Are you looking at scaling your car wash but need some support to make that work? Have you considered how systems and procedures can really help strengthen your car wash business and ensure the satisfaction of your stakeholders? Listen in to hear David Begin share what he’s learned over the years. David is the Founder of CarwashOS, a content and consulting company focused on assisting car wash owners to optimize their operations, and he shares many tips and tricks that help car wash owners scale their businesses more effectively.
Don’t miss this great conversation where your host JT Thomson dives into operations and work place culture with guest David Begin.
“For years, I had an adversarial relationship with my employees. I thought they were lazy, I thought they didn’t want to work hard. I just had this attitude about them that was not serving anybody. Working with a manager, I finally just literally had an epiphany one day… all of a sudden the switch turned on. And I saw them as my allies; I saw them as my assets. And you know, I loved on them. It was my job to take every bit of friction out of the process for them, so they could take a hard job and do it as best they can. Right? I wasn’t there to make an easy job. But I was there to take away the barriers, the organizational barriers, and the management barriers, to say what do you need to do your job as well as you can?”
Be sure to listen in to hear this episode where David Begin shares outstanding tips! David talks about what he has learned about how to optimize car wash operations – check it out!
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A Little More about David Begin
David Begin is the Founder of CarwashOS, a content and consulting company focused on assisting car wash owners to optimize their operations. David was the managing partner of Wild Blue Carwash in Colorado for 15 years before selling the chain in 2019. David has been the past president of the Rocky Mountain Carwash association in 2012 and Past President of the International Carwash Association in 2017. David was the founder of “Carwash, the podcast” and is a frequent speaker at carwash association conventions and events.
Interested in the episode but don’t have time to listen right now? See the full interview below!
Welcome to Scaling Car Washes. I’m your host, JT Thomson. I built my first car wash in 2002. And since then I’ve been involved at every level of the car wash ownership experience. I’ve built and sold my own car washes, and as a Sonny’s distributor, I’ve helped other owners build and operate their car washes. Along the way, I’ve been a multi-unit restaurant owner with 23 units in five states. We’ll talk to experts in the car wash industry and related industries that can share insight information that will help you build, scale, and ultimately exit your multi-unit car wash platform.
Well, hey, everybody. I’m JT Thomson with Scaling Car Washes Podcast. I’m here today with David Begin. David is an icon in the car wash industry. He’s been doing this for quite a long time. So it’s a real honor to have him on the show. And he’s built car washes run car washes he’s been the president of the ICA, so he has really got just an extensive knowledge in this space. So again, super glad to have him on board. David, welcome.
Yeah. Thanks, JT. Appreciate it being here. And thanks for having me on your podcast. I’m excited about it.
Absolutely. So, what are you doing these days? I know you had your washes out there in Colorado, and you sold those. So once you give us a little bit of background on kind of what you’ve done… I gave a thumbnail sketch, but maybe just give a little bit more on your background on what you’ve done and what you’re doing.
Yeah, well, I appreciate that. Yeah, so we sold our car washes in 2019, and I was looking for something to do, and I missed the car wash industry. I missed being in it, like a lot of people who are struggling right now with selling their wash — Do I sell? Do I not sell? — because there’s that feeling that I’m going to be out of the car wash business. And so I tried a few different things. And I was asked to create a car wash operational consulting company called CarwashOS. And so we’ve been working on that for about a year. And it’s we really tried to build the content around what can we give in new investors in the industry and new to new to industry people who have not ran car washes that maybe have had some business experience or even have had no business experience? How do we help walk them through the process of building and operating a really good car wash?
Well, you are on the right show, my friend. This is exactly what you’d like to cover. So, let’s talk about that. So first thing is you had your washes; you sold those. And what was it… So, as you were building those, how did you get in? And what were the keys for you? You know, you went from one to I think you sold what — three or four?
