What’s in a name? A car wash’s brand is one of the key components of the business. It should portray a sense of purpose and act as a beacon guiding the community to its doorstep.
For Crew Carwash its name says it all. The express exterior chain was founded on good quality service and a superior experience, an experience that can only be provided thanks to its crew.
“We invest a lot in our managers and our associates,” says executive vice president Sally Dahm Grant. “Our staff is what really sets us apart from the competition and allows us to provide the great customer service Crew is famous for.”
The Dahm family has been providing its customers a superior experience for nearly 70 years. Sally’s grandfather Joe and great uncle Ed founded Mike’s Car Wash in 1948 in Fort Wayne, IN as a full-service location. The brothers slowly but surely built the wash into a small regional chain over the next 30 years but it wasn’t until Sally’s father Bill began experimenting with the express concept in the late ‘70s and moved the wash’s base of operations from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis in 1985 that the wash truly took off.
Bill and his brother Mike grew the large regional chain to 41 locations and operated the sites side by side until the brothers underwent a “friendly reorganization” of their holdings in 2014 and split into two independent companies: Mike’s Car Wash and Crew Carwash.
Following the reorganization both Mike’s and Crew have continued to expand with Mike’s currently operating 19 locations and Crew 30. Over the past two years Crew Carwash has added four sites to its roster and plans to continue to expand at the rate of three washes per year. An expansion whose success or failure lies in the hands of its employees says Grant.
“It truly is about our people,” Grant says. “We do have an advertising and marketing budget, but really the biggest thing for us has always been word of mouth. Our people do such a great job. It gets people talking and that really helps us.”
Crew employs over 600 full-time and part-time team members across its 30 sites, and devotes a lot of time, effort, and money in attracting and retaining top talent. While all car washes do their best to hire winners to fill their management and associate ranks, Crew makes it a top priority and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure the business offers a quality work environment and the type of ancillary benefits that draws superior employees.
As the wash continues to expand it needs to ensure that the superior customer service the brand is famous for is present at each and every location. To seamlessly onboard new locations to the growing express exterior empire Crew deploys its veteran managers to its latest locations to bring new staff up to speed and keep the site running at peak efficiency from day one.
Crew has five distinct manager levels designed to quickly and methodically advance a superior employee through the manager ranks: supervisor, shift manager, assistant manager, operations manager, and general manager. “We have five different manger levels at each of our locations and try to keep them all staffed,” Grant says. “That is really key for us because as we grow we want to be able to maintain the kind of culture that makes our brand special. We need to have a good manager base that we can send to new markets and locations so we never lose our unique culture as we grow. There is nothing more important to us than attracting top talent and we are always looking for managers to join our team.”
While around half of the brand’s managers are promoted from its associate ranks, the other half comes via outside hire. One of the ways that the wash continues to attract high quality managerial talent is through its Fast Track Management Program.
Crew pays its managers up to $40,000 a year to start into the program. In addition to the strong starting salary, the wash offers great benefits including a college tuition assistance program. Current college students can receive up to $2,500 a year for tuition assistance. In addition, for those employees that have already completed their degree but may still be paying off their student loans the wash has a student loan payback program where it will contribute $100 a month to the repayment of an employee’s student loan.
While the brand’s unique management program attracts top supervisor talent its commitment to associate training ensures that its front-line staff continues to deliver the superior service that customers have come to expect.
“We are known for our training,” Grant says. “One of our employees, Joe Rice, who has been on our team for nearly 30 years, heads up training and development. We have workshops at our corporate office and have a lot of hands-on training at our locations. The managers really give the staff some focused training on our service advisor and director positions and our overall philosophy on customer experience.”
Of Crew’s 30 locations, 21 are in the constantly growing Indianapolis region. “Indianapolis has been a tremendous market for us,” Grant says. “We have been fortunate that the city is expanding and thriving, which is always good for business. We have really established our brand here.
Now we are looking throughout the Midwest for expansion knowing that there is only so much growth in central Indiana.”
Around Thanksgiving 2016, the wash opened its first site in Merrillville, IN, about 140 miles to the northwest of the chain’s Indianapolis home. “There are several attractive little cities up in that area,” Grant says. “We would love to have four or five car washes in the region.” In addition to its Merrillville expansion, Crew Car Wash cut the ribbon on its first wash in Bloomington, IN in early January and another site in Avon, IN in February.
As Crew Carwash aggressively expands in its home state of Indiana and eventually throughout the Midwest it will continue to offer its customers the same friendly, superior
service that it has provided for the past seven decades. The key to the wash’s prolonged success is no secret. In fact it is right there in the open for all to see — a crew of hardworking employees dedicated to providing a pleasant, memorable experience at each and every Crew location.