Car Wash Manager Hiring Principles for Scalable Success
By Anthony Analetto
People often call to ask me, “Do you have anyone you can recommend as a manager for my wash?” For years, these calls would come when a skilled manager left unexpectedly; recently, however, these calls are coming from operators frustrated by their search for managers capable of delivering a consistent customer experience across multiple locations.
Unfortunately, many car wash owners wait until the proverbial outhouse has already collided with the windmill to address staffing issues. They wait until the business is in distress and in an urgent race to replace or find a personality. Scalable businesses are built on processes and planning, not personalities. Whenever I get these calls, I first ask for a copy of their organization chart with a job description for each position. Few can produce these, and the ones who can haven’t updated them in a while.
Let’s assume you’re in this position: you have an immediate staffing need, but you don’t have the time to update your car wash manager job description. Here’s what I recommend:
CRAFT A JOB SUMMARY
Check out the canned job description below. Keep in mind that these activities might seem very familiar — it’s also your job. This is because all tasks delegated to a car wash manager can be viewed as a backup or supplement to a very hands-on owner. When a manager leaves, owners pick up the slack while they hire, train, and adapt their role relative to the new manager’s abilities. This may work at a single location, but attempting to scale the model across multiple locations results in disaster. The fact is that the organization charts for single-location and multi-site car wash enterprises differ dramatically. The larger the organization, the greater the separation of responsibilities will be.
I find it easiest to group all responsibilities of the car wash manager into categories that can be pushed to outside vendors or to staff above or below in the organization as the business grows. There are 10 distinct job functions that are typically assigned to the manager at a single location. Spoiler alert: only the first two are fundamental responsibilities; all else can be delegated elsewhere as the business grows.
Canned Car Wash Manager Job Description
Car wash managers are responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction at a professional car wash. Day-to-day activities include training and supervising staff along with identifying and resolving customer concerns and complaints. Ideal candidates demonstrate a mechanical aptitude for equipment maintenance as well as organizational skills for the management of chemistry, wash supplies, and labor. They are accountable for accurate reconciliation of all financial transactions, managing vendor relationships, and reviewing financial reports for correct disbursement of commissions and other incentives. This role leads marketing initiatives at the wash to drive revenue, promote fundraising opportunities, and direct updates to advertising platforms. Formal education is preferred, though not required.
1. Customer Service:This is the central role that a car wash manager must perform. They must be trained and proficient at disarming angry customers and guiding them to be raving fans of the wash even when the wash did something wrong. I love the TV show “What Would You Do?” Each episode tests people’s ability to do the right thing when they think no one is watching. It’s hosted by John Quiñones and I recommend watching an episode. Note the characteristics of people that are able to make split decisions to get involved, do the right thing, and turn a stressful situation into a calm one with productive communication. That’s the single most prized characteristic to search for in your car wash manager that should never be delegated.
2. Onsite Sales: Whether it’s signing people up for e-mail promotions or selling monthly wash subscriptions, every initiative needs a champion. This will almost always fall to your onsite manager. That said, the skills to engage customers with a smile, explain benefits, and close the sale are very different than processing paper work. The manager may be your lead sales person, but invest in options from your car wash POS vendor to reduce administrative tasks so your manager can focus on selling, not paperwork.
These functions are performed by the car wash manager, but can be delegated as the business grows.
3. Shift Leadership: Every job that falls under the manager’s domain makes it harder to hire and increases the car wash manager’s salary, so make sure you pick the functions that matter. Assign tasks that maximize the productivity of each minute of labor, support your strategic direction, and enable you to scale to your forecasted growth. What does that mean? Well, if partnering with local non-profits is part of your strategic direction and you assign your manager to lead it, you might move shift leadership and scheduling to a subordinate they manage.
4. Equipment Maintenance:Often a priority when hiring a manager, in reality, this is one of the easier tasks to remove. Think about it. If you have five locations, chances are you have already shifted this responsibility to a crew maintaining all locations; it can also be easily trained and only monitored by the manager, or shifted to a service partner.
5. Training:There are plenty of third-party resources in our industry to either directly train, or create an ongoing training program for your wash. Owners who train their managers and rely on them to train subordinates without documented processes will sooner or later wake up to chaos when a long-time manager quits or burns out.
6. Chemical Management: Find a chemical supplier you trust and leverage their expertise. This is a critical function for a consistent product and customer satisfaction; it should never be assigned as a side note to your manager’s job description.
7. Back Office Reporting and Payroll: Just because a current manager can prepare a spreadsheet to calculate commissions and process payroll while fixing the conveyor, doesn’t make it a good practice for running a sustainable business. Automated solutions are available for these tasks. It’s a whole lot smarter to invest once in good software than to rely on rare personal skills that would be difficult to replace when you want to promote that person to a larger role in your organization.
8. Marketing: I know managers who send out monthly e-mail campaigns, engage customers on social media, negotiate billboards — you name it. If it’s driving volume to your wash, imagine the potential if you contract a marketing firm that specializes in this function. It’s always ill advised to rely on the personal talents of a specific manager, especially with a skill that’s unlikely to be found in their replacement.
9. Cash Management: There are many firms that can manage cash deposits with armored cars and replenish pay stations. Look into one of these solutions if you don’t want to find yourself driving from location to location to retrieve cash the next time a manager leaves.
10. Community Relations and Fundraising: If this is a strategic focus of your business, make sure you staff for its success. Managers can often thrive in this role, but not if they’re wearing nine other hats at the same time.
So there you have it. It’s tempting to abdicate every function of your operation to a talented manager who functions as an assistant owner, but irresponsible for the scalable success of your business. Each additional responsibility added to their plate increases salary and hiring complexity while reducing the consistency of your service across locations. Managers must first and foremost be accountable for ensuring your customer’s satisfaction. Craft an organizational chart that paves the way for them to excel at that as you grow, and chances are, your business will excel too.
Good luck and good washing.
Anthony Analetto has over 35 years’ experience in the car wash business and is a partner at SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory. Before coming to SONNY’S, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain. Anthony can be reached at (800) 327-8723 x 104 or at AAnaletto@SonnysDirect.com.