For many years I have wanted to do a series on hiring and managing detail employees. Certainly, the world of hiring is an ever changing one, but there are some basic tenets of your business that do not change, and very much dictate the type of employee you are looking for and how you manage them.


            The entire spectrum of management is important to the success of your detailing center. However, there is one area of critical importance: people management. Why? Because it is people who operate your business, provide your services, and maintain your facilities and equipment. Therefore, if your people are not carefully selected, well-trained, and continuously managed, you will not have much chance for success.

            A discussion of people management can start with many points of view, but in my opinion, it must begin with you, the operator/manager. You must recognize the importance of people to your business — both employees and customers. You cannot provide quality service and make a good profit with randomly selected people who are ill-trained and casually managed. You must have neat, courteous employees who know their jobs and perform them to your high standards every time. Building this commitment in your employees starts with your own desire for quality and service. You must hire the best employees you can find, train them regularly and thoroughly, and motivate them to succeed. If you can begin with this recognition of your responsibility, you will have a good start toward developing a well-trained, dependable staff.


            For a detail center to operate smoothly, you will need a management team that works collectively to achieve common goals. Additionally, they must be aligned in all aspects of the direction of your center. The size and scope of your center will dictate the size of the staff. Some centers may operate with an owner/operator and assistant manager. Others may have a general manager and an assistant or assistants. However you set up your team, day-to-day job responsibilities need to be clearly defined for everyone.

            In its simplest form, the management team should consist of a manager, assistant manager, and receptionist/cashier who are committed to keeping the business in “show-place condition” at all times.

            The following is a guideline for management team responsibilities:

• Overall management of the center
• Customer sales
• Commercial account sales
• Employee hiring and training
• Employee scheduling
• Implementing and monitoring policies and procedures
• Quality control
• Customer complaints
• Pricing
• Purchasing
• Financial matters
• Banking

Assistant Manager
• Management of center in absence of manager
• Knowledgeable in all areas of the business
• Maintenance of building
• Maintenance of equipment
• Employee production
• Inventory control

• Customer greeting and assistance
• Answer telephone
• Greet customers
• Paperwork and filing
• Maintenance of customer service area
• Next-day appointment calls
• Scheduling appointments
• Customer satisfaction calls

            It is not mandatory that you have people filling each of these positions; however, all the functions listed must be performed daily. Note that the list does not include auto detailing. The management team in a professional center should spend very little time in the detail bays. Their responsibilities as listed above are more critical to the success of the center.

            One of the most important parts of helping the management team be successful is to provide a roadmap of success for them. Or, in practical terms, having a manual that clearly outlines roles, responsibilities, timelines, and expectations. An old adage is “if it’s not written down, it isn’t a process or procedure.” This really becomes true, especially when there are expectations of your management team to ensure accomplishment of all of the above listed tasks. It would be an unreal expectation that they operate from a word-of-mouth or intuitive process. This applies to every aspect of your shop — management, opening, closing, customer interactions, work processes, and even cleaning the restrooms.


            If you plan to be successful in the professional detailing business, you must establish standards for the type of personnel you want to have working in your center and hire only individuals who meet those standards. This will take time and energy, but it will be well worth the effort.

            You need employees who will be as committed to customer service as you are. So, begin by looking closely at your applicants. People who have little or no concern about their own appearance, promptness, and presentation most likely will not respond to your performance standards and policies. What you want are neat, courteous individuals who have stable work backgrounds and are “hungry” for an opportunity. Prior management skills are nice and preferrable, but not required. These can be taught, attitude and interest less so.

            Where do you find them? There are several schools of thought on hiring managers. Most often it is preferrable to try to promote from within. There are many good reasons for this, but chief among them is that they have a proven track record with you, know your processes and culture, and are right in front of you. It is believed that these factors are always a benefit – and they certainly can be, but you have to have a critical eye when going this route. It is easy to take the one right in front of you, but are they really the right fit, and are they ready? Are you ready to invest the effort to train them? Just because they know the work part of the job, are they now capable of the leadership part, and are you ready to invest the effort and resources into training them for a whole new job?

            I often find in detail shops that the next manager is just the most senior person left after the last manager quit. Obviously, seniority is nice, but can’t be the deciding factor. Aptitude, potential, personality, and desire should be the first considerations when selecting from within your organization. Any way it goes, you are selecting someone that is now going to be a management trainee, and will need to be developed into the position. Further, it also means that the relationship dynamic between them and the staff will change and you will need to monitor this and coach them through it. Sometimes your staff won’t be able to adapt to this role change and it can be a drawback to promoting internally.

            Okay, so I don’t have a qualified candidate in house, now what? You have to look externally. The first thing you need to do is review your roles, responsibilities, and expectations and then start your search. The other key factor here that is often forgotten is what are you offering in return. You need to be ready with a value proposition that is attractive to them. Items that can be considered are schedule flexibility, commission structure, career development, training, company phone, and company vehicle. Next, consider going outside of the industry and search for the management skills you desire.

            In the next installment, we will discuss where to find these management candidates, and where to find staff, the interview and hiring process, and onboarding.

Keith Duplessie is the owner of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems in Portland, OR. He has been building detail centers and selling products and chemicals in the industry for more than 20 years and is a past president and Founders Club member of the International Detailing Association. In 2021 he was inducted into the IDA Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to the detailing industry.