It was three. Yeah, we sold three. And so, yeah, I got in in the early 2000s. And I had a technology sales background. And I was traveling quite a bit, my kids were getting into high school, and I thought I didn’t really want to travel as much anymore. And I thought, well, car washing seems interesting. I’d like to say I put a lot of thought into whether I wanted to get into car washing or not. But I didn’t put a ton of thought into it. I started investigating it, but I liked it more and more as I found it. And we built our… You know, we started back in 2003 looking for car wash sites, and we actually didn’t get our first car wash operational until 2006. And so, it took us a couple of years, really. And there was many times in that process I felt like quitting, but thank goodness I didn’t. And so we opened our first car wash in 2006, our second car wash in 2008, and our third car wash in 2017, which I’m sure there’s a big story. Why did I wait so long to open the third car wash? But I was struggling operationally, I mean, I was one of those people that really didn’t know how to run them. I came from a completely different background. The car wash distributor hands you the keys to the car wash, and they show you how to load, and that was pretty much it. And I didn’t know a lot about small business; I didn’t know a lot about how to manage people in that environment. I always kind of winged it, and in other careers I was okay with with winging it to some extent, but I couldn’t wing it in the car wash business, and I sort of hit the wall at two car washes. So when I had my first one, it was okay, because I could just go there when I needed to. But when I had two, it became worse than double the effort because it really starts exposing the flaws in your system when you’ve got two of them and you’re trying to make them look exactly alike. They just didn’t. And so I kind of went on this journey for years of trying to figure out what to do. I mean, I loved the car wash industry. I didn’t like running car washes, because I didn’t know how to do it. And so I always figured there was something you could do to figure it out. And so I kind of went on a long journey to say what do I need to start doing operationally to smooth out my operations so that I could scale, and then when I created car wash number three, I finally had my act together. And it was much easier to create car wash number three that was to create car wash number one and number two, but there was a lot of pain associated with it, too. And I also think we left a lot of money on the table.
So, if you had to boil it down, like what would you say your three top impediments to really kind of truly feeling like you’re on top of the management of your washes?
I didn’t have systems! So, the first one is I didn’t have any systems. We had a lot of checklists, but we didn’t have any… I didn’t have any method of making sure things were getting done. So I think there’s three segments of really good car washes, and I think one of them is you find employees that want to be engaged, right? So, you’ve got to have a good crew of people there. You’ve got to have ownership or operational management, overseeing the car wash. And so you got to make sure things are getting done the way that you’ve decided that you want to get it done. And then there’s all types of different methods to do that. And the one in the middle that I was missing was, what are the processes and procedures and policies you want to instill or have in place at your car wash to train and make people follow. And so I didn’t have the wherewithal, the ability, or the interest of creating the Policy and Procedures Manual. And I didn’t have the wherewithal to enforce it. And so I was involved in the business, but I was involved from a micromanagement standpoint. I had good employees, but I didn’t know how to motivate those employees. And I didn’t give them a training path. I didn’t give them what they needed to be successful in their jobs. And so we had a lot of turnover, and we just had a lot of issues. And my management of the process was do it because I told you to do it! Why didn’t you do it the way I laid it out? I would get super frustrated with them. Nobody was ever really interested in seeing me drive up on site, because they knew it was just going to be a bunch of problems for them. But I didn’t have a methodology in which to train them, in which to hold them accountable, in which for them to grow as individuals so that they could they could do well.
Listen, those are very common obstacles, right? A lot of it is more reactive management, as opposed to, you know, a system and process driven environment that allows you to be a lot more proactive. And, you know, I would always say, you know, two o’clock on a Saturday was our witching hour, right? Something was going to break; something was going to go wrong. And it usually, again, we’re just trying to react to that. So, establishing a system and process for everything. I always talk about exceptions. Exceptions are the enemy, right? We’re always trying to create a process. When an exception pops up, we’re trying to figure out how do we make that not an exception so that we’re not constantly dealing with these, because all they do is cause chaos. So that’s very interesting, because that’s… The other thing I would tell people when we used to have a bunch of restaurants. And I would tell people, it’s a lot easier to run six restaurants than it is two or even three, or one. Because, otherwise, you’re constantly in the business. And you talked a little bit about this, about giving people kind of a career track or giving them some progression. And it’s hard when you only have a couple of units. And I think that’s what a lot of people are seeing now. It’s one reason why I think some people are trying to scale their business, to try to grow it, is to try to take to the next level. So, very interesting that you kind of went that through that. So, what was it that… So you started figuring that out. And then you came into your third site in 2017? And then you sold in 2019? So talk about that.
