The story of Synergy Solutions

One step to synergy

Synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

They say there is power in words. It seems there’s no better example of that than Synergy Solutions. We’re not sure if Founder Pete Denissoff had that in mind when he started Synergy in 2003, but it certainly has come full circle. We sit down with the Synergy team to discover the beginning, growth and current state of their technology and business. We end up touching on a couple of different topics in our discussion.

Polymer roots

When it comes to polymer innovation and technology, many wouldn’t think of Akron, Ohio, as one of the global hubs; however, due to its roots in tire technology (Goodyear, Firestone, General and Goodrich all started in Akron), the heart of Summit County actually accounts for more than 400 polymer-related companies. This has led to Akron being one of the top polymer research areas on the globe.

Having the foresight that innovation and technology rarely lose in the long game of both business and life, and residing just 20 minutes south of Akron, Pete consulted with the University of Akron’s School of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering early in his goal to make carwashing simpler, more efficient and most of all, more effective.

So how does this use of polymer technology affect carwashing, chemical application and your business in general? Glad you asked.

Continual and specific engineering

In addition to traditional chemistry methods, polymer engineering would be easier to describe as a type of genetic engineering. In other words, with polymer science and engineering, one can specifically engineer chemicals to interact with distinct surfaces and dirt on a molecularly designed level. Furthermore, it’s continually customizable to account for seasonal and geographic changes in cleaning and protection, as well as
environmental (dirt) and surface chemistry (paint and ceramics) variations. In fact, the Synergy team even offers different solutions for distinct regions of the country.

One headache wash owners run into with traditional methods is the relationship of alkalines and acids regarding the charge of the vehicle’s surface. The molecular charge of the dirt, car and chemicals all matter in the results of not only the dirt coming off and staying off the car, but also how it shines and how the water “breaks” (in other words, how dry the car is after the drying process). Many washes struggle with this balance every day. Contrary to all those worries, polymer technology can efficiently optimize and simplify these processes without damaging the vehicle surfaces. This may not seem like a big deal, but in many ways this is a game changer.

As paint surfaces evolve (many manufacturers are switching to more environmentally friendly paint technology), the “genetic engineering” part comes into play. These polymer products are continually being improved and advanced as both environmental and other variable factors shift over time.

Regarding sealants and waxes, Synergy’s chemist explains, “The polymeric technology in our cleaners prepare the vehicle’s surface to allow protectants to do their job by creating high water contact angles for drying, increased protection and durability, meanwhile halting redeposition of dirt and grime back onto the vehicle.”

Safe and non-corrosive

More significant advantages of polymer engineering include the “non-corrosive” nature of most products and the improved care for vehicle surfaces and employees. Surprisingly, this is the first attribute that wash owners who were interviewed had mentioned. Owners stated that they didn’t have to worry as much about their employees burning themselves when changing barrels or hoses, or hazards related to continued aeration of chemicals in the tunnel. Lowering liabilities is more important than ever in our current climate of small business litigation. Increased awareness of work environmental hazards is a priority.

We ask Pete Denissoff of other advantages. “When you look at a back room with our chemicals, even after years of use, you’ll notice much less failed foot valves, clogging tips and corrosion of equipment. The negative effects have been engineered out,” he says. 

Leveraging innovation and technology, Synergy’s green products offer efficient and effective washing.  
Gone green many moons ago

Pete touches on his thoughts on going green in his reply as well. “The green movement wasn’t much of a thing 20 years ago when we started, it was just a natural result of polymers. There is a major difference in philosophy between designing something to clean better first and then looking at how green it is, versus designing something to be green first and then to clean. Many ‘green’ chemicals fail to hit the mark regarding performance, however with us working with polymers for decades, we genuinely have both attributes and we’re very grateful to have embraced this so early. It’s given us a huge advantage in the sector: and we never had to sacrifice performance.”

Engineering a team with chemistry

We ask Pete about the consistency and growth of his company over the past 20 years.

“Synergy wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my wife Sharlene and support of the whole family. We truly are a family business and it’s taken all of us to get where we are.”

“As for the spike in growth the last three years, my son Stephen joined us in 2020, and he’s taken us to another level. Stephen is confident, humble and hard working. But honestly, that’s just a bonus. Nothing makes me happier than just being able to work with my son every day. It’s genuinely a dream come true.”

While Pete’s son Stephen Denissoff grew up washing cars, cleaning pits and riding around with Dad on sales calls, the experience of youth was just the start of his qualifications. Stephen has a degree in mechanical engineering and continued education and experience in continual improvement processes and leadership.

