On the Wash Front - April 2008

Car Care World Expo: The One Thing
Don't Leave Orlando Without It.
By Anthony Analetto

"I’m going to Disney World!” We’ve all heard the Super Bowl MVP utter this line for the last 20 some years. Now it’s our turn. I just received the registration package for the 2008 ICA Car Care World Expo being held in Orlando, FL. In large metallic letters across the front of the brochure are the words “Professional. Proud.” While reading the words, it struck me that as custodians of a $20-billion retail industry, all of us, as professional car washers, have a genuine right to be proud of what we do. It also struck me that in our rapidly changing business environment, speaking as a unified community through our associations, under the banner of “Professional. Proud” is becoming more important for our continued success.

For anyone who has never attended the Car Care World Expo, it’s big. Out of over 2,500 trade shows that occur in the United States alone each year, our Expo is on the Tradeshow Week Top 200 List of largest events in the country. While any year can be overwhelming at a show this size, this year in particular has seen more than its fair share of change in the marketplace. For the first time in recent memory, wash efficiency, going green, site conversions, and business planning in an economy facing record oil prices and possible recession seem to have surpassed managing labor expense as the most prominent issue. It’s going to be an interesting show. Visit www.car carecentral.com and you’ll discover educational content and product innovations to address threats and opportunities everywhere you look. Ask yourself, what is the single greatest threat or opportunity you see over the coming year? Finding solutions to those questions is what the Car Care Expo is all about.

PLAN YOUR WORK

It’s always a good idea to bring as many key members of your management team as you can, but avoid just setting them loose to walk the floor and attend educational seminars. You’ll get some benefit, but the results will normally fall short of your expectations. An alternative approach — to assign various members of your team to specific seminars and vendor booths— also has shortcomings. When thetime comes to report back what they discovered, too often you’ll find very little substance that you didn’t already know.

Personally, I’ve found it more productive to give both a list of vendor booths and seminars to attend, along with several specific problems to be solved. For example, one task I might assign my service tech is to find three ways to reduce unexpected closure due to equipment failure. By doing this, I’m guaranteed they won’t bring back an answer they think I already know. Each team member will also have a framework to network with other attendees on the floor. Less experienced staff often lack confidence to initiate conversations about car washing with people they meet. Armed with a list of things to find, they easily fall into conversations when the words “I’m trying to find a better way to...” roll off their tongue.

It’s best to be very specific, especially with newer staff. If you’re struggling with making a list of problems you hope to solve, switch to finding opportunities. Assign tasks such as find three new ways to improve car counts or service consistency, or to reduce utility consumption or damage claims — you get the idea. By studying the layout and times in advance and writing out your agenda, then sticking to it, your Expo experience will be a rewarding one.

THE ONE THING - WORK YUOR PLAN

I’ve always loved the saying; plan your work and work your plan. Attending an event like this is about more than just listening to seminars and evaluating new products. Spending three days with thousands of people with similar interests, facing related problems generates enthusiasm to make things happen. To maximize the return on your investment to attend the show, you want to capture that wave of energy and ride it as long as you can. If you’re bringing your management team, hold daily meetings to create and update an action plan that prioritizes everything you want to do when you get back. If you’re attending by yourself — plan to hold a show wrap-up meeting with your staff as soon as you return. Take lots of pictures and involve everyone who stayed home in creating a vision to improve the wash. This plan may be very specific, assigning tasks to individual people with deadlines. Other operators I know prefer to pick out “the one thing” that if they implement successfully will make the show worthwhile. However you do it, don’t leave Orlando without a written plan to grow your business.

FAMILY WAY

As this is the Expo’s last year in Orlando before moving permanently to Las Vegas in 2009, I doubt I’m the only one considering making this a family trip. Face it, spending quality time with the spouse and kids can sometimes be hard to come by in our industry. Some operators I know are planning to schedule day trips for the family to the endless supply of attractions during the show and join them for some time at the Disney parks on Friday after the show ends. The ICA has even arranged for special discounted rates on Disney theme park tickets and hotel reservations following the Expo.

I recommend, from first-hand experience, fighting any temptation to tell yourself or your family: “If I finish my business at the show early, we can...” Attending the show is a serious investment of time and money. It’s also a tremendous opportunity to engage with colleagues, discover solutions, and identify opportunities. Capping your experience with a goal of trying to finish early is like putting on blinders. Finding the right balance between your family and business at the show will make your trip a true success.

SUMMARY

Although I realize I just wrote that you should never plan to finish your business at the Car Care Expo early, I can’t deny the possibility does exist. If you find yourself with a little extra time, I would recommend checking out www.orlandogolftrail.com and clicking on “direct access to individual golf course websites.” You’ll find a list of some of the area’s best courses — nice tracks all.

Back to car washing, the ICA has done a fabulous job planning the networking events and educational sessions to be on target and relevant to today’s issues. With a little planning, you should find yourself proclaiming to everyone within earshot, “I’m going back to my car wash a better operator.” It may not be the same as the MVP of the Super Bowl saying it, but we all play in our own Super Bowl everyday, don’t we?

Anthony Analetto has over 26 years experience in the car wash business and is the president of SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory’s Equipment Division. 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.

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