Auto Laundry News - August 2013

Team — Five Steps to Motivating Your Employees

By Anthony Analetto

It’s not easy. Our ability as car wash owners and managers to motivate our staff will result in increased productivity, reduced turnover, improved customer satisfaction, and higher profits. You’d think, with a list of results like that, every car wash owner would make employee motivation a top priority. That is seldom the case, though. As issues arise each day, time is short, and it’s easy to believe that spending time trying to motivate staff gets in the way of real work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Below I’ll outline some simple steps that can help you strike the right balance of training, management, and performance incentives, to develop a motivated team that delivers results.

Creating and sustaining motivation will demand open communication, honesty, and respect. Ideally, you just read that sentence, and feel optimistic that your good employees could become exceptional, and your exceptional employees could become key members of your team when you strike the right balance. Realistically, that isn’t always the case. I recall once, while running operations for a chain of washes, we acquired eight struggling full-serve washes in the same market. It was essential to turn them around quickly. Seven locations quickly bought into the new training, processes, and procedures and started posting better numbers immediately. The eighth location fought every step of the way. Rather than waste months, I grabbed a few guys from each of the other locations, fired the entire crew at the eighth wash, and replaced them on the spot. Only a few hours later the wash was operating smoothly, with a motivated crew, and on its way to recovery.

Motivation is about creating a bond between you and your team. Motivating your crew is about developing a culture that encourages team members to participate and share in workplace success. If you haven’t clearly defined, and shared, what constitutes success to your team, you’ll continue to spin your wheels. Your crew won’t know what’s expected of them, won’t trust that you know what you’re doing, and will never form the bond with you that entitles you to lead them. The saying “you get more bees with honey than with vinegar” holds true. If I would have replaced the entire crew at that eighth wash, without having clearly defined what success was, with performance incentives in place for surpassing goals, the new crew would have revolted, and I would have failed. So how do you go about navigating the pitfalls of leading a productive motivated team? Let’s take a look.


There is no single magic bullet for creating a highly motivated team. Crafting a group of employees eager to come to work, actively looking to contribute to the growth of your business, and basically working like owners, requires planning and effort. Although there isn’t one magical formula, there are five steps to consider. Your ability to incorporate them all can contribute to real profits at the end of the day.

Step 1: Define Success
When defining what constitutes success, keep it measurable, visible, and attainable. Start with the basics such as busiest hour, busiest day, overall sales, net revenue record, least downtime, detailing sales, but don’t limit yourself. Communicate your goals to the team. Help team members understand what is happening in the business and why. Many operators I know define these benchmarks on a monthly basis. In an industry so heavily affected by the weather, outside of anybody’s control, this can work against you. Ten days of rain can ruin a month, and any chance of your team achieving new heights. Keep goals weekly, with results tallied every Saturday. Then, no matter what Mother Nature throws at you, there’s always hope, for you, and your team, to have something to cheer about at the end of a busy Saturday.

Step 2: Recognize Achievement
Formal incentive programs for hitting the goals are excellent, but keep them weekly. Also, never forget, that money alone is not always the most powerful motivator. Recognize that people are motivated by their own individual goals, values, and desires. Get to know your people and understand their needs. I’ve had greeters that would trip over themselves to be personally recognized in front of the entire crew at an end-of-the-day wrap-up meeting, without a financial incentive. I’ve known attendants, tasked with handing out surveys, enthusiastically greet every customer, all for the right to choose whether the team had pizza, or subs, when a certain number of surveys were completed. There’s no shortage of ways to give your team something to cheer about, so be creative.

Step 3: Encourage Growth
The problem with your best employees is that if they get bored; they’ll eventually be someone else’s best employees. Encourage your team to cross-train different skills. Invest in off-site training for your top performers. Involve your best staff in preventive maintenance and equipment repair. You’ll gain greater scheduling flexibility, wash quality will become more consistent, and the morale of your best performers will go up as they feel an increased sense of importance to the business.

Step 4: Listen
I’ve heard it said that an extraordinary leader isn’t someone who does extraordinary things, but rather someone who can inspire and coordinate the efforts of ordinary people to extraordinary new heights. I believe this all starts with listening. When people don’t feel heard, or valued, or at least have their ideas acknowledged, morale will suffer. Welcome and create opportunities for team input. Recognize any contributions that are in line with the vision, and mission, of your car wash. Not only will loyalty and team motivation increase, it will simply be a nicer place to go to work each day.

Step 5: Be Consistent
Consistency breeds trust and confidence in doing the right thing. If your team knows, and believes in, the policies, duties, and expectations, you’ve documented and preached over and over, they’ll perform their roles with confidence and enthusiasm in the way you expect them to. Nothing kills morale faster than an employee scared to make the wrong decision. Whether it’s a damage claim, dissatisfied customer, or equipment failure, there are thousands of things that can go wrong at a car wash in your absence. Your team’s ability to know with certainty what you expect them to do in any situation only comes from consistent application and training of procedures. Do this one thing well and not only will your wash produce a better service, your staff will be motivated to do the right thing, consistently.


Most of our waking time each day is spent working. While whittling away the hours completing tasks, and solving problems, don’t forget the power of taking time to celebrate achievements. At some level, every member of your team performing a job is contributing to your wash’s success, or failure. Recognize their achievements, provide them the tools to be a winner, and watch your profits skyrocket.

Good luck, and good washing.

Washing cars for over 30 years, Anthony Analetto serves as president of SONNY’S The CarWash Factory, creator of the Original Xtreme-Xpress Mini-Tunnel, and the largest manufacturer of conveyorized car wash equipment, parts, and supplies in the world. He can be reached at or at (800) 327-8723 ext 104.

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