When asked about coming on-board and working with family a few years ago, Stephen replies with mutual appreciation, “All businesses have their challenges, but the one thing we do really well here is we don’t bring ego into any discussion. Whatever makes the most sense, whoever brings it to the table, that’s what we go with. We’re also not afraid to admit we’re wrong or when we make a mistake; it’s all about moving forward to the common goal, and that is to treat the customer right and make them happy.”  

“While we’ve had to scale internally during this growth, we’ve been very intentional that we scale in a manner that we don’t lose what we’re good at, and that’s working with the distributors and end users [wash owners] on an educational and personal level.”

Synergy Solutions’ advanced chemistry provides different solutions for distinct regions. 
Reactions in the carwashing community

What have you noticed in the current state of carwashing? 
“We’ve noticed lately with the wash sector growing so fast, often new builds are slammed together with very poor and overcomplicated setups. As a result, they are spending way more money than needed to get a car … well, to not even get the car clean. We’re here to genuinely educate and help wash a car better, safer, simpler and in many cases cheaper. We have an advantage to this with our polymers, but there are always obstacles to overcome.”

What are some of those obstacles?
“Really it’s belief. There have been so many gimmicks and snake oils in this business over the decades that when something comes along that is a broad spectrum improvement on all levels, it’s hard for people to believe … until they try it.”

Please explain “until they try it.”
“For one thing, when wash owners try our chemical, we give a real effort to help them set up and educate them. We’ve even expanded our training programs in-house for this reason. Secondly, due to our chemical’s engineered nature, it’s much easier to set up. We couldn’t possibly add up all the times that we see washes using an exorbitant amount of chemical due to the complication of so many factors, including playing the pH high-low game. With our polymers it’s simply … simpler.”

“But that’s just on the set-up side. The cleaning results with a simpler and safer setup is what really draws people to us. We just have a way of washing cars with so much less complication that it often results in a much more consistent wash. It’s really hard to compete with innovation and developing technologies, and this is why Dad decided on this direction 20 years ago. For the industry as a whole, the cleaning process itself hasn’t changed much the past few decades. We really doubled down on the engineering side of chemicals and feel it’s truly paying off.”

Can you give us a specific example of simpler yet cheaper?
“Sure, let’s start with in-bays. Being in Northeast Ohio, we’re in the heart of Petit country. An increasing number of Petit owners out here, and now across the country, are embracing the 4-pass wash. They use one of our presoaks. Next, they apply a sealant, wax or our ceramic (something we are very proud of) in the high-pressure pass. Lastly, spot-free, and boom, the car’s out the door. Together we’ve washed well over a million cars with this set up. The customers are out in under three minutes, the owners are typically using much less chemical, and the washes themselves push twice the volume than IBAs have ever seen. It’s all about profits at the end of the day and this set up has changed the IBA industry by a huge leap.” 

“This is one example of the ‘don’t believe it until they see it’ mentality that we often talk about. It’s just hard for people to conceptualize how something can be simpler, more effective and cost conscious.”

Pete chimes in, “If technology and engineering aren’t making life easier on all levels, there’s no reason to adopt it; that misses the whole point. When we embraced this direction, it had to make sense on all levels. Fortunately for us, it all worked out exactly as innovation should, and we have a product better for all parties on all levels.” 

“It’s almost like comparing modern hybrid vehicles. In the past, cars could either be safe and heavy, light and fast, fast and not fuel efficient, slow and fuel efficient but not safe, and other varying degrees of terrible compromise. As hybrid technology has advanced, we now have cars that are super safe, fuel efficient, quiet, have power and ride like a luxury car. This is an example of innovation going in the right direction, and we work hard to provide that same type of results with our chemicals.”

On the tunnel side of things, third generation carwash owner Alex Thomas chimes in on transitioning his five tunnels over to Synergy.

“There are other top tier companies out there, but Synergy has the unusual advantage of using the latest technologies of soap development, yet running the company with real-world personal input and service. Being a family-owned business ourselves, we appreciate the personalized attention to detail. This really sets them apart. I just got a text the other day asking how things were going and asking me in what way could they serve [us] better. They truly are a humble company that communicates and walks out the continual improvement philosophy. Their service is top notch.”

With the continued changing landscape of our industry moving so fast, it’s refreshing to see a rapidly growing company rooted in innovation — making wash owners’ lives easier, yet still providing the attentive family type service lost so long ago.

If this isn’t Synergy, we don’t know what is.

Synergy Solutions brings comprehensive capabilities and first-hand experience to understand every aspect of a carwash operator’s challenges and needs. For more information, visit 

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