Spend a few minutes with a veteran car washer discussing their time in the industry, and you will come away with one undeniable truth: Getting started in the car wash industry is hard.
But what if you could get a little push? What if there was a way to possess years of hard-earned wisdom, without actually going through years of missteps to earn it?
Those were the questions Miles Johnson set out to answer when he first contemplated licensing his very successful Miles Auto Spa. Johnson, who started in the industry more than a decade ago, has built an over-the-top chain in central Tennessee that is so unique he has been fielding requests to franchise his wash seemingly from inception.
“Over the years we had people come up to us and ask us if we ever thought about franchising,” he says. “The answer was yes. We thought about it but we really didn’t want to go to the expense. Franchising is very regulated and there is a lot you have to navigate. It sounded like a good idea but we never did anything about it.”
This is until old colleague and friend Greg Post came knocking, inquiring if Johnson and Miles president Rocky Crossland were interested in franchising Miles. The three entrepreneurs had worked for years as high-ranking wireless telecommunications executives, and Post was looking to open his own business after retiring from the industry.
“I used to live in Nashville and visit the Auto Spa and I will tell you from a customer experience perspective, it is no doubt the Nordstrom of the car wash industry,” Post says. “When I was making the decision about what I wanted to do next in my career, I felt very comfortable going to Miles and Rocky and saying I would love to reproduce what you have created.”
After years of contemplating franchising the Miles name, Johnson felt the time was right to give it a go. But he wasn’t going to simply franchise his business, he wanted to redefine what a car wash franchise is and could be. In fact, he isn’t even comfortable calling what he came up with a franchise, he prefers to call it a licensing agreement.
“When we started talking to Greg about this we thought there was a different way to do it,”Johnson says. “We thought franchises were cool and there are obviously guys that are very successful doing it, but we wanted to take it in a different direction.”
Traditionally, franchisees pay an upfront free to the franchisor for the right to use their name and to help get the business up and running. In addition, the franchisee will pay an ongoing fee for as long as they are operating under that brand flag.
What Johnson had in mind was a more hands-on, end-to-end solution. The new concept would not only grant Post the use of the Miles name, but also provide the car wash newbie with invaluable back-end support, helping make his investment in the industry as turnkey as possible.
Johnson started off in the car wash industry with a customer-centric, full-serve location and over the years added two innovative express exteriors to his holdings. It was this Miles Express concept that Post was interesting in reproducing and is the focus of Miles first licensing endeavor.
“What we are doing is completely different,” Johnson says. “Our focus is obviously on helping a car wash get up and running under our brand flag. But more importantly we are interested in helping you successfully operate the business after you are open. We provide the branding, building, equipment, chemicals, and back-office support you need to succeed.”
Since its founding in 2007 Miles has invested heavily in the development of its brand including the design of its logo, website, marketing, and advertising materials that are all available to licensees on day-one. In addition, they have access to the car wash building Miles has designed with Modernwash, cutting down on time to market and construction costs. Furthermore, licensees can purchase all the necessary equipment and chemicals through Miles making selection a breeze and further simplifying the development process for investors.
While the construction, equipment, and marketing support programs are certainly impressive, it is not out of the realm of what other franchise/license agreements offer. What sets Miles apart is the available ongoing business support that allows industry rookies to tap into years of car wash expertise before, during, and after construction.
The Miles team can assist with site selection and can even provide an expert SBA banker to help with the increasingly complicated car-wash funding process. And once the wash is up and running Miles will handle all of the back-office accounting including daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting as well as available payroll support.
“This is really a soup-to-nuts program,” Johnson says. “As a new investor it is daunting. You go out and spend millions of dollars and it is all on the line and it is nerve racking. What we want to do is take a lot of that away and give you the support you need to not only get the business launched but operate it successfully on a go-forward basis.”
It was this next-level support that drew Post to the brand. Like many first-time car wash investors he lacked the technical know-how to hit the ground running at full speed, and was unwilling to devote years in costly trial and error to attain it. Post is currently developing two washes under the Miles banner in Colorado (Denver and Colorado Springs) which are both on schedule to open their doors in 2020.
“Outsiders think car washing is not very complex, but it is a very complex business,” Post says. “One of the unique things that Miles provides that no one else offers is the ongoing business support. For example, they have a weekly call with their general managers at each of their washes and they offered me the opportunity for my managers to call into that weekly call. They discuss things that you only understand after years of experience. In addition, I can send my managers out to train with them before we open. You would never have access to that kind of expertise in any other situation, it is invaluable.”
Johnson and Crossland are looking to build a network of licensees that operate as one unified organization. They envision a future where licensees and company staff work hand-in-hand with each other, offering support and mentorship to seasoned and new investors alike.
“Looking down the road five years we are not sure if we will have five locations or 25 locations under the Miles banner,” Johnson says. “But regardless of the number we are going to structure this like one big company. All sites are going to be judged on the same metrics and forecasts and it is going to feel like one big company.”
Name: Miles Auto Spa and Miles Express
Leadership: Miles Johnson (Owner) & Rocky Crossland (President)
Location: Franklin, Tennessee
Concept: Full Service and Express
Equipment: Motor City Wash Works
Chemicals: Turtle Wax
Point of Sale: DRB Systems