Yeah, so the third site that we built, I think we had the right processes. We had the right people; we had the right management techniques. I finally had to go learn how to manage. I didn’t know how to manage people were you.
So was this your job? You know, some owners, they’ll invest, they’ll buy a wash, they’ll hire a manager, and then they’re kind of passive. They show up, and they make sure the money gets… What was your role? Like? How integrated to the operations were you, David?
Yeah, I was the managing partner. And I was one of those individuals that invested my own money. So, if this thing didn’t go, it was going to be my house, and my retirement funds, and everything else that disappears to the bank to pay off the note. So I was heavily involved in the business. I had some other partners that were going to be involved, but like most partnerships, you know, there was misunderstandings on who was going to do what and when, but I sort of decided after two years after building the second one, I said, I can no longer be in the software business. I’ve got to be in the car wash business, overseeing what’s going on. So yeah, there are a lot of owners that are passive, and I think sometimes if they don’t have good processes and good systems, they do that to their financial detriment, because you can hire a manager to run the car wash and that’s fine. You can hire manager with experience. Most of them don’t come with their own… They don’t come with processes, procedures, things along those lines. They’re going to kind of do it the way they want to do it, and do their version of it. And sometimes that’s a little different than the way maybe the ownership was to run, so, when you when you hire a site manager, they have a lot of different skills, right? They have to have a lot of different skills; they’ve got to be good with customers, they’ve got to be good with employees, and they’ve got to be good with equipment. And so when we hire site managers, you were, a lot of times, only hiring two out of those three things. They might be good with equipment, and good with employees, but they might not be good with customers, right? And so, you hire people that have got varying skill sets, but one skill set that most managers don’t have is the wherewithal to sit down and write a policy and procedures manual, or to sit down and figure out how to manage employees effectively in such a way that you’re getting the very best out of them. Or they’re not good at training, for example. And so you kind of get a version of what you think you’re getting a lot of times when you hire a manager, but you’re not getting a methodology around that.
Yeah, those are different skill sets, for sure. So what advice can you give people to be able to overcome that? So they buy in… “I need systems. I need processes.” What next?
Yeah, I think you’ve got to sit down and decide how you want to run your car wash. So, you, as an owner, are probably going to have the highest standards that there are, right? I would assume you’re going to want it running really well. You’re going to want employees being there. You want no downtime. You want to watch a lot of cars. So, you’re going to have super high standards, which is okay, to have those high standards. But how do you translate high standards, high customer service, high employee engagement? How do you translate that into policy and procedures? And you just got to sit down with somebody who’s probably done it before, like us, and just say, “Okay, this is what we want to have, this is what we want to have for our employees.” This is what we’ll want an employee to do when there’s an employee conflict. What do you do if you have a conflict with a customer? What do you do when you have a damage claim, right? And you’ve got to label those things out so that everybody’s very clear on what the process is when there’s a damage claim.
Now, as an owner, and this was another big problem I had, JT, is I had super high standards, and nobody met my standards! And that that drove them crazy, and it drove me crazy. And I finally had to temper my standards! I’d still have high standards, but I’d say, I expect my standards to be met maybe 80% of the time, or, you know, 80% of the standards are being followed, understanding that certain things are going to happen, people are going to blow through a barrel of chemical, people are going to make mistake loading. Sometimes people aren’t going to show up for work. That’s going to happen occasionally. But if I have a high standard, but then I sort of temper that standard a little bit, that’s where I found that employees were a lot happier, I was a lot happier, customers were a lot happier, because I just didn’t create unrealistic standards. I have high standards, but I don’t expect everybody to have the same standards I do.
