Yesterday, I finally got to meet my favorite pen pal. Salim Kapasi first wrote to me last year looking to learn more about the car wash industry. I suppose his parents helped him write the actual letter, seeing as Salim was only five years old at the time. He had researched all of our tunnel equipment, watched every maintenance video, and was anxious to know what’s next in car washing? We sent him everything we had, and a picture of Salim, holding a pile of car wash catalogs and videos, grinning from ear-to-ear, hangs proudly in our office.
Last week I got a call from his father. They were vacationing in Florida and he asked if it was possible to tour the factory. It was amazing to watch everyone here frantically prepare for the visit of our favorite celebrity. That was my first clue to the revelation I was about to have, and inspiration to share another passion of mine with you.
Anyone who loves the art of washing cars would absolutely adore this boy. During the tour, I learned that Salim eats, sleeps, and breathes car washing. Having turned six, he of course took the obvious next step for any first grader — he opened his own car wash business. It’s a mobile hand wash. Wearing their “Mister Nozzle’s Car Wash” t-shirts, he and his dad tour the neighborhood and have developed a loyal customer base. As Salim questioned me about various pieces of equipment, I sensed he has much bigger plans. They don’t, however, wash their own cars – for that, they go on their favorite outing to a local tunnel car wash. “Salim loves when they pour the foam over the car; I think it’s some kind of Brazilian wax.” I smiled as Salim politely corrected his father and said “No Dad, it’s Carnauba wax, not Brazilian wax.” I next learned that we’re not the only people in the industry enamored with this young boy. Salim’s mother explained how the car wash they go to allowed them to hold Salim’s last birthday party at the wash. “It was so amazing, the manager actually ran out to buy this toy car wash to give to Salim. It was so much more than we ever expected.” That was my second clue.
We assume that parents take an active role in the development of their children, and Salim is very fortunate in that regard. What struck me was how everyone at the factory practically tripped over themselves to stoke the fire of this young boy’s enthusiasm for our industry, and it wasn’t only us — his local car wash seems to have done the exact same thing. So if helping guide and build enthusiasm in youth is so obviously beneficial to advancing our future, and we seem to get so much pleasure from doing it, the question is, why doesn’t it happen more often? The opportunities are everywhere, and the potential benefit to your business is beyond your wildest expectations.
Back in 2003 I was fortunate to have been introduced to the FIRST Robotics Competition. Proclaiming to be “The Varsity Sport for the Mind,” FIRST was founded in 1989 to motivate young people in grades 9 to 12 to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.Teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get.Each year NASA hosts the kickoff event, broadcast via the Internet around the world. Realizing that over 68,000 students representing 2,850 teams from 12 countries are glued to their screens, waiting for a set of instructions that will launch them on a six-week whirlwind to build and compete with a robot made from a common kit of parts, fills you with optimism for the future of our world. It’s an amazing ride.I’d like to say how pleased I am that the factory has the opportunity to support youth in our community, but that’s not the complete story. It’s really the factory that’s at the winning end of this relationship.
Eleven years of FIRST Robotics sponsorship has transformed the landscape of our office. Sure, four of our engineers and two machinists came to us through FIRST, but that’s not the revelation I want to share. Sure, many people in the office take part in supporting the kids, and take pride in doing so, but that’s not it either. The impact on your organization is that everyone involved, whether they realize it or not, works to learn new skills, advance their abilities, and consciously act in a way they perceive will better mentor these children. That’s powerful.
Come in any night during the competition, and once the lights in the front go dark, CNC machines are being reprogrammed to spit out robot parts. Engineers are researching advanced automation techniques to share with their charges. Marketing is helping them develop their branding. The enthusiasm and passion is contagious. The result is staff trying to stand taller, learn new skills, and become role models to the children they are working with. And me, well, these days I just sit back and enjoy the show.
So how you may ask, can all of this apply to growing your car wash business? Some of you may have an itch to start searching online for groups in your community in need of volunteers. Everyone however can step back, look at current fundraising activities with fresh eyes, and think differently about the relationship between the groups you support and your company.
Imagine you’re supporting a youth group with a fundraiser where the kids sell wash books and keep a part of the profit. Involve your staff. Bring in the kids. Host a kickoff event where various members of your team take part in explaining the wash process, and provide the children tips on selling the benefits of your service. Chances are, your staff will stand a little straighter, and think deeply on how truly remarkable the wash process is. The beauty is that the effects don’t wear off. Each time, your employees take a little more pride in their work, become a bit more professional — it’s only natural when placed in a position of being a role model or mentor.
Don’t stop there. It’s likely that you hold charity wash days with a percentage of the profits going to the organization you’re sponsoring. It’s a great way to increase traffic, get media coverage, and develop ties with the community; but by now you should see the additional opportunity to take it a step further. Again, involve your staff. Bring in the kids. Host a kickoff event where in addition to showing off the service you offer, hold a brainstorming session. Lead a conversation where interested staff and the kids actively discuss what social media posts, flyers, and street signs will help them bring in the most people, and raise the most money. Sit back and watch the enthusiasm spread.
The formula is easy. Do whatever you can to enable opportunities for you and your staff to volunteer as mentors to youth in your community. The payoff is immense. You will elevate the maturity, professionalism, and enthusiasm of your team while identifying future employees and managers.It’s rare to find something personally rewarding, that helps the community, and supports the growth of your business. Be creative and have fun.
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 Aanaletto@SonnysDirect.com or at (800) 327-8723 ext. 104.