Carwashing is all about convenience nowadays. In addition to wanting service done fast and for them, as opposed to doing it themselves, customers also want to get as much done as possible in one stop. This trend is why such multi-profit centers as pet washes, fast lubes and other services prove popular and lucrative additions to many carwashes, so that customers need only come to one place for all their service needs.
Detailers can profit from this mentality too. In fact, there is one detailer located on Long Island in West Babylon, New York, that has taken advantage of this business method and succeeded. Bradan, owned by CEO Daniel Chojnowski, is a business for exotic cars that not only offers detailing and a mobile wash service but also auto body repair, maintenance and restoration.
“I actually started in the detailing industry as my first business when I was about 12 years old,” Chojnowski says. Young Chojnowski would pay his friends to ride their bicycles around town and leave flyers on nice cars at train stations, office complexes and other areas. He printed the flyers on different colored paper for different parts of town, so that if someone gave him a call, he would know where it came from and give that friend a $5-lead fee. Chojnowski ran the business from his parents’ home garage.
Chonjowski also grew up reading duPont Registry and attended numerous car shows with his dad, which instilled in him a love of exotic cars. “I wanted to do anything to get closer to them, and when I got into high school, I started to really look into it and think about it as a career, as nothing else really interested me.”
Fast forward to 2009. At 24 years old, Chojnowski was working in construction. However, the industry crashed during the Great Recession, so being out of work with no other options, he decided to try pursuing his passion. Chojnowski and his brother, Andrew, noticed a lack of sports car service in the local market. As a result, the two brothers, along with a mechanic named Brian that their father introduced to them, decided to combine their names and form Bradan to work on modified cars and imports. Brian left the business not long after its inception, but the Chojnowski brothers kept at it. “It was really a struggle in the beginning,” Chojnowski recalls. “We couldn’t charge for our time and had to eat a lot of material.”
However, Chojnowski remembers the job when that all began to change. “One of our customers had a Ferrari and couldn’t pay dealership pricing at the time, so he asked us to give it a shot,” he explains. “It was a big deal for us, so we documented the entire job with photos and sent it to him daily. He shared them with his office buddies who also owned sports cars, and that’s really how we got our foot in the door. Every customer brought three to five more cars, and it grew from there.”
Although Bradan started just as a group of young adults with a dream and passion to work on exotic cars (and little knowledge of how to run a business), the shop has now grown to become a success recognized nationwide.
Years ago, Bradan began participating in national concours events. Since then, the company has won several awards, such as two platinum awards at the Ferrari Club of America national concours, two platinum awards at the Cavillino concours, Best Paint at the Boston concours and several others at smaller, local events. With their participation and wins, the company even began drawing interest from international car owners.
In fact, according to Chojnowski, 75 percent of Bradan’s clients are from out of state; only 10 percent are local, and the last 15 percent are overseas customers. Since Bradan offers enclosed pickup and delivery, the business is able to cater to those around the country, especially in parts that don’t have a dealership service center — or one that can fix older models — near them.
“Our business is very unique because we are one of the only ‘one-stop-shops,’” Chojnowski explains. “We offer service, repair, restoration, paint, collision, upholstery, 24-hour towing, nationwide transportation and detailing. The goal was to have the entire ownership experience covered by us, so customers wouldn’t have to deal with multiple shops to sort their cars out.”
While offering so many services under one roof may seem to be a challenge, Chojnowski finds that the business model benefits both Bradan and its customers.
For one, Chojnowski notes, Bradan does not have to deal with outside contractors, which he says was a major issue in the beginning of the business. Furthermore, each department can provide aid for the others. “For example, detailers are able to practice on old panels from crashed cars and learn how to wet sand without worrying about burning up the car,” Chojnowski explains. “The body shop can also point out areas to avoid and give tips, since there’s really no trade school specifically for detailing. Another major benefit is that our mechanics can disassemble and assemble cars to do concours detailing.”
As for the customers, they get the benefit of a painless experience, Chojnowski says. Bradan picks up customers’ cars in an enclosed trailer, does all the work on them that needs to be done at the shop and then drops them back off. “This eliminates a lot of finger-pointing, delays and dealing with people that really don’t care as much as you do,” Chojnowski affirms. “Internally, this allows me to keep up on quality control. The customer enjoys the fact that we pick up his or her car, do whatever it needs and drop it off without having to maintain relationships with multiple businesses.”
Of course, even with this array of services, Chojnowski still offers this piece of wisdom to other detailers: no one can be good at everything. For instance, he notes, you can’t detail exotic cars and wash cars for a dealership. “Be realistic with your skills and focus on a specific demographic,” he declares.
As an example, he notes that if you can only bring in economy cars and customers, you can make up for the price point by being efficient and building up your volume. On the other hand, if you deal with exotic or luxury cars, you need to make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage, since no one job is worth losing your entire business over.
“Over the years, I’ve seen so many detailers come and go and detailing horror stories we’ve had to resolve,” Chojnowski says. “You can’t blame your workers — it’s your business and responsibility.”
A painless and honest experience
While Chojnowski wants the customer experience to be pain-free, he also understands that businesses need to focus on managing customer expectations. Sometimes, he says, you can’t deliver a car when the customer needs it, or you can’t get a scratch out. However, instead of trying to cover the fact up, you need to be open and honest about the problem.
“Definitely don’t overpromise and under-deliver,” Chojnowski advises. Furthermore, when dealing with irate customers, he recommends always staying professional, since once you come down to their level, you lose.
In addition, Chojnowski believes that part of creating a customer experience means keeping customers up-to-date on their vehicles’ progress. “They shouldn’t have to call you to know their car’s status. Email or text progress photos daily, and point out and explain issues with photos. People are very visual, so this avoids miscommunications,” he elucidates.
Furthermore, a huge part of delivering a great customer experience for Chojnowski is being sure to say thank you to every customer, because they are the ones that put food on the table. “I send every car back with a box of fresh pastries from a local bakery with a thank you letter signed by the techs who serviced that vehicle,” he adds.
Finally, Bradan builds loyalty by treating its customers honestly. For instance, Chojnowski notes that Bradan’s clientele is very wealthy, but the business treats everyone the same. “Never take advantage of a customer, no matter how wealthy they are. Give them a price break or something for free, even if they didn’t ask for it. Everyone likes being hooked up and taken care of.”
Even when things go wrong with jobs, Chojnowski always acts with honesty and tries to make the customer happy as quickly as possible. He never tries to leave a job on a bad note. “Losing money short-term will always pay itself back in the long run,” he says.
In fact, customers have become so loyal to Bradan over the years that the company recently opened up a general repair shop that services regular cars, though it’s mostly for customers’ and friends’ daily drivers. Chojnowski knows that some shops get complacent and comfortable with their work and their customer base, but that is not how he wants to operate. As a result, Bradan is constantly investing in the newest tools, machinery and education.
“I tell my guys daily, we’re only as good as our last job, and we constantly keep pushing our skillset forward,” Chojnowski concludes.