As the nation’s economy continues to recover from its not-so-distant recession and wages and consumer spending on things such as cars continue to increase, many entrepreneurs are looking for new business opportunities. If you’re an aspiring business owner who enjoys working with your hands and interacting with the public, one industry you shouldn’t overlook is the car wash industry.
Unlike other markets that are primarily dominated by national brand names and big corporations, the car wash industry welcomes new business owners and independent operators. In fact, 37 percent of car wash owners have owned their business for fewer than five years, and 90 percent of the country’s estimated 113,000 car washes are owned by independent entrepreneurs.
The Appeal of the Car Wash Industry
One of the reasons the car wash industry appeals to entrepreneurs is its growth. The number of vehicle owners who turned to professional car washes to clean their automobiles instead of washing them at home grew by an impressive 69 percent between 1998 and 2013.
From 2011 to 2012, the number of cars that were washed professionally throughout the United States increased by more than two percent. With car washes in the U.S. cleaning an average of eight million vehicles every day, approximately 2.3 billion automobiles are washed by fee-based car washes every year. Overall, the car wash industry generates nearly $6 billion in revenue annually in the United States.
In addition to its demonstrated growth and ability to produce billions of dollars in revenue every year, the car wash industry appeals to many entrepreneurs for the following reasons:
- Potential for high profit margins
- Relatively low start-up costs
- Fragmented industry, which makes it possible for new entrants to build a strong local or regional brand
- Availability of start-up capital from investors and lenders
- Minimal inventory carrying costs
- Inventory that doesn’t spoil over time as it does in other industries such as food service
- Primarily a cash business with immediate payments from customers, which means no receivables
- Starts earning money the day it opens
- Possibility for a large return on investment
- Minimal formal education or training required
How to Prep Your Car Wash for Spring
If you’re thinking about getting into the car wash industry or you’re already operating a car wash, you should know that certain seasons are busier than others, and you have to prepare your business for each change of season in kind.
Winter is the busiest season by far, with 32 percent of all professional car washes being completed during what are typically the coldest months of the year. Spring and summer are each responsible for 25 percent of the nation’s total number of car washes, with 18 percent of the total number of car washes occurring in the fall.
With spring being tied for the second busiest season for car washes, it’s important for future and current owners of car washes to know how to get ready for the spring season. Because spring follows the busiest season and is the precursor for a season that will likely be as busy as spring itself, preparing your car wash for spring is different than getting your business ready for a change in season at other times of the year.
Of course, knowing you have to get your business ready doesn’t help you know how to prep your car wash for spring. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips you can use as you’re preparing your car wash for spring.
Here are some tips for springtime car wash care that will help ensure you’re ready for the transition from winter to spring:
Turn off Your Floor Heat
Depending on the location of your business, you may have installed floor heat when you constructed your car wash to prevent water and cleaning agents from freezing in your hoses, wands and tips during the winter months. While many floor heating systems are extremely effective at preventing you from having to close your doors due to frozen equipment, they come with a cost. You have to pay for electricity to heat the water used to prevent freezing, for instance.
Luckily, the arrival of spring gives you the chance to save on your electric bill because you can turn off your floor heat once the weather breaks and winter loosens its grip on your area.
Switch Your Foam Brush Chemical
A great springtime car wash care tip is to switch your foam brush chemical from winter foam brush to foam brush in all of your self-service bays. JBS Industries offers foam brush products that are designed for air-injection foam brush systems to deliver not just a great show your customers will enjoy, but a highly effective cleaning experience your clients will really appreciate as well.
Inspect Hoses & Guns
Part of preparing your car wash for spring involves checking your equipment and looking for damage. The hoses and guns in your self-service bays are vulnerable to cracks and leaks caused by winter’s freezing temperatures. Inspect your hoses and guns and replace any parts that have suffered damage as you’re getting ready for the change in season.
Do Some Spring Cleaning
Just as salt and grime get stuck on the undercarriage of many automobiles in areas that experience wintry weather, these same things get stuck in your tunnels and stalls as they’re removed from the vehicles your establishment washes. You should use JBS Industries’ Bay & Wall Cleaner to remove the salt and grime that has built up after busy months of car washing.
Doing some spring cleaning will do more than prevent the damage and corrosion that salt and grime can cause to your car wash. It will also make your location more visually appealing to your customers and passers-by.
Turn off Anti-Ice Systems
If you have anti-ice systems on your automatic washes, the onset of spring is the time for you to turn them off. And you should keep them off until the first frost is expected next fall or winter.
Examine Friction Cloth/Foam Rotating Brushes
Just like your guns and hoses are subject to cracks and leaks caused by freezing temperatures, your friction cloth/foam rotating brushes are susceptible to excessive wear and tear during the winter. The arrival of spring is an ideal time to check your friction cloth/foam rotating brushes for damage and replace any torn brushes you find.
Update Your Product Line and Promotional Signage
When spring arrives, you should update your product line and promotional signage so that they’re appropriate for the current season. Replacing your salt remover with bug and pollen removers is a good place to start. Having seasonal products and wash packages can be an effective way for you to upsell your clients.