You know, one of the advantages of owning your own car wash and actually working in your car wash is you see it from that level, right? And that gives you more of a pragmatic approach to creating kind of a standard. And then a lot of times there’s an investment that takes place, too, right? Because a lot of what I hear you saying is, you know, you set this… You have to document all this, but then it all falls back to training, right? So you can have a great manual, a great documented systems manual, a safety manual, but if nobody’s trained on it, it’s just going to collect dust on the shelf, right?
Talk a little bit about that. I know that’s probably a lot of what you do in your daily life now. But, you know, what are some things that if you’re just advising people that are trying to grow their business, how do they implement a training program?
Yeah, so you got to have… Your management team, as an owner, needs to be committed to a training program. So, you’ve got to make sure if you’re hiring a site manager, that they believe in training, and they’re going to execute on training. And finally, you know, I always said there’s three stakeholders in the car wash business, there’s the owners who are interested in making money. There’s the customers who are interested in a good experience. And there’s employees who are interested in growing… having good fun place to work, growing their skill sets, looking for advancement, things along those lines. So you got to balance those three stakeholders in their competing interests. Toward the end of my car wash career, I started emphasizing employees, because when I realized if I emphasize employees, the other two tend to take care of themselves. And so, I started pouring myself into managing employees, hiring operational managers who are really good at managing employees. We invested in learning management tools. We made a lot of investments along those lines so that our employees kind of had a pathway where they could see okay, in 60 or 90 or 180 days, I can be here, here and here. And I’ve got a lot of things I can learn and those skills that I’m learning are going to translate into me becoming an assistant site manager, a site manager, or even if I don’t stay in the industry, I’ve got some really good customer service skills, or I’ve got some really good mechanical skills. So, when we offer a policy and procedures manual, we train people on the Policy and Procedures Manual. But we also have other types of training involved in it. And I think technology, like learning management tools, are extremely important in the car wash business to allow people to do online training and watch videos and take assessment quizzes once they’ve done safety training on like, electrical safety, making sure that they understand the major components of electrical safety. And so, online tools, I think, is a big, big part of that. But I think it all gets embedded in a common system so that you can communicate, what are the standards we have in our organization? And why are those standards important? And then how do we train you to be a good tunnel person? Or how do we train you to be good with customers? How do we train you to sell unlimited clubs? People want training. When they come to work for you, they want to be successful. You know, something that my car wash mentor told me, which I never forgot, he goes, “When you hire somebody, they’re still interviewing with you. Even though they started day one, they’re still in an interview mode, where they’re asking themselves the question, was the decision I made to come work for this particular car wash a good decision? Or was it a bad decision?” And so you’ve got, you know, probably 30 to 60 days to work with them, to get them to the point… And if you’ve got everything laid out properly, where they can see the path, they’ll start making that decision in their mind to say, “Yeah, I made a good decision. I’m glad I’m here. I see a future for myself.” If they don’t have those things, which happens with a lot of car washes that you and I have been to over the years where there’s no path, right? There’s no training program, they’re thinking, well, I don’t know…
And historically, that’s been the norm. And so, I think now as we are… Listen, our business and our industry is becoming a lot more sophisticated. A lot more money’s coming in. The importance of onboarding, which is just absolutely critical for the long term success. Because exactly what you said is true. People come in and, you know, that first impression of your business is so important. So if they come in, and it just seems haphazard, it seems like well, we have an employee manual. So please read that. But then there’s no real follow up, there’s no training, there’s no investment into their career, it’s going to be a job. And you’re going to end up on a rotation on the treadmill of employees. But I think, and you were talking about this, but as you invest back in your employees, and they really feel like you’re invested in them, and that they’re a part of that, right? I think those are the employees that you’re going to keep and that you want to keep. And so you’ve got to challenge them with new things, and really put them in a position where they can learn and feel like they’re integrated. Because I agree with what you said, which… People want to do a good job, right? It’s the rare exception. that people don’t want to do a good job. They want to feel like they’re successful, they’re useful. And this day and age is a little different with the workforce, so we do have some unique challenges. But I do think at the core, most people really want to be successful. They want to be happy at their job. And one of the best keys to happiness is feeling like you’re valued! Feeling like you show up, and that you have something to offer, and that people look to you to be somebody that can help other people around you.
