Posts filed under Editorial

Wash Ideas Weekly #64 - "City Council Sideshow"

This week is a news show featuring industry journalist and regular to the show Kate Carr, of Professional Carwashing and Detailing - we discuss some of the industry news and what this means to you as a car wash operator.

Featuring Ryan Carlson (Your Host)

Kate Carr (Editor, Professional Carwash & Detailing)

Show SponsorsWashCard Systems, Hydraflex Inc., Slip Stream


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Posted on December 2, 2010 and filed under Charity Carwashing, Editorial, Industry Talk, Podcast.

Wash Ideas Weekly #48 - "Learning from your Competition"

We take our panel this week of industry insiders and operators to talk about looking to the local competition with fresh eyes. How can we learn about being a better business and a better competitor? Great show this week - a MUST listen.

Featuring Ryan Carlson (Your Host), Curt Aton (Franklin Carwash), Kyle Doyle ( and Blue Sky Media Group), Robert Greene (Carwash Express Inc.), Kate Carr (Editor, PC&D)

Show Sponsors: Modern Car Care, WashCard Systems

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Posted on June 17, 2010 and filed under Editorial, Industry Talk, Marketing, Podcast.

Wash Ideas Weekly #36 - "How to educate yourself in 2010"

This week we talk with our friends from Modern Car Care and the Western Carwash Association about their upcoming road show event and discuss labor issues and our industries future in 2010.

Featuring Ryan Carlson (Your Host), Kate Carr (Editor of Professional Carwash & Detailing),  Holly Macriss (Executive Director of the Western Carwash Association), and George Spelius (Editor, Modern Car Care)

Show Sponsors: Modern Car Care, WashCard Systems

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Posted on January 8, 2010 and filed under Car Wash Associations, Editorial, Industry Talk, Podcast.

What carwash operators can learn from Big Box Retail

The most difficult question that a business owner will ask themselves is, "how to do more on less?". The stark reality is that business owners, distributors, and manufacturers in every industry are seeing rising costs amidst lower profits. Businesses are expected to do the same job with less manpower for less money. Where did we go wrong? What could business owners have possibly done to have future-proofed their business?

I'm afraid to say that business owners, especially carwash operators have seen the writing on the wall for some time now, it's just been easier to look the other way. When times were 'good' it was hard to justify making potentially costly investments into the business with "things were already working"… Every business will change several times during their lifespan - the only difference is whether the decision to change was out of foresight or hindsight. The reason why big companies always seem to be reinventing themselves is because they have spent millions on research to identify that consumers change far more often than our businesses do. Did you know that big box retail and restaurants have "test markets" all over the country that try new business models, menu items, store layouts, and different promotional programs? They've done a LOT of the work for us and most small business owners have not realized this.

Here are some things we should learn from the big businesses that change with the times (aka. big box)

Customers time is valuable: Like we haven't know this before right? But notice all of the stores with express check out lanes? Do you realize that you can buy just about anything without cash these days? Have you noticed that pharmacies are not even built without a drive-up window anymore?

Takeaway: Some businesses are finding creative ways to make the experience of a carwash quick and easy. They offer express lanes, express detail, cashless payment acceptance, extended hours of operation, express payment terminals, and many more.

Manufacturer and distributors partner with their customers: Walk into any Best Buy and you'll quickly realize that it's not just blue-shirt employees in the store. They have an Apple representative, a Verizon / AT&T / Sprint / T-Mobile representative, Sony Reps, etc. They are all their to support the staff with expert training and help the customers answer their specific questions about complex products. Even smaller stores receive monthly training from their manufacturer and distributor representatives on how to effectively market and understand the various product offerings.

Takeaway: You should be working with companies that can provide you with assistance, training, marketing advice, and consulting. Distributors and Manufacturers should be reaching out to their end users and finding out how they can help make them successful. Send them to trade shows, hold educational sessions, send somebody out for an onsite visit, help them put together a marketing plan.

Customers can pay any way they want: This will come across as a shameless plug but just realize that every fast food business, gas station, retail business, and oil change lube shop all accepts credit cards in addition to cash. Why is it that two-thirds of operators still are a cash-only business?

Takeaway: If your not taking credit cards everywhere on your location you've already missed the boat. Your playing catch-up with your competition and if the other car washes in your area are not yet taking credit card as a form of payment on all of your services your lucky. You have an opportunity to capitalize on this customer expectation and reap the benefits.

Other things ‘Big Box’ has done to survive;

Smart Hiring and Firing: This is the wakeup call that has businesses evaluating their staff and replacing underperforming staff with highly qualified individuals from the ranks of the unemployed. Do regular staff performance evaluations, document issues like time theft, showing up late, customer complaints, and have your ‘case’ built if you have an employee that you would like to replace. This keeps you safe from expensive unemployment claims.

Create financial transparency with the staff: Management never likes letting employees know how much money the business is really making. But it’s now proven that staff that knows the real financial stakes creates a greater sense of inclusivity. Employees work harder and feel that they are part of the solution, not just another problem. If employees know that your business is in trouble perhaps they will work harder to keep things afloat (and keep the jobs they all count on!).

