The New Year is here — an opportunity for a new beginning, both in our personal lives and in our businesses. It’s the time of year when we feel less constrained about letting go of old habits and striking out into new directions. Not one of those oft short-lived New Year’s resolutions, heartfelt intentions of making changes for the better, but rather an assessment of where we are, whether we want to go forward along the same familiar path, or whether we want to shake things up a little. We get all too comfortable in our routines: Monday through Friday, same daily commute, same coffee shop for our daily fix, run the car through the wash, check for missed spots. Why change anything? “If it ain’t broke…” It may not be “broke,” but there could be room for improvement. Assessing the need for improvement starts before you even turn onto the car wash lot. It starts by driving by — from all directions — at the going traffic speed and examining the appearance of the location. Is the wash visible and identifiable as a car wash from a distance? Is the building in need of a fresh coat of paint? Is the signage in good repair and readable at distance and speed? And when you finally do turn onto the lot, are there clear directional signs that allow customers to confidently find their way. Perhaps what you need is a complete makeover. Competition is becoming more intense in almost every market. Where you don’t have new, modern-looking washes going up, you have consolidator-acquired washes being rebranded with new paint jobs and new signage. It’s just possible that the well-established independent wash in the market could be looking a little drab by comparison. About a year ago in Auto Laundry News (February 2022), Steve Turney wrote an article titled “What Color is Your Wash?” The article explains how the use of color is an important factor in differentiating a wash from the competition. More than just setting it apart, the building’s color palette conveys a subliminal message to potential customers. Steve explores the hidden psychology behind those color choices. While change is good, using a too radical approach could be counterproductive. You do not want to alienate your loyal customer base. Best to retain some of the wash’s original identity so as to project some semblance of continuity. And if you opt to go with some version of a “New and Improved” tagline, make sure it is. Once on site and through the POS, the first stop is the tunnel entrance. When we do or see the same thing every day, our senses become dulled and we don’t notice deviation from the norm as easily. You expect to see the loading assistant, and indeed you do. But is he smiling, does his countenance say welcome? Is the entrance area clear of drums and other clutter? Do the appropriate signs light up as product is applied to the car? Admittedly, with the lights-and-foam show in some tunnels it is quite difficult to see the tunnel walls but, if you can, do they appear clean and free of grime? A completed assessment will lead to a plan of action. You can tweak some aspects, start from scratch with others, or decide to stick to the familiar path. If you still wish to elevate your customers’ experience, though, look no further than this month’s “On the Wash Front” column in which Anthony Analetto promotes procedures and routines.