It makes such a difference! I think, you know… At the end of the day, I realize the workforce is changing. So now we’ve got to do a lot of okay, this is why we do it. Right? So when you and I started our careers, we wouldn’t dare ask why. We were just told to do it, right? And so I think there’s some good things that are changing with employees asking why, and it helps us ask why. Why are we… why is this our standard? Why is this our policy? I usually communicate that it’s either one of the three stakeholders: it’s good for our customers, and that’s the reason why we do it, and it creates a great experience for them. It’s good for you folks, the employees, or, in some cases, it’s good for the people that invested in this car wash, you know? They need to get a return out of their money in order to keep investing. They had a certain set of expectations. And so, sometimes it’s good for all three, sometimes it’s just good for one, but being able to explain why it’s good for them, I think is important.
So what are some tools… Like, you know, we’ve just started using a system called Trainuel. There’s a number of these learning management systems out there. Anything that you’ve found that’s particularly good, particularly helpful, affordable, right? Because, you know, some of these are expensive.
I think the one you found, JT, Trainuel, is one that we use ourselves. So that’s what we offered our customers. We give them a year subscription as part of their program to get it started. And really, what we have, we’ve got a… If you were to print this all out, which you can’t do on Trainual anymore, it’s all online… But if you were to print out our policy and procedure manuals, it’s probably about 150 pages. And so, you know, we’ve put about 1000 hours of effort into building this, but it’s still a framework, right? So within that, we’ve got about 150 to 200 questions that we’ll ask a new investor on how they want to run their business. Are you going to prep? Are you not going to prep? Are you going to be open on Sundays? Are you not going to be going on Sundays? What are your hours of operations? What do you want your damage policy to be? What do you want your uniform policy to be? And so, we go through this list of questions. And a lot of times, they just sort of get stuck, right? They say, I don’t have any idea what I want my uniform policy to be. So we’ve got one already written, and we’ll say, “Well, based on our experience, these are kind of the best practices that people go through when it comes to uniforms, and making sure they get the uniforms back and making sure people are in uniform.” And so, they’ll say, “Okay, that looks great.” And so we just incorporate that in there. So, one of the advantages of buying a franchise is you typically get all this. But the beauty of a franchise is you get one version. So, if you’re going to get a Jimmy John’s franchise, you’re going to get Jimmy John’s policy and procedures manual. And there’s one way of doing, and it is what Jimmy or John or Jimmy John decides they want to do. That’s how they want you to make sandwiches. And so, with ours, unfortunately, we’ve made a little bit of work for ourselves. We will take a standard policy and procedures manual for car washing and customize it to your specific how you want to run your business. But then once you’ve got it, you’ve got it ready to go. I mean, it took me 10 years to create a policy and procedures manual, and it still wasn’t very good. Because I didn’t have the time to sit down and write that thing the way I needed to write it. Anyway, that’s kind of a long answer to your question what technology do I use. But, you know, Jolt is another one. So, for checklists, we we recommend Jolt, we recommend Wash Systems if they want maintenance systems. We think those things should be online as well. I just am a big believer in online maintenance systems. It’s just a lot easier for both management and car wash operators to look at things.
I think we’ve started using Maintain X. I can’t give a glowing review on it yet. I think we’re just now starting to use it. But, I hear a lot of good things about Jolt. So I know a lot of people are using that. That’s an interesting one. On the training side. Have you ever used Kahoot
Kahoot? I have not.
