Attracting, Cultivating & Retaining Emerging Car Wash Talent

by Lanese Barnett

Hiring and training solutions to encourage a growth mindset in your staff to build a stronger, more scalable workforce.

I have always been a clean freak. Since proudly driving my first white Ford Mustang, my car was no exception. Despite a clean proclivity, I still recall my bewildered reaction when I first heard “car wash” regarding my burgeoning career as a college graduate turned agency publicist. I audibly scoffed. And I’m not alone. If you didn’t grow up in the industry or have exposure to the depth and breadth of career opportunities in the car wash space, you may have had the same reaction I did. Thirteen years later, suffice it to say, I think differently.

As the car wash sector continues to gain private equity interest and significant financial investment, we are seeing an increasing awareness of the industry as a viable and lucrative career, attracting more top talent to the space. That said, on a local level, many operators are still on the search for entry-level employees to train and raise up into leadership positions.

I recently chatted with a colleague who owns and operates a car wash chain in the Chicagoland market, Driven Car Wash, where he talked about their shift in hiring practices to attract qualified candidates new to the industry while also fostering a growth mindset to encourage continued employee advancement opportunities. As they scale the brand, cultivating a promote-within program is paying off.

 

ATTRACTING
Here’s what Director of Talent and Training Leo Martinez at Driven Car Wash shared, “We learned about an internship program designed to expose high school kids to different jobs to help them figure out what they may want to pursue vocationally. It’s sponsored by our local school district, and though unpaid, it offers college credits. For our expanding company, hiring is a constant need. We enrolled in the program, and a light bulb went off. We realized we needed to put more emphasis on educating our potential pool of employees as well as existing about the amazing career opportunities our company and the car wash space have to offer.”

Martinez went on talk about how the company continues to develop and evolve its comprehensive employee training and empowerment strategy.

 

HIRING
An important part of the interview process is intentionally highlighting and setting the tone that the company values and seeks to provide continued career advancement opportunities for employees. Following a multi-pronged hiring protocol takes time but is an investment well worth it.

For Customer Service Attendants (CSA’s), the company uses a three-step interview process.

  1. Phone screen by the Director of Talent and Training to share more about the role, the company culture, values, and standards and convey encouragement of internal growth. Inquire about the candidate’s career interests and long-term goals.
  2. Connect with the Director of Operations to discuss aptitude for the technical skills and day-to-day requirements of the role.
  3. In-person interview with the Site Level Manager for the final hiring decision. If approved, the Director of Talent and Training sends an offer letter to the candidate.

 

TRAINING
After getting promising new employees in the door, training begins. Luckily today, there are more easy-to-use resources available to store, manage, and monitor the progress of training materials. For example, Driven Car Wash uses an online platform to house training materials, including educational videos, quizzes, company guidelines, and policies as well operational checklists, incident reports, schedules, et cetera. Establishing standard operating procedures, clearly outlining the information, and making it accessible helps employees understand what is expected of them and provide the necessary tools for success. Supervisors can set up alerts regarding task execution and productivity.

But training isn’t static. It is an ongoing process. Encouraging and rewarding continued curiosity, lifelong learning, and a practice-makes-perfect approach can help raise the bar across the organization, with high standards for staff performance being the company standard. Several site managers at Driven were initially hired as a CSA or supervisors and worked up.

 

RETAINING
Like many car washes, Driven experiences its share of seasonal workers, often a result of school resuming after the summer months. Drawing on inspiration from that high school internship program, Driven developed its own Internal Rotation Program designed to showcase the larger career opportunities within its company that staff may have never considered as long-term career possibilities. Staff members can apply for or be nominated to a six-month-long development program in Sales and Marketing, Accounting and Finance, or Real Estate Development where they shadow a senior staff member once a week and are invited to sit in on weekly leadership meetings to gain exposure and valuable experience to the inner workings of other areas of the business. Additionally, the team is looking to bring on a summer engineering intern to work on “the prefect blower configuration” as a project.

As the boots on the ground, Driven asks for suggestions and tips for marketing, sales, operations, you name it, from staff. To encourage honest feedback and provide teams with additional growth and support measures, they also offer an anonymous employee satisfaction form to better understand how the leadership team is doing from the employee’s point of view.

Feeling seen, valued, and productive at work can make a huge impact on the company culture buy-in, desire to pursue advancement within the organization, and the relationship employees have with their workplace. A leadership team that practices curiosity and authentically models respectful communication in efforts to continually improve builds trust and strengthens the relationship an employee feels with their company and, thus, their likelihood to stay. And in my opinion, that is the most important part and how we will continue to attract new talent to the space and build up future leaders from within.

