Associations - February 2002

The Car Care Industry
Looks Ahead
By Bill Sartor

The events of and following 9-11 and the continued slowing of our economy require us to look at 2002 much differently than we would have six months ago. The first quarter of 2002 will dictate what will happen for the rest of the year. Having said that, I believe that the fundamental forces that have been affecting our industry for the past 48 months remain unchanged though they may have been temporarily disturbed. The shift in our culture from "Do It Yourself" to "Do It For Me" is still in its infancy. Consumers continue to demand better, faster, cheaper. Profit opportunities abound. I am bullish on the future of car care industry.

What the Next Few Years May Bring
I'm not so sure that anyone can speak with any degree of credibility on what the next few years will bring. However, I look for the economic news to improve and for the car care industry to rebound from what will, in hindsight, be a temporary dip caused by the general spending caution brought on by 9-11.

There are indications that the stationary in-bay automatic car wash will continue to be the growth segment of the car wash marketplace. It also appears that the addition of multiple profit centers to car care retail locations will continue to be the key to survival and prosperity.

The plans for the International Carwash Association for the next couple of years will also be determined, in large part, by what happens in the first quarter of 2002. We will be carefully monitoring membership renewals, exhibit sales, and Car Care World Expo 2002 registrations during the first 90 days of the year as those make up 90 percent of our revenue stream. Based upon early year performance, the Board of Directors will make decisions concerning long term, large-scale projects.

ICA's Major Goals
We have an aggressive marketing plan in place to get record attendance numbers at Car Care World Expo 2002. Chicago is central to the largest number of car care retail operations in America and is also a city familiar to our international colleagues. The educational offerings will be expanded to include more general business offerings than in the past. The exhibition will be the largest car care exhibition in the world with more than 4 acres of exhibit space. The camaraderie attendees will experience will be more fulfilling than ever.

The association is also proceeding with its plan to complete an ambitious environmental research project,
conduct its every-three-year nationwide study of consumer car washing attitudes and habits, and continue to enhance www.CarCareCentral.com. All three of these projects had been planned prior to 9-11 and the board of directors of the association remains committed to making these happen as planned.

We also will begin designing a comprehensive public relations program for the car care industry. For years, we have heard the calls for the International Carwash Association to provide the leadership in this area. It's time to get serious about public relations - designing a program and determining what it will take to make it successful is an important first step.

We will continue to expand opportunities for operator volunteer involvement by empowering them to represent their industry segments in the affairs of the association. We will continue to expand the "reach" of the International Carwash Association to include, rather than exclude, more
of those businesses that are part of the car care industry. If you are interested in volunteering, please call (888) 422-8422.

And, finally, we will embark on a risk management program which will be aimed at doing two things - developing a strategy aimed at reducing the cost of property and casualty insurance and improving car care operations compliance with applicable OSHA requirements. The most recent membership satisfaction survey that we conducted indicated that the two greatest concerns our members had about the future were insurance and OSHA compliance. We're going to respond to those concerns in 2002.


Promise in the Immediate Future
My glass is always half full. Even though the future is difficult to predict compared to the previous four or five years, I believe the car care industry has its most exciting times ahead. We are becoming even better business professionals and are paying greater attention to details that may have been overlooked in the past. This type of scrutiny will bode well for us in the future.

Because of increased competition and uncertain economic times, the vendor community is developing new and better solutions to car care problems. The innovations we'll see as a result will be cleaner cars, faster, at a reduced cost.

To stay on top of the changes will require careful monitoring of what is happening and the ability to respond quickly. The International Carwash Association is poised and will continue to be
better positioned to respond.

Operators vs. the Problems They Encounter
This gives me the opportunity to get on my soapbox. Operators are facing the same problems they have been facing since I started in the car wash business. Operators are facing problems with labor, how to control costs, how to increase revenues, how to compete, and how to deal with increasing regulation by government.

The question should be, "How are operators dealing with the problems they face?" I have only been in the car care business for 16 years, but I still approach each year with the same tactics. Studying everything I can get my hands on, networking with other operators, and going to as many conventions and expos as I can have proven to be very profitable both in my business and personal life.

The operators who rely strictly upon the trade magazines to "stay on top" amaze me. A new way of "staying on top" is the reliance upon Internet forums for information. While both of these vehicles are valuable, they are faceless, many times nameless, usually one-way communications. They are only a small part of the equation for dealing with the problems we face - thus limiting our opportunities for success.

Equally confusing to me are the operators who attend trade shows and expos and yet only go to the show floor. I always go the educational sessions to get firsthand knowledge from first class operators on how they are dealing with their problems. I have never failed to pay for all my expenses for travel, lodging and registration fees by attending the educational and general sessions,thus maximizing my opportunities for success.

An added bonus to attending the educational sessions is the opportunity to network with first class operators from other places. Where else can you get that opportunity? Please understand that I always also go to the exhibits and spend as much time as possible there.

Thank goodness the show-floor hours and educational sessions don't conflict with one another. Do you think that might be a coincidence?

One of the greatest benefits of being the president of the International Carwash Association is that I will have the opportunity and privilege of attending many more state, local, and regional association meetings than ever before. I'll be in the educational sessions. Will I see you there?

For information on the Car Care World Expo 2002, April 25-27, 2002 in Chicago, go to www.CarCareCentral.com. A complete calendar of events for the car care industry can also be found there.

Bill Sartor is president of the International Carwash Association.

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