Human ideas to solve problems or create opportunities are an enterprise’s single most valuable commodity. We tend to think of the big things. Like the idea to create an electric lightbulb. Or the idea to create a hand-held touchscreen Internet browsing device that also entertains us in the form of a smartphone. Ideas so valuable to each of us that the inventors Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs most likely just popped into your mind.
“Great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people,” said Steve Jobs. It’s easy to convince yourself that a quote like this only applies to other industries and has nothing to do with a professional car wash. Afterall, many of us are struggling just to staff our washes to run day-to-day business. We’re focused on reducing labor through automation, and rightly so. Many of us aren’t thinking about creating a team that comes up with ideas to improve efficiency or elevate the customer experience. It’s easy to become jaded.
Every big success is always supported by hundreds of smaller successes. Without a motivated team it’s difficult to sign up thousands of monthly wash club members.
It’s also challenging to deliver a compelling customer experience that cultivates repeat business against increasing competition. I hear a lot of grumblings lately from seasoned car wash veterans that they’re struggling to find workers that understand the value of “hard work.” My gut reaction was to commiserate. But instead, I stopped and spent some time thinking about what is “hard work” these days? Washing a car is hard work, except all the physical labor has been automated. Today, the hard work is delivering a safe, pleasing, and memorable customer experience your customers appreciate.
Hard Work Happens When Staff Cares
Following that logic, the hard but valuable work for any owner/operator or manager is to cultivate a team that cares about what they’re doing. To create an environment where every team member is excited to share their ideas, not keep under the radar and collect a paycheck at the end of the week. Some entrepreneurs and managers are born with this skill. Others need to work at it. Fortunately, there’s one question I came across in a video once that makes it easy for everyone: Is there anything you need to do your job better? Memorize that question and use it often.
You’ve likely perfected many processes at your wash, but have you hired the physical body to perform those processes consistently? If not, I suggest you invest in automating that function. Remember the real value from your staff comes from elevating the customer experience, coming up with ideas to do things better. Asking your team if there’s anything they need to do their job better acknowledges their importance, encourages them to share ideas, and develops a shared sense of purpose.
State Your Purpose
I’ve seen car wash mission statements focused on cultivating customer loyalty, preserving the environment, and even ensuring all customers leave with a smile on their face. If you establish your mission statement and don’t share it with your staff, how will they know the purpose, why would they think they should have one? Post your mission prominently. Ingrain it into everything you do and everything your staff does. Sharing your mission with your staff makes the road to success less bumpy.
It’s true, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. But every now and again you need to pump air into the tire. Encouraging your staff to try keeps them engaged with their job and sometimes really does improve their interest. Point them in the right direction, clearly define the outcome you expect, outline the solutions you’re aware of, and ask them to come up with the best method to accomplish the task at hand. Empower your employees to identify solutions to reduce the effort required to do their jobs. This can produce phenomenal results and higher productivity.
Salary and bonuses are important, but staff can be motivated in other ways. Actively look for ways to recognize the impact of individual and team performance on achieving organizational goals. Set your goals high, develop clear attainable milestones, and recognize accomplishments. Measurable stats such as best day, best week, best month, for anything ranging from car counts to average ticket to memberships work well for this purpose. And always remember to thank your team.
Most of us have built our businesses from the ground up. It’s easy to convince ourselves that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” But that isn’t always the case. Technology is evolving at an accelerated pace. New ways of accomplishing old tasks are popping up faster than anyone can keep track of. Before you’ve finished deciding upon a particular technology to use, several better options may already be available.
As someone that still remembers using a rotary telephone, it amazes me how proficient my significantly younger team can be at researching, demanding, and adopting new technologies to get better results with less effort. And no matter how young or tech-savvy you think you are, trust me, there are members of your team who are more so. It’s how they grew up. Whether it’s social media, web development, customer management software, sign printing, or nearly anything that involves a computer, telling them to “do it this way because I said so” is missing an opportunity. Sometimes saying “I’d do it this way; how would you go about it?” Or “What do you recommend?” opens us up to a whole new world of automation and ideation.
Focus on Training
Although formal training is fundamental to cultivating higher quality and faster production from any member of your team, it’s more important than ever to address soft skills with employees. Thankfully, this doesn’t require a tremendous amount of time.
With new managers, I make them read the classics such as The One-Minute Manager and Raving Fans. Old school printed copies. Normally they come to me to talk about them with enthusiasm. If not, in a few weeks, we chat about those books, and I give them another set to read. In no time at all, their interactions with staff, customers, and even vendors are transformed.
Simple, short books and conversations can be powerful for making any employee feel valued and connected with your business.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work,” said Thomas Edison. Attracting, training, and motivating a team that delivers a winning customer experience demands leadership. Creating a culture that makes work meaningful for its employees demands hard work from that leadership. Replicating that culture across multiple locations demands a plan, not personalities. Get working. Make work meaningful for your team and you will see the profound impact you have on them and your bottom line.
Good luck and good washing.
Joining the company in 2000, Anthony Analetto serves as the president of Sonny’s CarWash Equipment Division. In this role, Anthony leads the innovation of new products to drive client success and oversees all operations, engineering, and supply chain management. Washing cars for more than 30 years, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain prior to joining the company.