Last year, The Car Wash Show™ drew over 9,500 attendees and 400 exhibitors to Nashville, Tennessee. To date, the 2019 show was the International Carwash Association’s (ICA) largest show ever … but you can bet that the association is hoping for an even bigger showing in 2020.
While the show has been a staple in the U.S. for decades, in recent years, the ICA has really been taking the “international” part of its name seriously. At the 2019 The Car Wash Show, for instance, CEO Eric Wulf introduced the association’s first-ever European president, Richard Enning, CEO of Mr. Wash in Germany. Moreover, from Sept. 18-19, 2019 the ICA hosted the third edition of The Car Wash Show Europe in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This year, in addition to The Car Wash Show in San Antonio, the ICA is hosting The Car Wash Show China not only in Beijing but also later in the year in Guangzhou. To cap off the year’s worth of globe-trotting, The Car Wash Show Australia is scheduled to run in Gold Coast, Queensland, from Sept. 22-24.
These trade shows bring together people from all over the world. While it’s true that every country’s carwash market is a little different, at the heart of it all, everyone’s aim is the same: clean, dry and shiny. And, being able to meet these people and exchange ideas will only help the industry grow as a whole.
As the venues and host cities change and new faces enter the market each year, every show makes for a brand new experience. What else makes each show unique? The education. Every year, the ICA works to develop its educational program, and every year, it finds a way to improve. In this way, you never attend the same show twice, and it’s always beneficial to come back every year.
Now, let’s find out from some other regular show attendees why they attend The Car Wash Show and how they maximize their time and investments.
Gary Dennis, CEO, Mammoth Holdings
This will be my 20th show. In my opinion, the show is vastly different today than when I started attending. The education sessions are much varied and increased, the use of technology makes it easier to navigate and receive information, and the show floor has improved tremendously over time.
The ability to network and attend education sessions are the primary reasons I go to The Car Wash Show. While I like to walk the show floor, I often find I don’t have enough time to do a complete walkthrough. We bring several members of our team, so we get thorough exposure to the show floor and all the educational sessions. I’ve also made many important friendships over the years. Even though it’s very hectic, it still feels like “old home week,” and I always enjoy catching up with dear friends whom I don’t get to see very often.
Given the size and vast offerings of the show, we feel you need to have a plan. We assign classes and sections of the floor to our different team members. We also urge them to network. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from or how a conversation here or there could lead to a future transaction.
We want our team members to have pride in their company and be eager to engage their counterparts at the show. We think of the show as a reward for our key employees, and they need to earn the right to attend. Every year, they are excited and come back energized and ready. We view this as an investment in their training and knowledge base as they seek to further their professional careers.
Brad Metcalf, Northeast Regional Sales Manager
My first ICA show was in 1984. I estimate that I have attended about 40 ICA shows, as there used to be two ICA shows per year during the 1980s. So much has changed over the years.
In the early ’80s, when the ICA and National Carwash Council (NCC) combined trade shows, conveyor tunnels — coupled with self service bays/in-bay automatics — were the common theme of the event. If a single owner had five sites or more, he or she would be listed out in the top 50 carwash survey. With the advent of express exteriors and equity-owned sites, now owners have to have over 10 washes in their portfolios to be in the top 50.
The consolidation of OEM manufacturers has also changed the face of the industry, but show floor space continues to grow. Opportunities for prospects continue to be very strong. Technology has changed the face of the industry much faster than the conveyor hardware, with multiple ways for carwash owners to promote and sell products through the internet.
From an exhibitor standpoint, we attend to introduce new equipment that improves the wash operation and customer experience. And, it is an opportunity to meet new prospects and re-connect with existing customers. From the consumer side, attendees want to see what’s new and improved as well as learn more through seminars and networking with other operators.
ICA shows are a huge investment for the OEM companies. Cost of booth space, employees working the booth, hotel stays, food, etc., have all increased over the years, making the show one of the most important events of the year. Therefore, careful planning and preparation is paramount if looking for a good ROI.
