I have been very fortunate to have worked in many successful organizations during my career in this industry. Due to those experiences, I have often been asked for
Every operation should have complete operational and employee manuals.
the secret to success in the car wash business. The obvious answers are having a good location, an attractive wash, a well-designed marketing program, providing a good customer experience, selecting quality equipment and chemicals that provide a clean dry car, not to mention a lot of effort to create and maintain all of the above. While all these elements are extremely important, I feel that all too often the importance of a good, comprehensive employee-training program is overlooked. Without such a program you can expect a lot of turnover, poor job performance, a lack of direction in management, and a wash not functioning at its peak. Any successful operation needs well-trained employees who understand what is expected of them; it is critical for a successful car wash.
An important element of maximizing the performance of your wash involves both the proper management and training of your staff. Poorly trained and motivated staff members cannot only affect the operation of the wash but also create “attitude” problems. A solid infrastructure and training program makes it easier to manage the staff and also creates a more efficient operation. There are some basic templates available from equipment and chemicals companies
as well as from most distributors that may help you get started to develop a program or can be used to evaluate any training program you already have instituted.
Good management starts with developing a knowledgeable, well-trained staff. Every operation — from a self serve to an in-bay automatic to any of the current formats found in tunnel washes — should have complete operational and employee manuals that spell out all procedures and responsibilities and a well-conceived on-going training program for all employees. A job description that includes all the tasks and responsibilities for each position is a must. Not only does this enable the establishment of a sound training program, it also provides continuity in the performance of the wash. A well-run car wash training program saves both time and money.
It is good practice for employees to know the duties of all the other positions at the wash.
It is essential that all employees know what their duties are and how to perform them properly and in a timely fashion. Any program should also reinforce how you expect them to conform to all company rules and regulations. Don’t forget to also have an OSHA Right to Know program in place for the safety of both your employees and your customers. In the end, a comprehensive training program should leave every employee with a clear understanding of how the wash operates and the importance for them to perform the duties that they have been trained for. It is also a good practice for employees to know the duties of all the other positions at the wash so they know where their job fits into the scheme of things and helps them keep focus on their responsibilities. When employees see themselves as part of the team and they understand their role, it helps morale and possibly eliminates any dysfunction that could arise when each one performs in a “vacuum” with a “that’s not my job” attitude.
In reality, any wash training program or programs start before the training begins. Most experts would tell you that training begins with the hiring process. Intelligent hiring decisions are essential for the success of a wash’s operation and can make your training program easier to administer and give it a greater chance for success. Poor hiring often leads to a high turnover rate, creating a hidden cost that many operators overlook. Keep this in mind when hiring a new employee. Are they the type of person that you feel will be an asset to your business? What is their previous work experience? Are they a “job hopper?” Is there a “fit” with the current staff? Can they perform the job being offered based on previous experience or qualifications? It is a good idea to create a checklist to use when interviewing a potential employee to make sure you touch on all the employee traits you are looking for.
Elements you set up in your training program can also be an effective tool for giving raises or promotions at your wash. If you set up a checklist of what each position at the wash is responsible for it can be used when it comes time to evaluate an employee’s performance level and serve as a base for any promotion or raise you might consider for that employee. A good incentive program should not only include an increase in wages based on longevity but also performance. This creates a clear understanding between management and staff on what they need to accomplish to make more money or be promoted and removes much of the subjectivity out of any decision that needs to be made.
Wages are a touchy subject, but they too are a part of a training program when looking at the bigger picture. Most washes attempt to pay the “going wage” in their area. Depending on the employment picture in your area this may work for you. If possible, one should try to pay a little higher than the “going wage” in an effort to stabilize your staff and hopefully attract better candidates. It is easy to forget the cost of turnover in terms of training a new employee, including possible increases in unemployment insurance and the extra time and effort to bring a new employee up to speed in your operation.
Many washes overlook developing a management-training program, especially single location washes. Even if it is managed by the owner, a management-training program should be developed to include all those tasks performed in managing the wash. This can be helpful in training assistant managers and help if and when the time comes to employ a full-time manager for the owner.
When developing a comprehensive training program do not forget the sales aspect of training. In some washes there is no formal sales person while in most tunnel washes there is normally someone assigned to sales. It is important that every wash employee understand the importance of sales to the overall success of the wash. While some people are natural born salespersons, individuals can also be trained in sales. It has been a practice at many washes to hire someone with previous sales experience, but don’t overlook possible candidates among current staff. Sometimes employees who understand the business and how your wash works based on their experience at the wash are much more effective at car wash sales than someone with little or no understanding of your operation.
Equally important in a comprehensive training program is educating employees on the basics of the best use and operation of your equipment and chemicals. While it is not necessary that they become experts on equipment and chemicals, make sure you take the time to explain how these important elements work together. There is no substitute for gaining an understanding and experience with what works best in developing a qualified staff and creating and maintaining the top performance at your wash.
As I look back at some of the best and most successful years I have experienced in this industry, I realize that all the successful companies had and maintained a good training program. A quality and effective training program creates a positive feeling for employees who know what is expected of them and how to perform their duties. It involves setting goals for your wash, keeping focus, and training, offering support, and showing patience to all your employees. I don’t think any of this is reinventing the wheel. Developing and instituting a sound training program is just an important element of sound business practice.
Ron Holub has been involved in the car wash industry for 35 years working for several national car wash chemical companies, owning a car wash and detail supply company, and serving as a general manager for a national car wash chain. He currently works for Hydro-Spray and does consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com.