When you’re in the business of car detailing and reconditioning, there is always something important that needs your attention.
The auto detailing business is fast-moving, so you need to remain on top of everything.
Owning any kind of business can be stressful. A detailing business adds an entire additional layer of stress.
Your Skills are the Business
A detail shop owner has more stress because they have added responsibilities. Not only do you need to run the business, in many ways your skills ARE THE BUSINESS.
You need to detail cars until you have sufficient business to support hiring additional detailers as employees.
But you also have a ton of other responsibilities that you, as the business owner, need to perform in order to stay in business.
How to Grow an Auto Detailing Business
You obviously can’t stay small forever. You need to learn how to grow an auto detailing business to use economies of scale and increase profits.
And that means many more jobs that only the business owner can handle.
Eventually, you want to add employees, but that takes money. And the time to recruit, interview, and train.
Your Single Largest Business Expense
And that’s before you pay dime one of payroll. Employee costs will eventually become your single largest business expense.
So do it right. Start your team on the right footing and a solid foundation by hiring them as W2 employees versus 1099 contractors. And check out this link to another article I recently wrote about the 5 reasons your 1099 contractor is actually a W2 employee.
Until then, it’s just you. In your shop. Doing all the things every new business owner needs to do.
And some of these things may sound like they suck. Because they do. But remember why you got into business for yourself. It might not sound exciting, but it is because it’s your business.
First Person to Arrive, the Last Person to Leave
In my first shop, I was always the first person to arrive, the last person to leave. That’s how it should be.
It’s your business. Show your people that your business is important to you.
Lead by the example you want to set. If your employees know that your business is important because of the respect you show for it, they will mirror that same respect.
You don’t hire employees simply to give you people to boss around and do things you don’t want to do. If that’s what you think, you won’t survive in the brutal business world.
Employees are assets, not liabilities
A great business trains it’s employees to become profit centers in the business. They make your business more money.
If employees are only costing you money, then you are doing it wrong. Ultimately, that’s on you, not them. I always believed that employees are assets, not liabilities.
That simple change in how you look at your team will dramatically alter how they see themselves in the business.
Employees Leverage Your Time and Skills
Your main focus with hiring is to efficiently utilize employees to leverage YOUR time and skills in order to get more work done.
That is why you hire people to work in your business.
If you have to do boring, redundant things so your team can focus on billable services, then YOU DO THE BORING CRAP so they can make you more money.
This one rule takes many business owners years to figure out. But it’s an important one.
It’s called servant leadership. Essentially leading by doing, but also serving your employees in whatever capacity they need so they can do their jobs better.
Here’s a good example of servant leadership. In many businesses, the newest employees are ‘low man on the totem pole.’ So the more veteran employees look at that as an opportunity to force the newbies to do crap work that they don’t want to do.
I can think of so many better ways to motivate a new employee and get them excited about their job than abusing them right at the start.
At many businesses, when new employees arrive for work, you and the other veteran workers basically haze them, call them rude nicknames, and force them to do awful jobs. Things that nobody else wants to do. Like cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping floors, and cleaning up after the other employees.
Downward Cycle that’s Bad for Business
This becomes a downward cycle that’s bad for business. Everything your team sees every day becomes lead by negative reinforcement. And everything gets locked in a vicious cycle of retribution. You remember when you were a new employee, how the older guys used to trash the bathroom and make it disgusting because they knew you had to clean it.
And leave their trash everywhere, expecting you to clean it.
So now that you are one of the pro’s you are damn sure going to make that new guy’s life very difficult.
It’s an awful way to treat people.
This naturally causes other employees to behave like pigs. Leaving their trash everywhere, never picking up after themselves, and destroying the bathroom when they use it.
My Positive Way Worked Like Magic
Here’s an idea. Instead of forcing the newest employees to clean the toilets and handle all the other crap work that nobody wants to do, YOU DO IT.
Yes, I mean YOU, the owner of the business.
Wait, you want me to clean a bathroom? Yes, I want you to clean a bathroom. And sweep floors. And refill or top off empty bottles of cleaning solutions, waxes, compounds, etc.