 

Lanese Barnett is senior vice president of business development at Amplify Car Wash Advisors, the number one advisor of car wash chains nationwide. With a mission of creating wealth for clients, Amplify helps car wash owners sell, partner, or grow using practical experience as operators coupled with expertise in mergers and acquisitions and capital advisory services. Keep up to date on the latest car wash M&A activity with Car Wash M&A, The Podcast Lanese hosts monthly and sign up for Car Wash M&A, The Newsletter at AmplifyWash.com. You can reach Lanese at [email protected]

See the article in the Northeast Carwasher, Summer 2023 issue.

Jet Brite Car Wash

With decades of hands-on experience as operators, when it came time to sell our car wash business who we sold to was important to Sam and me. Chris [Jenks] and the team at Amplify listened to us throughout the entire process. They found the right buyer in ZIPS who would be a good steward of the brand and helped find the best path forward for us where we can continue pursuing our passion for manufacturing high-quality car wash equipment.  

Jet Brite Car Wash  
Dave Delesandro  | Founder

Quick N’ Clean

My relationship with Commercial Plus over the past 20 years has been a very professional and trustworthy relationship. The feel of trust is very important in this business, and Jeff Pavone and his staff have exhibited a level of trust that makes me continue to feel that they have my best interest front of mind. I deal with many brokers across the nation, and my best experiences and results have been achieved with Commercial Plus representation.

Quick N’ Clean
Richard Karle | Owner

Zips

It’s been a great experience working with Amplify Car Wash Advisors to bring these sites into the ZIPS portfolio. We look forward to serving Dallas area customers with an enhanced car wash experience unique to ZIPS, with the added benefit of our extensive network of stores. This year we have continued our aggressive growth track with the goal to truly shine in our efforts to be the best express car wash provider in the industry and it’s acquisitions like this that help us reach our goals.

Zips
Gene Dinkens | CEO

ModWash

It was truly a pleasure to work with the Amplify team on our most recent acquisition of three additional operating locations in our home state of Tennessee. Their team provided great support and ensured a timely and seamless closing process, and we are excited for the additional growth opportunities this relationship will produce in our near future. We know this is the first of many transactions we will successfully complete with the Amplify team as we grow from our current operating store count of 23 to well over 200 locations across 14 states in the next two years.

ModWash
Brian Thornton | COO

Busy Bee Car Wash

For years I’ve talked to a lot of brokers with the same goal; sell your car wash chain as quickly as possible. But I chose to work with Amplify because they were interested and invested in the emotional side of selling my business and truly value long-term relationships. They weren’t forcing me to take a deal just to take a deal. They listened to my concerns and goals then educated me on all my options. And that’s how I decided on the right partner for my chain specifically. I went to bed at night after I signed the papers knowing I got the best deal possible versus just having any deal put in front of me that is only about money.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Q Car Wash

We really appreciate Jeff and his entire team at Amplify. Their expertise and deep industry knowledge helped us navigate our options and best showcase our strengths to maximize our value. Caliber is a good fit for Q Car Wash as they look to expand in North Texas.

Q Car Wash
Viran Nana | COO

Cobblestone Auto Spa

I have known both Jeff and Bill for over thirty years combined, and respect them both as experts in our professional car washing industry. Their unique and individual strengths bring very strong talent and advice to operators, sellers, and buyers with sharp knowledge, client’s best interest in mind, and an actual personal touch. They hold the expertise and performance track record to hold a very high level of respect within this rapidly-changing car wash industry.

Cobblestone Auto Spa
Tuck Bettin | CEO

Oasis Car Wash

Turning over a business you started from one shovel of dirt 25 years ago and grew to several locations is a difficult and even uncomfortable process. So, when it came time for Larry and me to sell, we chose Amplify Car Wash Advisors to guide us through the process because of their strong reputation and thought leadership in the industry. Their team was professional and did a great job walking us through each step.

Oasis Car Wash
Dallas Hawkins | Partner

Busy Bee Car Wash

Selling our business after 52 years is big deal and certainly not a decision I took lightly, turning over our family legacy was an emotional process and I appreciated that the team at Amplify respected that. They helped me understand my options and found the best deal for me.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Ducky’s Express

I have been a multi-site developer and operator in the car wash industry for over 30 years. Four years ago, a partner’s health concern forced me to sell a portion of my portfolio, and during that process, I was introduced to Jeff Pavone of Commercial Plus. I was immediately impressed with Jeff’s knowledge of my industry and his volume of successful deal closings. In a very short period of time, Jeff found the right buyer at a very fair price, and the transaction closed shortly thereafter. I was looking for a team with honesty, integrity, and a proven track record of success, and I found all of that in Jeff.

Ducky’s Express
Richard Miller

Trademark Car Wash

These are some of the most exciting times for car wash owners. As we grew 350% in revenue in just one year, we recognized the time to partner up with a top-tier team that has mastered growth in retail and specifically the automotive industry. Amplify Car Wash Advisors had helped us acquire, raise capital, and was the perfect partner to help us reach this next chapter of the Trademark story.

Trademark Car Wash
Andrew Goldberger