At its core, the carwashing industry was founded on mostly small- to medium-sized companies led by driven, individual or small-group entrepreneurs. It was built on everyday citizens with the dreams and willingness to risk it all. And, even though the industry is evolving — especially as large investors reshape its landscape and future — the fact remains that with some capital, carwashing is still a relatively easy industry to at least enter.
Still, success isn’t guaranteed. As when investing in most industries, owning a business brings along significant risk. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t even make it out of the first 10 years. According to the Small Business Administration, 20% of small businesses fail in the first year, 50% close after five years, and only 33% will remain open 10 years or longer.
Why do so many entrepreneurs fail?
According to Investopedia.com, the most common reasons include: a lack of capital or funding, the inability to retain a quality management team, a faulty infrastructure or business model and poorly performing marketing.
Owning a single carwash can still be a profitable business when operated correctly. However, thousands of existing and new carwashes are opening or changing ownership, and at the forefront are large, well-funded companies that have quality management teams, solid infrastructures and business models, and high-performing marketing strategies.
Carwashing is still considered a relatively easy entry market, but that doesn’t mean you should be cutting corners to expedite a grand opening.
I recently interviewed Chuck Howard, CEO of Howco Inc. and Autobell Car Wash, for Carwash.com’s Unscripted video interview series. Howard has over five decades of industry experience and has seen his fair share of market shifts. We discussed the critical steps that investors need to take when opening a carwash. Howard noted the most important and difficult step in the process is the planning phase.
“Without question, the planning part is the most difficult, and it seems to get more difficult every day,” explained Howard.
Special considerations, such as zoning and permitting, are some of the hoops that new investors must jump through during the planning phase, and unfortunately, rules and restrictions vary throughout the country, so there are no universal solutions to all the challenges new operators face. Howard shared plenty of tips and insights in the interview, and if you haven’t watched it yet, please visit our video page on Carwash.com to do so.
Planning is made easier with trusted industry partners and consultants. You may be reading this issue at The Car Wash Show™ 2021. In addition to the spinning brushes and flashing lights, there are also quality, experienced market representatives in the booths. Forming relationships with these industry insiders can help extend your longevity in the professional carwash business.