The layout of the booth is critically important for promoting new products, allowing customers easy access and providing a comfortable atmosphere for a “feel good” experience.
As for show attendees, they should plan a focused journey through the trade show floor. As there is so much to see within the exhibit hall, make a list of booths to attend. The first day of the show is always the busiest, so manage time efficiently. The seminars are blended into the show, so they don’t compete with the exhibit hall hours.
Tyler Slaughter, Operations Director, Camel Express Car Wash
I have attended The Car Wash Show four times. The sessions keep getting better for the attendees, and the show floor keeps filling with new vendors, distributors, manufacturers and great connections.
I primarily attend The Car Wash Show both to find deals for our company and to connect with carwashers from all over the world.
Laying out what classes benefit you and your team is extremely important in order to best maximize your time and money at the show.
Brian Krusz, Founder/Chief People Officer, Sgt. Clean’s Car Wash
I have attended the ICA show for the past six years. Early on in our carwash career, these events served to be invaluable for our initial success and continued success over the years. The ICA has listened to its members by providing classes that operators are asking for, and I think that is one of the key components to its success over the years.
The education sessions have grown through the years by offering more relevant content and a variety of topics — and I love the migration to self-help, peer-led classes. This is a great touch, in that successful operators get to utilize the art of reciprocity by helping others.
After all, knowledge is power. The more you know, the further you go. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” This is so true.
The ICA show allows our company and our management team the opportunity to educate ourselves and bring all that knowledge back to support and inspire our teammates in Cleveland.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the size of the show. The opportunity to see and hear the latest trends in equipment, technology and chemicals allows operators to be on the top of their game and leading the charge of innovation for their carwashes.
A phrase I learned while serving in the Marine Corps holds true to getting a good ROI on your time at the show: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I would start by buying a small journal prior to your trip. Fill the journal up with all of your questions, areas of interest and other equipment or industry questions to get a good plan of attack for your arrival. Get your team engaged and involved in helping you with these questions. This journal will allow you to be laser-focused at the show to achieve your goals prior to your departure. It will keep you focused once you get there and not allow you to get distracted by all the fancy bells and whistles.
It is also good to take a mental break throughout the course of the day(s) at a couple of different points. Grab some food, take a breather and review your notes. Take advantage of the time at the show, and ensure accurate notes, so you can implement a solid game plan for execution when you return to your carwash.
Jim Utterback, Director of Marketing, Motor City Wash Works Inc.
I have been attending the ICA show since 1993 (27 years). The ICA show has always been the launching pad for the latest and greatest products being introduced each year. You have many regional shows where the exhibitors will display their products and equipment, but not on the same scale as they will for this show. No other show will have everything under one roof as this show does. For carwashers, it’s the greatest show on earth.
Our economy has been great over the last several years, and it shows with all of the exhibitors’ displays. They are bigger and better than I can ever remember. The ICA has done a great job incorporating much-improved educational seminars and networking events. For carwash operators (new and old), this is — and should be — a must-attend event every year.
To be quite honest, we have to attend the show every year since we are an exhibitor. But as an equipment manufacturer, we utilize this event to marquee our latest and greatest product designs, build rapport and network with the brightest carwash minds in the world.
Planning is key — anyone can shoot from the hip. But you will never get as much out of any situation without a plan:
- Research ahead of time.
- Go to www.carwash.org and review the educational sessions so you can determine what you need to attend.
- Review the exhibiting companies, and make a priority list of which ones you want to visit with.
- Contact them ahead of time to secure some time if you are on a tight schedule.
- Make a punch list of what you are looking to accomplish. The show floor can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first event.
- Walk the entire show floor, since you never know what you will miss.
And lastly, there is much more to this event than the trade show floor. Many companies have VIP events that you should attend. You never know who you will run into or how you will pull away with some incredible insight into the great world of carwashing. Enjoy the show.