Lead by example. My positive way works like magic.
I stayed for an hour every night after my employees all left. The shop was quiet. So I did mindless tasks that allowed me to think about business stuff.
And yes, I cleaned the bathrooms, emptied the trash bags, and refilled all the bottles of cleaning solutions and waxing supplies in each detail bay.
And I even swept and mopped all the shop floors.
And a weird thing happened.
Treat Your People With Respect
My employees noticed that I was staying every night to clean up after them. And they asked me why. So I told them I should never ask an employee to do anything I’m not willing to do myself.
And just like that, they started cleaning up after themselves.
The bathroom stopped getting dirty.
The trash stayed in garbage bags instead of the floor.
And the floors hardly needed sweeping or mopping.
I still stayed after everybody else left each night. But it took less and less time to clean.
Turns out, if you treat your people with respect, they treat you the same way.
Everybody Helps Out and Does Every Type of Job
And we also started keeping people much longer at our company. They saw immediately that everybody helps out and does every type of job, from the owner down to the newest employee. And everyone respected each other.
It changed our entire business culture in a dramatic and very positive way.
What types of jobs do auto detail shop business owners do in addition to their main detailing job?
- Answer the phone – If you don’t answer the phone, the potential customer calling will get annoyed and call another shop that does answer.
- Schedule customer vehicles – So you don’t run out of work.
- Handle customer service problems – an upset customer is not only bad for getting the future business, but it’s also bad for getting business from any of the other people they complain about you to.
- Make sure you get paid – Especially if you bill customers. Personally I believe billing customers is a bad idea, especially early in your business. Customers should not have a problem paying immediately upon completion of your services. Billing just adds another step in the process and creates more work for you collecting payment later.
- Keep your books up to date – so you don’t run out of money. You should always be on top of your books. And project your cash flow for the entire month. Cash is king, especially in a small business. Running out of cash will stop you in your tracks.
- Order supplies – so you can do your work. And earn more money. If you run out of supplies, you will be forced to go purchase crappy retail versions of products that you get delivered in professional strength and at wholesale prices. So stay on top of your supplies. In my shops, either I or my managers would check inventory and track supplies on a worksheet so we knew when we needed to order.
- Clean your shop – I know, I get it. This is one of the least favorite items after you’ve been cleaning customer vehicles all day. But what kind of impression does a dirty shop leave with a customer that is paying you to make their car look new again?
- Marketing your business – after all of that, you still need to find time to market your business to keep a steady flow of customers.
You have issues flying at you from everywhere.
Great Auto Detailers Build Great Detail Shops
All of this is a pretty standard day in an entrepreneur’s life. The difference between owning a detailing and reconditioning business is most of the heavy lifting is done by you, the owner.
Great auto detailers build great detail shops. Mainly because they usually focus on quality services.
We aren’t attorneys or accountants, but we can share some of the actions that we took in our own business that might give you some ideas that you can take to your legal and financial advisors for their professional advice.
Hopefully, the business pages below and the continuing posts and training materials added to this site will help you grow your business.
We appreciate you stopping by and we always welcome new members to our detailing community.
Feel free to join and participate in the detailing business community forum pages. It’s free and members have access to ask questions from our pros to bounce ideas, get feedback and learn from experienced professionals.
Here are several pages and posts on our website under the detailing business category that might help you:
Auto Detailing Insurance – Protect yourself, your customers and your employees. Don’t risk bankruptcy.
Employees and Taxes – Set them up right from the beginning and you will be glad that you did.
Transport Plates – Important, hard to get and some background on why it’s worth the effort.
Auto Detailing Business Methods – Detailing best practices for you to consider in your detailing business.
Detail Shop Health Insurance – It’s more affordable than you think and drastically improves employee morale.
Detail Shop Customer Satisfaction – How to improve your ratings and keep customers happy.
Detailing Charity and Fund Raising – This is a great marketing opportunity and community awareness program.
Auto Detail Corporate Customer Accounts – Offering these will explode your profits.
Thanks again for stopping by, we look forward to talking with you soon in our community pages.