The title might seem an impossibility for both detailers and car wash operators, but there is no better time than now to revitalize your business for any challenges and opportunities that are in the future. Here are some ideas that might help.

Cut Costs and Be Available

With cell phones, Internet access, and even regular telephone service, you’re never far from reaching others or from them reaching you.

As good as that technology is, you are probably paying too much for it. You can contact your provider to see what bundled plans are available in your area. You may be surprised at the savings you can enjoy by giving all of your communications business to one company. This saves money and simplifies your bill-paying procedures.

Should you already be dealing with one communications company, call them and ask for an analysis of your account. These companies are constantly coming up with new bundling plans to be competitive; they might have one to save you money. Don’t expect them to come looking for you; you’ll have to ask.

Make Your Accountant’s Job Easier

All business people dislike paperwork and recordkeeping, but they are the key to keeping your business prosperous. If you do not have good records to present to your accountant at tax time, you are going to pay them big bucks.

If your business records are well organized but not your personal tax records, you are going to pay. You might keep a simple system: one file for income and one for deductible expenses. That can save you money.

If you give your accountants a shoebox filled with unsorted receipts, etc., they are going to charge you for the hours it takes to sort them out. A simple filing system that separates records of different types of transactions is one sure way to reduce costs.

Save When Paying Bills

Who enjoys paying bills? Far too often, we postpone that unwelcome job to the point of paying late-payment fees and getting blemishes on our credit reports. Paying bills is never fun, but technology has made the task quicker, easier, and less costly.

Most banks today offer free online bill paying. Once you sign up and choose a password, you log on to the bank’s website where you enter the payee’s name and address, phone number, and the amount to be paid. The bank takes over from there, either by mailing a check to the payee or by making an electronic transfer of the money.

You need to enter the name and address of a payee only once. Each entry is memorized so that the next time you make a payment, you only click on the payee’s name and enter the amount. The system will enter the rest of the needed information.

So, you save time, the cost of postage — now nearly 50 cents for every check you mail — buying checks, and trips to the post office.

Watch Out for Credit Cards

For most of us, life today is not possible without credit. But, credit has a dark side too. Credit cards are comparable to drugs; they offer short-term pleasure in exchange for long-term pain.

Charging it is quick and easy, but that habit, uncontrolled, can lead you and your business down the road to financial disaster. Once hooked on credit cards, it is painfully difficult (and sometimes impossible) to get free.

Studies show that the more credit cards you carry, the more likely you are to dig yourself into a bottomless financial pit. Equally important, if your wallet that is heavy with plastic is lost or stolen, the risks of identity theft escalate.

If you are carrying numerous cards, now is the time to get rid of some of them. Maybe you have a “rewards” card for personal use, and another card for business. That is all you need. Get rid of the rest and you will find you have more money.

Caution: Avoid cancelling several credit cards all at once, as that could affect your all-important credit score. Instead, cancel them over a period of months, and be sure to keep the two cards that you have had the longest. The credit scoring companies like to see a long history of good credit performance.

Get Out From Under All That Paper

Try as we might, we generate a lot of paperwork running a business. Don’t add to this burden by keeping reams of paper because of the worry that you might need it someday. Most of it will never find its way out of the files.

Maria Gracia, the “organizing guru,” suggests these guidelines, which she titles “The 4-Ds,” to help end the nightmare of out-of-control paper:

• Do it

• Delay it (file it in an action file or archive file)

• Delegate it

• Dump it

Open daily mail over the wastebasket. Immediately get rid of mail you do not need, then use the 4-D system on what is left.

Eliminate Some Insurance

I do not have to tell you about the burden of insurance costs. That is why it is important to cut through the “insurance fog.” Aside from business liability insurance, there are only five types that you must have: life, health, disability (as long as you are working), homeowner’s, and auto.

Life insurance on your kids is a classic example of insurance you do not need (unless you are raising a Michael Jordon or LeBron James).

Never buy credit life insurance or car rental insurance. Your own auto policy or credit card will probably cover that base.

Once you eliminated the unnecessary insurance, try consolidating some of your remaining policies with one company. That can be a money saver.

Go the Extra Mile

Never forget that a complaint from a customer can be a valuable asset. A major retail marketing study revealed that customers whose complaints were satisfactorily resolved became better customers of the company than they were before the incident that triggered the complaint.

Some of the most successful companies in the world have been built on a foundation that revolves around the principle that customer complaints provide a valuable opportunity to build the business.

Sometimes, satisfying a customer complaint requires measures that you may feel are unreasonable. If that happens, think of the cost in time and money as an investment in your future.

Once you have sold yourself and your employees on why your detail business or car wash is the best choice for customers, it is essential to focus your marketing efforts on ways to promote this image to both existing customers and prospective ones. In short, make customer satisfaction the hallmark of your business.

Have a Marketing Mentality

If customer satisfaction is the french fries, marketing is the ketchup.

But marketing involves much more than an ad in the Yellow Pages and a sign on your lot. Marketing is complex, especially for a business operating in a specialized niche such as detailing or car washing. If you want to achieve optimum success in marketing your business, you have to spend time studying, reading, and analyzing your market and your competition.

Keeping your business healthy and profitable requires an ongoing marketing program. There is no other way. While very important, competitive prices, clean and dependable equipment, and clean facilities are not enough.

Marketing involves your entire operation. To be an effective marketer, you have to promote your business image, sell yourself as well as your business, and focus on making your business the best choice for discriminating customers.

While any time is a good time to implement business-building strategies, there is no better time than now.

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