In case you needed a reminder, The Car Wash Show™ 2019 is taking place May 13-15 at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. With thousands expected to be in attendance and hundreds of vendors locked in to pack the exhibit hall, this show is going to be too big to miss. 

Each year, this event is presented by the International Carwash Association (ICA), headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. According to its website, “The Car Wash Show is the largest gathering of owners, managers and decision-makers from the carwash, quick lube and detailing segments.”

The association notes that The Car Wash Show 2018 hosted more than 8,700 attendees and 400 exhibiting companies in Las Vegas. 

In addition to connecting with industry peers and seeing the newest, innovative products and equipment on the market, carwash owners and operators can also benefit from the extensive educational program the association has planned for this year. 

Attendees holding a Premium Pass have full access to the program. New for 2019, states the ICA, the premium education program offers a deep dive into areas critical to carwash success. We encourage you to plan in advance by visiting www.carwash.org. 

The scheduled Impact and Breakout sessions include such topics as: The Future of Consumerism, Lead Like a Coach, Future-Proofing Your Business, Embrace Evolution, The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business and much more.  

Still, the best program and venue are not worth much without the organizers and attendees’ efforts and participation. In many ways, the people make the event. 

We recently reached out to carwash professionals who are planning to attend The Car Wash Show 2019. We asked about their previous experience with the show as well as expectations for this year’s big event. Here is what they had to say. 

Jim Gosnell

Etowah Valley Equipment

While I can’t remember exactly what year I first attended The Car Wash Show, it was at the Rosemont Center in Chicago, and they still served food on the airplane. I will never forget the excitement I felt walking along the aisles looking at equipment and the operating tips I received from seasoned veterans of the industry. 

Amazingly, the show seems to improve each year with more focused education, expanded networking opportunities and, of course, impressive displays of new equipment. 

As a new wash owner with no experience, my first handful of years were definitely eye-opening. There was so much to learn, but I set a goal to return home and apply a portion of what I learned each year.

Now, attending the show as a manufacturer, my goals are essentially the same, but the roles have reversed. I want to connect with customers, gather feedback and offer possible solutions to operational problems they may be experiencing. When I return home now, I set goals to implement what we gathered from the attendees.

In my experience, prior show planning is paramount to having a successful show. Just the social component of meeting new (and old) “carwash friends” can consume a large portion of your time at the show. By prioritizing your desired education sessions and time spent on the show floor, you can take full advantage of everything the show has to offer.

If you are only “walking” the show floor, be sure to map out the exhibitors you want to focus on. The show floor is quite large, and you can easily run out of time if you only have a day (or a few hours) to visit.

Steve Homan

Washlink Systems

The Car Wash Show 2019 in Nashville will be the 39th consecutive year I have attended the ICA trade show. Of course, back in the day there were two shows a year, so I may be at over 50 consecutive shows by now. 

The Car Wash Show has always been a big deal, attracting the best operators and vendors from around the world. What separates the shows of today from those 40 years ago is a much higher level of presentations, programs and seminars. For both experienced operators and new-to-industry investors, there are a wealth of resources packed into this three-day event.

Attending The Car Wash Show is a must for carwash owners, managers, investors and vendors. It’s an essential on several levels, such as gaining an understanding of the size and scope of our amazing industry, invaluable networking opportunities with peers, hands-on exposure to all of the latest and greatest equipment and technology, and opportunities to meet and learn from the best and brightest minds in the business, just to name a few. 

No other place in the world can you get all that under one roof. 

It is easy to get overwhelmed by not only the show floor but the myriad of educational opportunities available as well. The Car Wash Show does an excellent job of organizing the event so that, whether you are a new investor, existing operator, carwash manager or whatever, educational tracks are available to help focus your time and energy productively. 

What’s the best advice I can give? In addition to taking care of whatever specific priorities you might be attending the show to address, talk to anyone and everyone you can — no matter where or when. You will be amazed what knowledge comes to you from the most unlikely places at The Car Wash Show. 