It’s KAHOOT. And what it is, it kind of gamifies. And it’s really a quiz. So, you know, let’s just say you’ve got a new hire class. You open a new site, and you’ve got 10 new hires. You ask them all to read your employee handbook. How many of them really look at that thing? Not many, right? If we’re being honest about it… They’ll kind of glance at it. Well, Kahoot is a way… It’s a fun kind of a game way that you can put in… Say you have 20 questions, and everybody gives out their phone, and you can do it remotely, you can do it together. And it times… You set this up. You create this quiz with answers, and then people to go through, and it’s kind of fun. It’s just… They use a lot in college now. The sororities and fraternities use these things. But it’s a cool tool that gamifies things and makes it a lot more fun. And you can do things like if you’ve scored a certain amount then you get a free $10 Chipotle gift card or some other ways, but trying to make it more engaging, which is one of the things that we’re learning today. Right? When you and I grew up, right, we were told, just do it, because that’s what you were told to do. And, you know, it was a little bit more old school. But I think now, as you said, there’s more asking why, or trying to really kind of, I don’t want to say push back, but there is… So, you’ve got to make it more engaging. And if you don’t, they’re going to tune you out. And so Kahoot has just been one way that… My brother was at AT&T for a long time, and they started using it at AT7T in their group. So anyway, that’s another thing that is kind of fun to mix it up a little bit.
Yeah, no, I think that’s good! I’ll take a look at that. But you bring up a great point, which is that technology is becoming a bigger player in the operational part of the business. We’ve had good technology at the point of sale system, we’ve had good technology at the process control units, the motor control units have good technology, but we’ve never really looked at technology in terms of how do we operate the car wash, and people are starting to look at that now, and say the technology is really what’s going to help us scale the car wash business so I can go from three to five to 10 if I’ve got the same technology. I’m using the technology as a manager to make my choices, make my decisions on what’s got to get done, on what’s got to get done when? Yeah, I think it’s good.
So the whole thesis of this podcast is about scaling. So the tools now make scaling so much more efficient. It used to be, when you first got in this business, the technology really wasn’t there. I opened my first express Washington 2005. We came out of the gate with unlimited car washing. And we had spreadsheets and barcode scanners that, you know, we used to manage it. And so the technology has gotten better and better. I came from the restaurant side and owned a bunch of restaurants. And it’s interesting there because, I say this a lot on the show, but I feel like the restaurant businesses almost like a decade ahead of us, because they’ve learned to scale their business. A lot of money went in there very early. And there’s been just a lot more intellectual capital behind how do you scale a business. And as a result, right, our biggest player in our space is Mister Carwash with 300 and some odd locations as of today. But if you look at the number of people who own 300 + restaurants, it’s hundreds. It’s a different animal. So I think technology enables us to scale at a much different rate and manage remotely better. As you’ve looked at some tools, do you have any advice on remote management tools? What are some things that people can do? So, you’ve talked about training, we’ve talked about systems and processes. How do you manage 6, 7, 8 locations. What tools are out there that you could recommend for somebody to look at?
Yeah, the one that’s pretty common nowadays is you’ve got to have really good video systems to see what’s going on. I mean, if you’re not investing in video equipment, you’re taking a major risk from a customer standpoint, but also from an employee standpoint. So, you’ve got to get to be able to go back to a situation and say what happened? Where there was an accident in the tunnel, or an employee was accused of doing something… You know, having video that you can go back to and verify that they didn’t do it, or it didn’t happen, or it did happen is really important. And I’ve seen a lot of operational managers that have three or four screens on their desk, and they’re watching each car wash to see how things are going — to see how people are loading, how they’re processing cars. I think the information people are getting from motor control units is getting better and better. It’s just amazing what they can be told or what’s happening with motors tripping, or equipment that’s not on, or pressures that are not happening anymore, you know, at the chemical dispensing systems. I’m seeing now technology embedded in chemistry systems, which is really cool. So they can find out: okay, we know we don’t have the water pressure we think we do, or somebody changed the dial, and we’re now putting three times more chemical out there than we were originally doing. They’re getting told these things automatically, right? You and I used to have to be on site at the car wash to check these things and look at these things. But now, managers are getting all types of reports by exception. So they’re being told, what are the exceptions? I think exception reporting is really, really important from that standpoint. So, that’s some of the advantages that the larger chains have is that they make these investments in these systems, and then they’re able to scale these systems. And so, whether you’re going to own one car wash or you’re going to own 50 of them, we want car wash number one to run as well as it possibly can! If you’re an investor, and you’re not going to invest in a lot of car washes, you’re just going to have a handful, you still want them to run well. And the way you run them well is your run on like the big guys run them, right? And they’ve got a Policies and Procedures Manual; they’ve got standards and operating procedures that they do. They’ve got exception reporting that tells them when something’s not right. You still have to have somebody to manage those things. And you can’t do it when you’ve got 10 car washes. You can’t, as an operations manager, you can’t be on site at all 10 car washes. As the owner, you can’t be on site at all 10 car washes, so how do you manage them? You manage the standards, and you get exceptions to let you know when things need to be addressed.
