Michael Geiber, in his renowned book, “The E Myth,” states that the fatal mistake a small-business person makes is believing that, if they know how to perform the technical work of a business, they can operate a business that does technical work. It is “fatal” because it is not true — and it is the reason so many small businesses fail.

This applies to the baker who opens a bakery, the chef who opens a restaurant, the mechanic who opens a repair shop, and the detailer who opens a detail shop. While they all may have a good command of the technical side of the business, they are totally devoid of business skills. When confronted by business problems — marketing and advertising, accounting, pricing, employee hiring and training — they are totally overwhelmed, having no skills to handle these issues.

To be successful, a business requires much more than technical skills.

Look at it this way: Doing a good detail job is not good enough. When you do a good job, you are doing what the customer expects. For example, what is usually the first question asked when a prospective customer contacts your company? Most likely, “How much do you charge?” Does anyone ask you, “Do you do good detail work?”

Of course, a few might ask that, but most people expect a detail business to do good work and get the car clean and shiny. They expect you to know what you are doing.

When I see a detail business trying to grow and increase its profitability based solely on doing quality work, I know one thing: It is not enough.

Many of you are probably asking, “What do you mean good work is not enough?” Let me share with you some ideas that are so simple you will wonder why I am even mentioning them. Do me a favor and after reading them, evaluate and analyze yourself and your detail business, and be honest. Are you doing all of these things as best you can?


It is normal for you and your employees to be friendly, to greet the customer, use their name, etc. You and your employees should do this from the time the customer comes in or calls until it is time to collect payment. Too often, the pressure of getting the work done seems to be the only concern.

An attitude like that conveys to the customer, “What do you want? Can’t you see I’m busy?” They can sense it.

A welcoming, positive attitude should be conveyed all of the time. It creates an upbeat atmosphere for everyone. If you and your employees are not positive and upbeat, you need to think about how to improve things. A technician generally cannot make these changes.

Remember, customers may not remember how fantastic their car looked after you detailed it, but they will remember how good you made them feel.


This is not about giving your customers a free fabric protectant on carpets, for example. You do not want to provide extras and not charge for them. You need to do something that makes the customer feel really good about the entire experience of detailing.

You need to think of ways to reward your customers. A “thank you” is not enough. Consider spending a few dollars for some “thank you” gifts you can send the customer after the detail.


You must create the impression that your detail shop is absolutely the right place for them to solve any automotive cleaning or restoration problems. I am not talking about the technical skill necessary to solve problems, but about caring enough to solve their problems. Customers will sense this, and it is why they will become loyal customers.

However, the only way you can solve their problems is to know what they are. You need to ask them about their concerns, and assure them you are the only detail business that can handle them.

Your customers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easy to please, and some are impossible to satisfy. You need to discover exactly what people expect from a problem-solving detail business.

There are many simple things you can do to make a difference in how successful your detail business becomes. As you can see, they do not have much to do with the technical side of the business; they have to do with the business side of the business.

Are you a technician or a businessperson?

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.