Neil Fox

Director of Titanium Carwash, Bunbury, Western Australia

I have only been in the carwash industry for a touch over two and a half years, and this is my first visit to an ICA The Car Wash Show, so I’m very excited about the opportunity to see how it is done in the U.S.

I have a few major reasons for going. I have been told the U.S. market is some 10 to 15 years ahead of Australia in terms of development. For example, we have very few tunnel washes. So, I am keen to talk to operators of these businesses to understand the value proposition and, more importantly, how they market to customers. I’m particularly interested in technologies that would allow us to interact with our customers via their mobile phones so that we can promote the business directly. 

Also, private equity is playing a big role in the U.S. market, and I hope to meet key people from that side, as I am keen to understand how they analyze carwashing as an industry. For example, I want to know what information they look at and what information isn’t easily accessible, because I have a strong belief that this is a position for the Australian Car Wash Association (ACWA) to play a role.

Given that I am also now president of the ACWA, I am looking forward to meeting members of the ICA board as well as the ICA executive team lead by Eric Wulf. ACWA has created a closer working relationship with the ICA over recent years, and we think there are even greater opportunities over the coming years to share information and resources. I look forward to discussions around those topics. I am also looking to gather new ideas and speak with international suppliers about Car Wash Show Australia, which will be held on Australia’s Gold Coast, Queensland, in 2020. 

I have attended many large-format exhibitions across many industries throughout my career, and it can be quite daunting when you first walk in. It is a great idea to mark down the key suppliers you know you need to see as your starting point. From there, you will naturally expand your horizon as new information comes to your attention about the key topics of interest. 

I think it is also a great idea to work out the four or five key areas of interest you have in mind and ensure you tick those off. Sometimes, this will mean going back to the same stand several times as you digest the information and compare it to other opinions. 

The great thing about a show like this is that some of your information gathering happens during the social hours — which is why these types of shows are not just work but also fun to attend. I know that I’ll walk away with six or even eight new relationships, which will help my business in the future. They might be from the U.S., Europe or even back in Australia.

Andrew Zamora

President/Managing member of Racer Wash Management, LLC

I have attended The Car Wash Show three times prior to this year’s event. 

The primary reasons why I attend this event are to gain knowledge of the constantly changing technology and for the networking opportunities that are available with operators from all parts of the country.  

Preparation prior to attending The Car Wash Show is important so that you can get the most out of the time spent at the show. It’s important to develop a goal or game plan on areas that your operation would like to learn about or improve upon. It’s also a good idea to contact vendors prior to attending the show so they can be prepared to address any inquiries you might have about their companies, products or equipment.  

Michael Ford

Managing director of Coast Commercial Credit

My first The Car Wash Show was in the late 1980s in New Orleans, and I loved it. I was relatively new to business lending and was overwhelmed at all the opportunities available in the professional carwash market. That New Orleans expo was my first of many during those early years. I probably went to the annual convention every other year until around 1995. From 1995 to the present, I have attended this show every year. 

From my experience, the best way to maximize your time at the expo is to start by identifying your needs. If you are looking for education, plan out which seminars you want to attend. If you are looking for equipment or services, preview the exhibitor list. Make notes on the location of all the exhibitors you want to visit, and prepare questions.

To this day, I still enjoy The Car Wash Show to the fullest. Many factors contribute to why I go, but here are just a few reasons: 

  1. Friends: After 30 years in the business, it’s great to see old friends and make new acquaintances. 
  2. Education: I really like learning about the newest trends in the industry as well as hearing different perspectives.
  3. Business: The show is always a great place to find new clients, visit with existing clients and create new business relationships.

Finally, I think a good reason to attend The Car Wash Show is because you never know what will happen or what you will get out of it. 

You might meet someone or get an idea that may change your life. It did for me. That’s why I go.