So you’ve dealt with operators that have, you know, one, two units, and you’ve dealt with ones that have a lot more than that. What is… So, somebody who’s only got a handful of units I’m kind of taking a few steps back to our conversation earlier, but how do they give somebody a path? Like how do they create that engagement and excitement if they only have a couple sites, and they think they’re only going to get to three or four? What are some things that you’ve seen? Or what are some things that an operator can do, in your opinion, to help kind of create that engagement and that long term commitment from your employees?
Yeah, there is always opportunity, and I’ve always told my employees, “There will always be opportunity for you. Whether it’s at my car wash or someone else’s, I want to make you the very best that you can be. So, I will take you to the site manager job, or I’ll take you to the operations manager job if there’s a slot. If not, and you want to go be one of those people, I will recommend you to the end of the earth to another car wash chain or an operator and say, ‘This guy, I hate to lose him, but I don’t have a slot for him. If you’ve got a place for him, he’s going to be a rockstar.'” And so I would always encourage them: always be the best version of yourself because you never know, right? I mean, I’ve had a few employees… I’ve got a car wash I consulted up here in Colorado that’s got one of the best tunnel loaders I think I’ve ever seen in terms of engagement. He is unbelievable. And he has gotten job offers from car wash customers saying, “I want this guy to come work for me!” You never know! If you’re the world’s best loader, you never know if the guy driving in is looking for a great customer service person. And they’re just going to hire them. They say, “Hey, I want to offer you a job!” You never know where your next opportunity comes from. So, I always tell people: prepare for that opportunity. Do the very best you can, whether it’s with me, whether it’s with another car wash, or whether it’s with a billionaire customer that’s driving their car through that wants to hire a rockstar employee, that could be your next opportunity. And so I never saw having three to five car washes as a disadvantage, because it doesn’t have to be.
That’s a great point. And I 100% subscribe to that notion of investing in employees, and I always tell people, “Listen, I want you to work for us as long as it’s a great opportunity for you. But I also want you, if you ever leave, and when you leave, to feel like you are leaving much more prepared to go to that next level, right? So I’m going to do everything I can to invest in you, as a person and as a manager. And what I want from you is to invest in yourself, right? Learn as much as you can. So that if you do go to that next job, you’re that much more valuable.” And I think it served me well. And it sounds like, you know, you agree from your experiences, which has been just always doing the right thing for the people. And you’re going to create that engagement.
Yeah, it really, really made a huge difference for me, and how I looked at my employees. I always had… For years, I had an adversarial relationship with my employees. I thought they were lazy, I thought they were… they didn’t want to work hard. You know, I just had this attitude about them that was not serving anybody. And I literally had… Working with a manager, I finally just literally had an epiphany one day, and I wish I could describe it some other way. But like, all of a sudden the switch turned on. And I saw them as my allies; I saw them as my assets. And you know, I loved on them. It was my job to take every bit of friction out of the process for them, so they could take a hard job and do it as best they can. Right? I wasn’t there to make an easy job. But I was there to take away the barriers, the organizational barriers, and the management barriers, to say what do you need to do your job as well as you can?
