In the Glenn Frey song “Smuggler’s Blues,” there’s a line describing drug trafficking thusly: “It’s the lure of easy money, it’s got a very strong appeal.”
The carwashing industry has a very strong appeal, though I’m not comparing the industry to drug dealing, and the money is anything but easy. Why else would private equity companies and wealthy outsiders be lining up to either go deeper into the business or to get involved in their first locations?
The appeal of the business is undeniable now that express washing is the model of choice, and what’s not to like about a business model with a low labor requirement (as opposed to other models, particularly in a tight labor market), no receivables, that’s real-estate-backed and which now can offer recurring revenue?
Make no mistake: Big money begets bigger money. You don’t often read about PE companies going bankrupt for poor decision making. These folks do their research before investing. Some did much research. They couldn’t believe the returns they were hearing — they wanted more info, they got more info, they still couldn’t believe it … and they still wanted more info.
The ones who acted swiftly are big players now, while the over-researchers stood on the sideline with a big pile of cash. They are now hoping they aren’t too late to the party, because they still want in. The problem will be finding enough washes for sale in order to invest enough money to make it worth their while. Talk about first world problems….
So, where does it end? How does someone screw this up for everybody else?
My opinion? Saturation. There’s a company out there targeting a chain of washes and telling potential investors that if they build as close as they can to these washes, they will succeed. They believe they have the “secret sauce“ and while the building they offer is eye catching, guess what? The “secret sauce” is and always will be a clean, dry, shiny car.
Taking a pie and cutting it in half still leaves two halves of pie, even if one side may look a little better than the other. If they both taste the same, they’ll both get eaten. If you were the original owner of the pie, you’re left unsatisfied, and if you are the one hoping to steal the whole pie, you’ll be disappointed as well.
There is still plenty of opportunity across the country for those willing to go out and find it.
Over-saturation is what can kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Don’t be a goose killer….
Bob Fox has 35 years’ experience in the carwash industry and is the vice president of Sonny’s Car Wash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.
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