daily, Happy Wheels Inc., Wilmington, DE|
|1991: Norris Brown, Weiss Guys Car Wash, Phoenix, AZ|
Check out this follow-up interview with Vaughn Mead to learn more about his operating and management methods.