Try new things: Big Box realizes that if what they are doing now isn’t working it’s time to shake things up and do something new. So for your wash business perhaps it’s time to investigate that unlimited wash program, that fleet marketing program, or courting the local fundraiser and charity groups. You never know what the ‘next big thing’ will be in your area until you’ve tried it.

What do you think our industry can learn about what Big Box Retail is doing? How can we apply it to our small businesses?

Posted on December 17, 2009 and filed under Editorial, Industry Talk.

Call to Action - Support Grace for Vets

Veteran’s Day is fast approaching. It is a national holiday established to honor those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms. We have so many to thank. Won’t you join carwash owners and operators across the country in honoring our veterans by offering them a free wash?


On November 11th, Help Honor our Veterans by providing them with a Free Carwash.


It’s not too late to do your part! Please log on to the following website or phone Jim directly at 717.629.5494 for details on how you can get involved.


There are FREE promotional materials that you can print off and post at your wash and also use in your local newspaper to help promote your event honoring our veterans. Many before you have paid for these promotional materials.


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Posted on November 2, 2009 and filed under Cashless, Editorial, Industry Talk, Marketing.

Rant: Why your carwash is failing

You must come to terms with an ever-changing business climate as your customer base becomes inoculated against your marketing messages, pricing structures, menu signs, and relevance of your products or services. Change can be seen as an opportunity to finally reinvent your business or as a frightening abyss of inaction. You can certainly just stick your head in the ground like an ostrich and ignore the writing on the wall and ride things out while pointing your finger at gas prices, competitors, rising energy costs, local politicians, city councils, or the weather. Business owners that are willing to accept that they are perhaps losing touch with their customers and that their business needs a tune-up are those that will make the necessary changes and adapt. Those that would rather suck dirt and stick their heads in the ground are those that will be selling off their businesses or join the ranks of the foreclosed in the coming years.

I guess I’m a bit tired of hearing wash owners say, “I know I need to do something but...” which is followed by some excuse that is used to justify not making a change.

The changes in consumer buying trends has not only effected carwash businesses, it’s just that other industries have more successfully adapted to the current market environment. As stated earlier, consumers are becoming immune to the old way of doing business. We are now fighting for discretionary income against some of the biggest marketing machines in history. McDonalds, Walmart, Starbucks, iTunes,, and eBay see that people don’t have as much money in their pockets as they used to.

Here are some of the common places carwash businesses are losing touch with their customers and could look to reinvent or retool aspects of their business to be more relevant with today’s consumer. We will use the above businesses as examples of what to do right.

Be known for something, stay relevant! - You can no longer just be a ‘CAR WASH’ in your community, you need to be known for something. Whether you are the charity carwash, the eco-friendly carwash, the fastest carwash, or the carwash with the convenient club program... You fall from the publics eye when you fail to stand out.

Failure to offer payment options - I feel like a complete broken record here, but look at how consumers purchase goods and services these days. Customers do not want to be held hostage by changers, tokens, or trips to the ATM. They buy value meal hamburgers, rent .99 cent DVD’s from Redbox, order a $2.00 coffee, and purchase songs for .99 cents each with (drumroll) their bank card or credit card every day, all day, all the time. If you do not have a credit card acceptance device next to every coin slot or bill validator you can’t see the giant neon sign in the sky proclaiming that they purchase their everyday services with a credit card - this is an easy issue to tackle, it only takes money.

Ask for repeat business - Customer Data Collection - Have you ever purchased something from Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, or signed up for a ‘Customer Rewards Program’? I’m certain you or somebody close to you has - all of the businesses that are thriving and are not pointing fingers at anybody right now are those that realize it’s FAR less expensive to market to the customers they already have. If you do not have a way to capture your customers contact information (name, email address, mailing address, etc) you are missing out on perhaps the most effective and least expensive way to increase your bottom line. Just don’t go out and build a website with a “give me your information” page without having a plan... You need to create incentives, promotions, or build programs around gathering this information as an end goal. If your collecting the data from your customers good for you! If you are not doing anything with that data shame on you.

I’ve only scratched the surface... So if you feel overwhelmed and know you need to do something perhaps it’s time to find somebody you know that can help, attend an association education event, or seek the assistance of a professional.

Posted on June 12, 2009 and filed under Cashless, Editorial, Industry Talk, Marketing.

Wash Ideas Weekly #16 - "New Media Marketing"

Exploring how businesses (especially car washes) could utilize new media outlines like Facebook to grow their business. Jonathan Wold joins us again to share some of his expertise with creating and maintaining an online presence. This may not be your cup of tea, but perhaps a family member or one of your staff could spearhead this growing opportunity to build your business beyond the four walls of your wash.

Featuring Ryan Carlson and Jonathan Wold of sabramedia,

Show Sponsors: Modern Car Care and Carwash Profits

New Sponsor: To learn more about offering reward miles for YOUR customers when they use your wash visit the Thanks Again 'More Information' page and be sure to mention where you heard about their company.

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Posted on June 8, 2009 and filed under Editorial, Marketing, Podcast.

State of the Industry Address - Now Live!

