Hitting the Million Dollar Jackpot

By Timothy Denman

05/01/14

When Rob Schruefer took a cash advance on a credit card 10 years ago to purchase his first mobile detailing vehicle he wasn’t sure if his gamble would pay off. The few thousand dollars Schruefer and his partner scrapped together to start On The Spot Mobile 

On The Spot Mobile Detailing has six vans offering
the full assortment of detailing services.

Getting the business going was an uphill battle, with Schruefer working as a bartender on nights and weekends to make ends meet. His partner eventually left the business a few years after its inception, with Schruefer offering him a few thousand dollars for his half of the struggling mobile detailing business.

“He is probably kicking himself now,” Schruefer says of his partner’s decision to abandon the business. “Neither of us thought it was going to take off like it did.”

 

Rob Schruefer built On The Spot from a one vehicle mobile
enterprise to a $1 million a year detailing brand.

From its start as a single vehicle operation, the enterprise has grown into a six-van strong mobile- and fixed-location detailing empire. On The Spot is headquartered in the Baltimore suburb of Columbia, MD with a satellite location at the Maryland Live! casino in Hanover.

The casino site opened in March of this year and caters to the Maryland Live!’s high-rolling clientele. The casino was looking to increase the services it offered its high-stakes clients and turned to On The Spot to provide on-site detailing. At first the project was just a trial but the casino’s management was so impressed with the service it decided to make it a permanent fixture.

“After a few weeks they said they wanted to make it a permanent arrangement,” Schruefer says. “I told them that we would be happy to do that but they would need to improve the on-site facilities. They quickly agreed.”

The casino built On The Spot a three-bay fixed location in the valet area complete with new lights, water fixtures, and storage. The satellite location operates from 5 p.m. to midnight daily and is paid on a per-car basis by the casino. On The Spot charges Maryland Live! its wholesale rate and keeps the area staffed with a rotation of five or six eager detailing technicia

On The Spot details over 200 vehicles a week
in the spring and summer.

“The guys have been arguing about who gets to go work at the casino,” Schruefer says. “We are talking about high rollers that aren’t even paying for the service. The tip potential at the site is astronomical.” 

Although a detail center at a casino is a novel idea, Schruefer believes it is a natural fit, and with the ongoing expansion of legal gambling throughout the country could become commonplace. The Live! casino chain owns and operates five casinos and Schruefer has his fingers crossed that the detail center will become a differentiator for the casino and will be implemented across the chain.

Despite the glitz and glamor of rubbing elbows with wealthy high rollers at the casino location On The Spot’s bread and butter remains its mobile detailing offerings. 

Schruefer built On The Spot into a seven figure business by relaying on the customer service skills he acquired in his 10 years as a restaurant server and bartender. He admittedly wasn’t the best detailer in the world when he first started out, but dedicated himself to providing the best service he could.

“A lot of times in our industry people are great at detailing but aren’t good at people skills,” he says. “People skills can get you a long way. If you don’t treat a customer well and they don’t come back, does it matter how good of a detailer you are?”

Over the years Schruefer has acquired the necessary skills to perform top-notch detailing services to complement his commitment to customer service and instills both of those traits in his staff. With six mobile crews, a fixed site, and the casino location On The Spot has a large staff and has developed a training program to ensure its employees are delivering consistent results.

When a new employee comes on board he cuts his teeth at the fixed location so Schruefer can keep an eye on them and mentor them in the finer points of car care. On The Spot offers drive up hand wash services at the fixed location and new staff members man the sponges.

 

The company specializes in motorcycles and has a separate website devoted to its motorcycle detail offerings.No job is too big.

After proving themselves in the hand wash employees are trained on the chemicals and techniques needed to successfully detail and are introduced to the trade on site. Once they earn their stripes in the fixed-location’s detailing bays the now fully-trained detailers are allowed to join the mobile detailing crews and are considered full-fledged members of the On The Spot fraternity.

On The Spot built its reputation through word of mouth and early adoption of the power of digital marketing, helping to double sales every year since the business’ second year of operation.

“Mostly we try to spend our marketing dollars on the Internet,” Schruefer says. “We were ahead of the pack 10 years ago with the online stuff. The rest of the industry has caught up to us now but we still believe in the power of Internet advertising.”

Schruefer is recognized as a leader in the detailing industry and was asked to join the International Detailing Association’s board last March. The detailing veteran was named vice president of the trade organization in January 2014 and is currently serving a one-year term.

 

Customer service and attention to detail are the calling cards of On The Spot.On The Spot can handle water bound vehicles as well.

Since joining the IDA board, Schruefer has worked to make the members’ section of organization’s website more user friendly. He is currently engaged in converting the popular detailer certification program into an online experience, and is working to make the current paper and pen certification experience a thing of the past.

As a certified detailer himself, Schruefer has first-hand knowledge of the testing and wants to add more levels to the certification process. He envisions a hands-on testing procedure as well as a master-level certification that only the industry’s best could achieve.

“You don’t have to know a lot about detailing to pass the current test,” Schruefer says. “You just have to have a base knowledge. To me there needs to be more levels. It is important to build higher standards and a stronger detailing community.”

Schruefer is no stranger to building a community, having personally trained, mentored and grown his detailing staff and business. From humble beginnings, Schruefer has positioned On The Spot as the detail shop of choice in the greater Baltimore area and himself as a nationally recognized figure in the industry — notbad for a couple thousand dollar gamble.

 

 

 



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