You should update your signage so that it promotes your spring wash packages, which can increase your individual wash profits. If your business is in an area that experienced wintry weather such as snow and ice and the roads were treated with salt or brine, consider running a special that includes a thorough undercarriage cleaning. Since salt and brine accelerate rust and corrosion, you can stand out from the competition by offering a special on the services drivers need to have these things removed from the underside of their vehicles when they need it the most.
Inspect Chains & Rollers and Adjust Alignment of Conveyor
Your chains and rollers will experience wear and tear over the course of their useful lives, and your conveyor will become misaligned at some point over time. Since your conveyor will need to be realigned periodically anyway, a great time to schedule this service is the springtime. Spring is also an appropriate time to examine your chains and rollers for excessive wear and tear.
Check Chemical Pumps and Test All Foot & Check Valves
When spring arrives, it’s time to clean your mixing tanks and check your pump pressures. It’s also time to ensure the chemicals covering the cars that visit your location are being applied evenly at the proper dilution. Checking these things is critical to ensuring your cash wash is operating at an optimal level before a second wave of customers arrives at your car wash.
Schedule Chemical Management Training
Want to know one of the best ways to save several thousand dollars per year? Stop relying on a chemical vendor or salesperson to manage your chemical adjustments and arrange some chemical management training for yourself and your staff. Spring is a great time for this kind of training since you’ll probably have to adjust your chemicals to welcome the new season and the volume of cars you wash on a daily basis will likely be less than it was during the previous season.
Hire New Employees
Many college and high school students and former students who graduated from their programs mid-school year start looking for employment opportunities during the spring. Because winter tends to be much busier than spring for many car washes, it can be difficult to devote time to training new employees.
Since spring is slower for a lot of car washes and more job applicants are usually looking for work, it’s a fantastic time to add to your payroll. Hiring and training new employees in the spring can help ensure you have the staff you need to get through summer and, if the students you hire agree to work part-time after school resumes, the fall and winter as well.
The spring is also a good time to engage in some cross-training with your more seasoned employees. Teaching your veteran employees how to operate multiple stations capably and step into several different roles confidently can ease the burden of scheduling. Cross-training your employees can also help you avoid having to shut down your business because no one is prepared to fill a critical role or operate an essential piece of equipment.
Experiment With New Marketing
With business normally slowing down in the spring, it’s a great time to experiment with some new marketing techniques and tactics. If you don’t already have a customer loyalty program, why not roll one out in the spring? You can then promote your new program in local television ads, newspaper advertisements and radio spots.
How about running a contest of some sort and giving the winner a month’s worth of free car washes? You can promote the contest using vibrantly colored banners on your property and by sharing details and updates about the contest on your social media pages and website
Get Active on Social Media
If you’re not a proficient user of social media, you may want to hire someone who is to help you use social media to engage your customers. Whether you do it yourself or you hire someone, it’s important for businesses in today’s day and age to use social media to interact with their customers.
If you have a blog on your website, you can share links to your most recent posts with your social media followers. You can use social media to make announcements about upcoming events, take polls, and solicit feedback you can use to improve your operation as well.
Get Involved in the Community
There are plenty of things you can do to support your community, promote your business and generate priceless goodwill at the same time. You can sponsor a local sports team, for instance.
Another idea you can use to get involved is to offer to make a matching donation up to a pre-determined dollar amount to a charity that does a lot for your community. By offering to make a matching donation, you’re not just guaranteeing that the chosen non-profit is going to receive money from your business whenever someone contributes to the fund you’re going to match. You’re guaranteeing the organization will get twice the amount you pledged to donate if enough money is raised in the account you’re planning to match.
Getting involved in this manner means your car wash will probably receive a lot of free publicity when you announce your matching gift, during the time money is being raised and after enough money is collected to maximize the amount of your matching gift.
Host a Fundraiser
If your business is new or you’ve recently made some capital improvements to your property, you may not have the money to make a matching charitable gift. While that may be the case, you can still do something to help a charity that benefits your community – host a fundraiser.
When you host a fundraiser to kick off the spring, the chances are good you’ll enjoy some free advertising that will keep the name of your car wash fresh in the minds of motorists, at least through the end of the season.
Hold a Car Show
If you’re wondering how to prep your car wash for spring, why don’t you consider holding a car show at your location? Part of getting ready for spring involves generating new business for your car wash, and a car show can help you do just that.
You can contact a local club of vintage car enthusiasts about displaying their vehicles at your location and/or ask your clients to participate in the show. You can also ask neighboring businesses such as a restaurant to donate some food and man-hours to the event. By asking other business owners to be a part of your car show, you’re creating opportunities to cross-promote the event as well as your business. You’re forging relationships with other entrepreneurs that may prove to be mutually beneficial for years to come as well.
Contact JBS Industries
As we mentioned earlier, JBS Industries offers many products that can help you get your car wash ready for spring. Contact JBS Industries to get the supplies you need to prepare your business for the change of season today.