I know that I was really bummed out that I missed the State of the Industry Address by the current President of the International Carwash Association, Lisa Lyons. I heard a lot of good things about it and now you can watch it on the associations website.

Lisa provides wise words about hard work and innovation. It's time that our industry brings a new level of professionalism to this industry and starts making the changes needed to meet the needs of consumers that are changing.

Posted on May 14, 2009 and filed under Car Wash Associations, Editorial, Industry Talk.

Important Ways to Increase Your Web Presence

A common roadblock many carwash owners encounter is that they rush out and build a Web site for their company and then are shocked that their business does not increase as a result. This common misunderstanding in Internet marketing is shared by many businesses worldwide, not just carwashes. There are a number of factors that play into the success and profitability of Internet marketing beyond just having a Web site.

A site that provides only basic information, such as address, phone, hours of operation and location information, is nothing more than a glorified Internet Yellow Pages ad. Instead, your Web site should...

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Posted on March 31, 2009 and filed under Editorial, Marketing.

The Power of Plastic

Adding credit card acceptance to a car wash location is one of the upgrades every business owner must consider if they want to maximize their earning potential in 2009 and beyond. Every year that passes a new generation of car owners hit the street and they do not carry any cash. The next generation of consumers relies heavily on the ability to use their check cards and credit cards to make every day purchases. Adding credit card acceptance to your wash services is the key to getting more business from current customers and gaining the business of new customers.

Posted on March 3, 2009 and filed under Cashless, Editorial, Marketing.

Making Buying Decisions - When should I buy?

Every year business owners are put into a position where they need to decide whether or not to buy a new product or service for their business. There are new products and services that come out every single year and in many instances products within the wash industry are just evolutionary and rarely revolutionary. So when considering a purchase that you had not been planning on consider the following;

  1. Business Basics: Ask yourself, “Does this bring my business value?” Is there something about the purchase you are about to make that you are not currently capitalizing on? Examples range from finally adding that RainX super-sealant arch to your automatic so you can start up selling your menu items or finally adding credit card acceptance to your entry stations, bays, and vacuums to your cash-only business. These would be examples of “new changes” whereas changing the color of your soap and replacing wash equipment may be necessary, but not necessarily adding additional value.The key thing about bringing additional value to your wash services is that it’s not just improving on something you already do. There are a lot of wash owners that end up spending money just to have the latest and greatest - if you have the money to do that, by all means. But most wash owners need to consider that new equipment purchases (outside of necessary repairs and replacing old failing equipment) need to answer the question, “Will this product/service provide a feature or service that that my customers want or are willing to pay for?”

  1. Research Basics: Ask for referrals, do your homework online, and ask for the names of competitors. If a supplier or manufacturer is unwilling to provide you with customer referrals or hesitant to give you the names of their competitors that should send you a signal to be cautious. Nothing quite beats talking to an actual operator that uses a manufacturers product to learn whether it will be a good fit for you. The reason to look at competitors is because many times it will reduce any ‘buyers remorse’ that you may have when making big purchases, even if you made the right decision for your business. Anytime you are spending thousands of dollars with a supplier or manufacturer you need toknow that you didn’t make the wrong decision. Before speaking with a manufacturer or supplier be sure you’ve reviewed the information available online so you can ask intelligent and well-informed questions.

  1. Common Sense Basics: The wisdom of generations before us still holds true especially in making unplanned buying decisions.

  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” - Business owners are just as susceptible to the “rush” of buying something new as every other consumer on the planet. Most wash operations will always check to see if the equipment they have can be upgraded, retrofitted, or repaired before resorting to buying new.

  • “You get what you pay for” - There is a reason why you charge more for your top wash package than your basic wash package right? When evaluating suppliers and manufacturers solely based on price consider that (in general) the more you pay the more money the supplier or manufacturer has for supporting their customers, research & development, and providing additional services the low-cost alternatives can’t afford to provide. So consider when a claim is made about up-time, product features, and customer support that the price tag doesn’t seem too good to be true (it rarely is).

Posted on January 26, 2009 and filed under Car Wash Associations, Editorial, Industry Talk, Marketing.

My Top 10 Recommendations for 2009

I Present to you the Top 10 ways in which to improve profitability and sales on a budget in 2009.

Because of the economic conditions that we are faced with in the car washing industry it is time to follow the lead of our own customers. Now is the time to take care of the car(wash) that we already have and focus on getting the most out of it we can. There is far too much waste on labor, lost sales due to equipment failures, and not nearly enough attention on marketing and finding ways of appealing to the next generation of wash customers.

10. Fresh Paint and New Bulbs - This may seem insignificant but now is the time to realize that those customers that are still washing their cars want a clean and well lit environment to wash their car. Applying a fresh coat of paint and replacing old light fixtures (or bulbs) is a great way to appeal to the consumer populace that assimilates 83% of their information visually.

9. New Equipment Decals - Now is the time to contact your equipment dealer and order up some new equipment decals to spruce up the hardware that you already have. For a small additional cost wash owners are also turning to replace their old peeling decals with new customer equipment decals as part of their business branding efforts and onsite marketing and promotions.
Posted on November 26, 2008 and filed under Editorial, Industry Talk, Marketing.