Auto Laundry News - September 2011

Business Potential — Six Tips on Growing Your Detail Venture

By Sharie Sipowicz

Everyone in the detail business has designs to grow the enterprise. To do so requires a bit of luck but, more importantly, also careful planning and some business basics, which are:

  1. The personnel, including the number and their knowledge and skills.
  2. Staff commitment to maintain the highest level of work to ensure customer satisfaction, which results in higher levels of customer retention.
  3. The effectiveness of marketing and advertising efforts to generate new business.
  4. The ability of the facilities and equipment to support growth.
  5. A marketing plan that is targeted at growing the business. Without a plan the business is like a ship at sea without a rudder.
  6. Clear and achievable goals and action plans for implementing whatever changes are needed to grow the business.

Now let’s look at each of these in more detail.

PERSONNEL

From what I know, most detail businesses are understaffed relative to the potential that exists in their market. This appears to be a result of the owner’s lack of knowledge — or at least a lack of attention — about how a detail business operates. A detail business owner looks at his business and it is losing money or barely getting by; since they do not know how to grow it, they attempt to control their costs by eliminating labor. This will have a negative effect on sales because short-handed businesses cannot answer phones promptly and cannot take the time needed to sell customers on the needs of their vehicle and their ability to satisfy those needs. Further, they do not have the time to follow up with customers. Understaffed detail businesses find themselves on a never-ending cycle of either too much work to handle or too little work to cover the bills.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: For every four detailers you should have a receptionist, not including the owner/ manager who should be looking after production, sales, and expense-control items. As the number of detailers grows, you need to increase the support staff as well.

COMMITMENT

The commitment of your staff to satisfy customers is critical in any successful business. The most dangerous employee you can have is the one who quit working for you three months ago but still shows up every day to draw a paycheck.

You find a lot of these types in the detail business. Often they are frustrated by the lack of support they receive from you, the owner, and they simply give up. Unfortunately, they continue to show up and get paid.

You have to manage both employee skills and morale. You need to make sure that all employees have the training and skills necessary to provide a high level of customer satisfaction, and you also need to make sure that every employee utilizes these skills to ensure that every customer is provided with a great experience.

MERCHANDISING AND ADVERTISING

Understand that 95 percent of the customers who enter or call your business have already decided to pay for the service to their vehicle. The only decision they have to make is whether or not your detail business is right for them. Your marketing and advertising efforts must be designed to convince customers that your detail business is the only place in the whole world that can service their vehicle properly. Your advertising needs to mention “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “State-of-the-Art Equipment.” It needs to show the quality of detailing you have done in the past. You need letters of recommendation, training certificates, and certification forms. Your business is like a picture; it sends every customer a 1,000-word description of who you are and how you operate. You must make sure that the marketing and advertising messages you are sending out are positive pictures.

EQUIPMENT

The ability of the detail business to support desired growth is a huge factor in lost potential sales. You want to deliver a superior detail service to your customers but you have inferior equipment. What do we see in a typical detail business? Cheap shop vacuums and heavy electric buffers. If there is an extractor, it is a cheap residential model; if there is a pressure washer, it is the $100-model from Home Depot. There are no top-of-the-line soil extractors, no vapor steamers, no quality vacuums, no dual-action or orbital polishers, no ozone generator, and no interior dryers.

Bottom line: You cannot provide a superior quality job working with inferior equipment.

MARKETING

A realistic marketing plan is essential to the long-term survival of any business. Your business cannot survive with a diminishing market share. This is especially critical in today’s economy. Industry stagnation means that in order to grow and succeed you must get market share by taking it away from your competitors.

Did you know that your business must grow at least 10 percent annually in order to afford to keep your facilities, your equipment, and your personnel up to date with current trends in the business?

This means that you must aggressively seek out new customers. You need to be looking for new customers everyday as well as doing direct marketing to new- and used-car dealers with offers they can’t refuse, but that will still make you a profit.

GOALS

Effective goals and action plans are what you need to implement the above-mentioned items. Those who have the ability to visualize success and sell their employees on that vision are the successful business owners.

You should establish for yourself and every individual employee something that tells them how much work you expect from each of them every day.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.

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