You have probably noticed over the years the plethora of “business success books.” Typically, these are authored by business leaders who have created tremendous success in a specific business or industry and then offer their ideas and success stories in book form to the general business audience. This common practice points out what most business experts will tell you is true: “business is business is business.” That is, regardless of what it is that you offer for purchase to the public, there are some general principles that, when followed, tend to increase your chances for success.

What is “success,” anyway? For most, it is creating profit from your business that is sufficient to fund your desired lifestyle. For others, it may include the great feeling of accomplishment that comes with the development of a thriving company that supports several employees. There is also the satisfaction of achieving the delight of the customer through the execution of exceptional service. Moreover, some measure success in the amount of “goodwill” that is provided through the company efforts, including support for the community as well as charitable contributions.

Obviously, food, shelter, medical care, and some basic comfort items are going to be first on the list for all of us. I believe, however, that if this is all that you are concerned about providing through the profits of your business, you are really “missing the boat.” I suggest that you enlarge your dreams to include not only a better lifestyle for yourself but also the ability to help others within and beyond your community.

Wouldn’t it be great to be making so much money that you have to hire people that do nothing but spend their time helping you determine which charitable organization should receive your next contribution? A great example is the Bill Gates Foundation, whose namesake spends much of his time presiding over its efforts. A more recent example is the new foundation established by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and his wife.

Okay, I realize that 99.9 percent of us will never make it that big by washing and waxing cars, but it’s still important to expand your thinking and begin to conceptualize your own (admittedly much smaller version of a) “Foundation.”


The act of looking toward the future and imagining what your business could look like can be summed up in the word “vision.” The importance of having a vision is that it can motivate you to greater action, which will greatly increase the likelihood that your business thrives and your lifestyle improves. Without such vision, you are likely to stay right where you are now.

There are a couple of intermediate steps, however, between “vision” and “action.” These include setting goals and planning the action steps that will help achieve those goals. You have probably heard from every motivational speaker, successful businessperson, and business coach that setting goals is one of the most important steps you can take to creating success. You have also probably heard that having a goal is meaningless unless you create a plan to achieve it.

A list of goals does not have to be some elaborate dissertation. It can be as simple as writing on a piece of paper or a white board a simple set of goals like, “I will increase my gross proceeds by 25 percent this year;” or, “I will open a second location by the end of this year.” Once you have determined a goal, you can then start to think about how you are going to achieve it.


Using the example of “increasing gross proceeds,” you can start by running the numbers to determine how many more sales need to be made to increase the bottom line. What this activity does is quantify the goal. Then you can determine the steps necessary to reach those numbers, including raising pricing, increasing marketing efforts, changing sales tactics, or adding new profit centers to your operation. Increased sales may also require hiring additional employees and purchasing new supplies or machinery.

In the second example, you can imagine the list of tasks that are included in opening a new location, including procuring funding, researching and selecting a location, outfitting the new shop with supplies and employees, and developing a marketing plan for the new location.

In each example above, you can see that “setting the goal” is only a small part of the total process. The action plans that help you achieve the goal are the important next step. The action plan can range from a single sheet of paper with a checklist of “things to do” all the way to a formal business plan.

If you are new to this concept of goal setting, I suggest that you start out modestly. Think about some things that would be fun to achieve by year’s end and write them down. If you end up writing down several, then pick only a couple to focus on this year. Next, write down a list of action steps that you think would be necessary to achieve the goal. Again, don’t worry about getting too fancy or writing it in “final draft” form. Just get something down on paper.

A common mistake here is to create goals that are perhaps too lofty. Goals should be reasonably achievable while at the same time big enough to make you extend yourself a bit. Otherwise, let’s face it, you’re just repeating last year’s performance.


Next, you can arrange the tasks so that they are in an order that makes sense. Then take one task at a time and get it done. Break the tasks down into small enough chunks that you can clearly understand what needs to be done to accomplish the task. If the action item seems too big to accomplish (and you just end up putting it off), then it probably is too big. In this case, try to break the action item down into more “chewable” chunks or sub-tasks and then take them one at a time.

Another important thing to remember about this process is that failure is not necessarily the result of missing your goals. That is, if you have not achieved your goals by the end of the period that you set aside (e.g., by year’s end), you should not take this as a failure. Even if you don’t reach your goal in the timeframe that you hoped, it is likely that you are much closer to your goal than you would have been if you had not set it.

The same goes for your action item list. None of us is perfect and life has a way of throwing distractions our way, which may prevent you from checking off everything on this month’s list. Again, this should not be labeled “failure.” Instead, just bump the leftover tasks to the next month and move the scheduled task forward. Remember that you are still moving forward, even if you don’t complete everything on the list. The important thing is to keep moving in the direction of your goal, even if it is with smaller steps than you originally planned.


Remember to celebrate your successes during the process. Treat yourself to something nice when you complete your tasks each month, like a meal out or a new music download. At the end of the year, celebrate the achievement of your goals as well, perhaps with a weekend getaway with your family or a fancy dinner with your co-workers.

Returning to a concept I mentioned earlier in the article, include in your goals something that is outside of yourself, your family, and your business. Find ways to serve your community and contribute to a worthy cause. This might be in the fashion of sponsoring a local youth sports team. If money is tight, volunteer your time with such a group.

A common mistake is to create goals that are too lofty.

As an example, I often supply raffle prizes for fundraisers in my community. Having two high-school-age kids who have many activities, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Supplying a free exterior detail here and there does not cost me very much and it gets my company name out in the community. Often, the winner of the raffle is a person who never heard of my business but becomes a regular customer.


I challenge you, my fellow operators, to take a look at your businesses and consider how they match up to your definition of success. Then I challenge you to “take it to the next level” by setting goals for the improvement of your business. Finally, consider including in your goals, those charitable activities that would require you to stretch your business a bit farther in the coming year.


Prentice St. Clair is an International Detailing Association Recognized Trainer and Certified Detailer. As the president of Detail in Progress Inc., he has been providing training and consulting to car washes and detail shops since 1999. He is available at (619) 701-1100 or