To enjoy a fruitful detailing career an operator needs to possess more than a collection of car cleaning skills. Successful detailers need to know how to produce a perfect car, of course, but they also must have a love for the automobile and their craft embedded in their DNA.
Since he was 14 years old patrolling his childhood neighborhood with a bucket and a sponge Greg Swett has been a car guy — growing up around Detroit during the muscle car era can do that to a boy. Those formative years spent scrubbing his neighbors’ cars for spending money engrained a fascination with both the automobile and detailing that has served him well for the past four decades.
The former president of the International Detailing Association and owner of Classic Appreciation has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a garden hose detailer, but like any detailer worth his salt he did it one step at a time.
While enrolled in college in the mid-80s Swett formed Classic Appreciation as a part-time venture but it quickly became a full-time obsession. He steadily grew his operation, constantly upgrading both his skill set and his operation’s size until he moved the business to a 3,600-square-foot, fixed location in downtown Rochester, MI. The business continued to grow in size and reputation and Swett quickly upgrading to a slightly larger location on Main Street.
Classic Appreciation operated out of that site for 20 years, continuing to cultivate a loyal customer base until purchasing and renovating a massive 8,100- square- foot facility outside of the downtown location Swett had grown accustomed to. He feared that his business would suffer once it surrendered its prime location in the center of Rochester, but his fears were for naught as his customers eagerly followed Classic Appreciation to its new location.
“We were concerned that people would not be able to find us as easily being slightly off of Main Street,” Swett says. “But that turned out false. Most everyone that visits likes the facility a lot and appreciates the space available to move vehicles around. Our newest location is truly state of the art. It is one of the largest and best equipped automobile detailing facilities in the world. Our first year at the new location marked a revenue increase of over 20 percent.”
The new location is more than just big, it is well equipped and oozes high-end service. The former automotive collision shop features a huge 6,800-square-foot work area, a well-appointed and comfortable waiting room, and a large amount of office space.
The warehouse-like detailing floor allows technicians the room to comfortably process and move cars in and around the shop without disturbing fellow staff. The large location also allows Swett to continue to cultivate the community goodwill which has served him well since the early days.
Two of Swett’s greatest passions is cars and teaching others the detailing techniques he has acquired over a lifetime dedicated to detailing excellence. For years he has cultivated goodwill within the community, and fueled his passions, by conducting detailing clinics for local car clubs. Before moving to the current location Swett would meet with the car clubs in halls or restaurants during the harsh Michigan winter months to discuss detailing techniques and divulge industry tips when he had the free time during the long-winter freeze. Now, however, thanks to the large, state-of-the-art facility, the clinics take place at Classic Appreciation’s shop with full demos on club members’ cars. The lessons are no longer theoretical, they are hands on.
“Other detailers might think that I am crazy and am taking away my own work conducting these clinics,” Swett says. “What I learned is that these guys arepassionate about their cars and it is their therapy and their hobby. They are going to work on their cars themselves anyway. But when they are out on the golf course or eating dinner with friends and someone mentions detailing they instantly recommend us. It has worked out very well.”
In addition to passing along his vast detailing knowledge to fellow car guys, Swett has developed a training program for his staff that helps ensure that every car serviced at Classic Appreciation gets the same top-notch service.
“Training has been our big thing,” Swett says. “One of the best things I ever did around 25 years ago was actually write a training manual. In 1987 I took the whole month of January off and went to my parents’ house in Florida and wrote my first training manual. Once you have it in writing you can effectively teach it to someone else. We teach our detailers to do it the same way on every car in a specific order so they don’t forget things. Consistent results is one of the keys to success.”
Classic Appreciation’s 30-step complete detailing system delivers consistent detailing services with high quality and professional results every time. By engraining the routine into his technicians’ work flow Swett has effectively addressed the consistency issues that plague other detailing operations. In addition to the Rochester location, Classic Appreciation has a second site 10 miles away in Birmingham, MI, and thanks to the 30-step process results are uniform across the brand.
In fact, Swett’s training methods are so efficient and his detailing processes so effective that Classic Appreciation has been the training grounds for much of the noteworthy local competition.
“Most of the competition are ex-employees of mine that have set up their own shops. Which I am cool with,” Swett says. “There is one guy that is right in between our two locations that worked for us for a few years, He was great. He worked real hard and learned everything he could and then went out on his own. The way I look at it there is enough work for all of us.”
Swett’s unique approach to both the detailing process and the business side of the industry served him well as the president of the International Detailing Association (IDA). He held the top spot at the industry’s most recognizable organization for a one-year term in 2014, and oversaw one of the association’s busiest years to date.
Under his watchful eye the organization updated its website, increasing its usability and allowing for members to seamlessly interact with each other. In addition, during his year-long tenure the association developed its first-ever “Skills
Validation” test as part of is Detailing Certification Program. The skills test, of which Swett was among the first to pass at this year’s Mobile Tech Expo and Detailer’s Forum (MTE), complements the IDA’s written certification test with real-world skill assessment.
“I am very proud of the skills validation test that got done during my year as president,” Swett says. “I was not responsible for developing it. I just happen to be there. But I am very proud of the organization for putting it together.”
Over the past 40 years Swett has done more than just been there.
He built Classic Appreciation from the ground up with a dedication to quality, consistent service and the willingness to share his knowledge with not only his employees but the competition and industry as well. Not bad for a kid with a hose.