Mann's Law: Research Before You Build
How One New Investor Got Off to a Fast Start in the Car Wash Industry
Only a year after opening his first car wash, new investor Brad Mann has already turned his Express Exterior into one of the highest volume car washes in Texas and is now building a second site.
His secret? Mann visited over 80 car washes before he opened. Learning what to do (and not to do) from this experience, he was able to realize high volumes and profits from the day he opened.
There are three critical things new car wash investors should do to increase their odds of success, says Brad Mann: research, research, and more research. Brad knows whereof he speaks; he visited over 80 successful car washes "from New York to Seattle," before opening The Wash Factory, an express exterior in Denton, TX. Mann credits this field research with jump-starting his business. A year after he opened, his distributor told him that his site was already one of the highest volume washes in the state.
"Research was very important in my previous job [sales for IBM]," said Mann. "When you make presentations before Fortune 500 companies you have to be prepared. In my view, anyone investing in a car wash should do research by visiting different sites."
Mann didn't visit sites based on convenience. He went out of his way to seek out car washes that were leaders in their markets. Spending at least 45 minutes at each site, he talked to owners as well as customers. One of the many lessons he learned was the value of having free vacuums as a "customer magnet." (He has 26 vacs at his site.)
Another lesson involved the importance of self-pay stations. "I learned that the self-pay station is the brains of the car wash. If it fails, you aren’t making money – and if it's slow you're losing customers," he said. "The self-pay station not only has to perform, it also has to be backed by a reliable support team. In light of this, I didn't want to shop for a self-pay station on price; I was buying on speed, performance, and reputation."
Mann's research and his emphasis on quality led him to the SiteWatch® XPT®. "The operators I respected most were all very pleased with the XPT," he said. "So I visited DRB Systems, was impressed with the company, and bought the XPT. It was one of my best business decisions!"
Brad Mann’s 7-Step New Investor Checklist For Car Wash Site Visits
- Talk to successful operators and their customers about the self-pay stations you’re considering. The self-pay must be reliable for operators and fast and convenient for customers.
- Use the self-pay station yourself and imagine what impression it would make on you if you were a customer.
- Stand off to the side of the car wash site and observe people at the self-pay station. Observe how they are able to complete transactions. Is it a quick and easy process for them? Or do they seem to struggle? Are they frequently calling for help?
- Observe how long it takes the gate to open at the self-pay station.
- Ask the operator how often the self-pay station is down and how long it takes the vendor to provide service.
- Since the self-pay station is so important, shop quality instead of looking for the lowest price.
- Once you decide on a vendor, visit that company’s office to check out its operation, paying special attention to its support department.