And to be proud of what they’ve… You know, so if they are managing a single location there as a site general manager, then make their site the best site that they’ve been to.
So that they’re proud of it. And that they can bring other car wash people in, and there’s no having to make excuses for anything, so…
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s just, you know, if you’re an owner out there, and you’re trying to say, how do I make a great team? How do I make a good culture? Focus on your employees; take care of them. Take all the friction out of the process, right? So, make it easy for them to do their hard job. And if you can do that, you know, those people will run through walls for you.
Yeah, you know, even stepping… You know, kind of getting the right people in is always the key. And it’s hard, right? I mean, we hire for culture and competence. And if you had a slant one way or the other, we slant towards culture, just because we feel like we can teach a lot of the other things. But it’s hard, right? You’ve got to find the right people, and any tips that you can share with people on how you hire that right person?
Yeah, you just got to… I think what you probably did JT, when you were running them, you explained what’s the culture here. You know, how do we operate as a company? And if they get excited about it, and they want to be part of it, then you’ve got a lot of it figured out. I think the one thing you want to do is protect your culture. The best thing I ever heard from my employees, when we hired a new employee, was they they would tell me, “Oh, how’s Bill doing?” And they would say, “You know what? I don’t think Bill’s going to make it. Bill’s not going to fit in here.” Because what that told me, first of all, is there was a strong enough culture amongst the existing employees, they weren’t going to tolerate somebody coming in and not following the standards or following the culture. And that’s an example of a great work culture, right? If I use the example of Chick-fil-A, if you decide to go work for that company and not say, “My pleasure,” when somebody said thank you… You know, “I think that’s really cool here at Chick-fil-A that everybody does that, but that’s really not for me. I’m going to come up with a different phrase…” How long do you think that person is going to last? That person is going to be out quick. That’s an example of a strong culture that says we do this for this reason. And it’s really not an option. And it’s probably a self policing culture. I doubt the other employees are going to allow that to happen. And when you’ve got a good culture, in your organization, it’s a self-correcting organization. They’re not going to let somebody in that doesn’t fit. If you get to that point, pat yourself on the back, because that’s the result of a lot of hard work that you did in building that culture in your organization.
Yeah, for sure. I listened to a podcast, the guy who founded 1-800-GOT-JUNK. And he talked about culture. And one of the things that they do is they, when they hire somebody, they go through interviews with a lot of people, minimum of like seven or eight different people, and you know, they have this test: is this somebody you’d want to bring to the company barbecue? Or would you want to go and have a beer with them type of litmus test? And if the answer to that is no, then you’re probably not going to fit in the culture. And if they don’t, they don’t mesh with the culture, then that’s just not going to be a good fit.
So yeah, I agree. I agree with that. And good employees like good culture. And so, that’s the other reason why to have a good strong culture because it attracts good employees, and it disincents poor-performing employees, right, I call poor-fit employees, not bad employees. Because there’s really no such thing as a bad employee. There’s just a poor-fit employee where this is not a fit for you. So, you know, that’s the other reason why I think you want to really protect your good employees, protect your culture, because that solves a lot of problems.
Well, David, thank you so much for taking some time! Any other bits of information? I know you’ve got just a wealth of knowledge. Why don’t you share with people how they can get ahold of you? And if you have an email or a number that they can reach out to if they have any questions?
Yeah, we’ve got we’ve got our website, carwashOS.com, if you want to go check it out. So these programs we developed are for new investors and existing owners who maybe could use some operational help. So go check it out. There’s a place there, you can send me your name and number and your email, we can connect, or if you want to set up a 30 minute call just to visit a little bit about what you’re going through, you can do that on the website as well, and I’d love to chat with you. So, if you can use some help as a new investor or an existing car wash owner, that’s what we do.
Well, David Begin, thanks again. I’m JT Thomson, your host of Scaling Car Washes Podcast. Thanks, everybody. Thanks for listening to today’s episode of the Scaling Car Washes Podcast. Please subscribe to stay current with all of our episodes coming up. Thanks and I’m JT Thomson, your host.