Car Wash Magazine – BUILDING A FOUNDATION ON TRUST
Amplify Car Wash Advisors prioritizes trust, respect and relationships
Mike Shullman was born to be a car washer. As part of the iconic Russell Speeder’s brand in the Northeastern United States and beyond, four generations of his family have been in the industry spanning the last six decades. But nothing can go on forever. And as Shullman began to consider his own legacy in a consistently evolving car wash industry, he knew he needed a partner to evaluate his options.
“Selling wasn’t an easy decision to make,” he said. “When it came time to start the process, I chose to partner with Amplify because we had already worked together on a successful smaller deal. And though still not easy, this transaction result landed just shy of perfect.” Now a part of Summit Wash Holdings, backed by New Mountain Capital, the Russell Speeder’s platform is poised for continued growth. For Amplify, it was about making sure that Shullman and the Russell Speeder’s family was well educated on all its options.
“No matter how much time you spend, this business isn’t getting any less complicated,” said Jeff Pavone, Amplify Car Wash Advisors co-founder and partner. “We’ve represented legacy chains from the likes of Russell Speeder’s, Jet Brite, Busy Bee, and other long-term operators who have been operating at a high level for decades and over generations.” Pavone said, “They entrusted us with their business to represent their best interests and placed their life’s work in our hands.”
In early 2020, Pavone, along with car wash veteran and ICA Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Martin of Metro Express Car Wash, formed Amplify Car Wash Advisors because of the changes they recognized in the industry. “We saw the shift beginning in the market, and we wanted to be sure that we were the partner you could trust in what is bound to be a complicated and emotional time,” Pavone said. Russell Speeder’s is just one example of a long line of industry stalwarts that have adapted to the changing face of the car wash industry.
As the car wash space has garnered attention from private equity groups and other institutional buyers, there’s been a steady shift from what was traditionally known as mom-and-pop ownership. While there is still room for the individual owner, new opportunities have opened, especially for well-established legacy brands. For Amplify, the biggest key to being a trusted partner as the industry has continued to evolve has been a hyper-intentional focus on developing and cultivating relationships. “The more we get to know and understand our clients, the better we can help them,” Pavone said. “We invest heavily in relationships for the long haul.”
Creating those deep relationships takes time, though, and companies grow and change over the course of that time. For Pavone, that meant he had to think differently about how Amplify assembled its team. “We had to build out an organizational structure that made it possible for us to expand and evolve alongside our clients,” he said. “We never want a client to outgrow us.” By building out that team, Amplify is positioned to stay on top of the changes in the industry and continue advocating on behalf of car wash owners. “Our goal is to make sure we’re always ahead of the market in terms of what’s changing and what’s coming, while maintaining the relationships we know are foundational to this industry,” Pavone said.
Amplify Chief Operating Officer Chris Jenks said, “We have a deep breadth of institutional knowledge from an operator perspective with industry icons like Bill [Martin] as well as Dave Hail, who joined us from a tenured career at Mister Car Wash. We have the real-life practical industry experience, but we also combine that with professionals who span the spectrum of financial services. “It’s this unique combination that allows us to really advocate on behalf of our clients,” Jenks said. “We speak the language, we know the pain points and, more importantly, we can effectively position their business to maximize value when growing or selling. This is what differentiates us from many of our peers.”
Recent team additions like Paul Sigfusson, head of capital solutions, showcase the firm’s commitment to those principles. “You have to do what you say you’re going to do,” Pavone said. “And providing clients with the best-in-class talent in and expertise in investment banking is critical.” Sigfusson joined the team from KKR & Co. where he was focused on the consumer industry within KKR’s Americas Private Equity platform. He’d also spent time focused on capital markets and has experience in corporate advisory and debt and equity transactions. For Amplify, that meant the ability to help car washers understand all their options for funding growth. “I believe in putting the client’s needs first,” Sigfussion said. “The relationship-driven culture is just one of the reasons I am excited to be part of the Amplify team.”
||Growth changes companies in many ways. But for Pavone, it’s paramount that Amplify is a continued advocate and good steward of the car wash industry. “I have a deep respect for this industry and its people,” he said. “It’s important to have partners you can trust, and that can help you understand and make sense of market and industry changes. I don’t want anybody here to ever get less than they deserve. And that typically happens when they don’t understand all their options when it comes to selling or scaling their car wash business.”
Pavone’s core principle of helping car washers permeates the team. Now at a staff roster of about 30 full-time employees, clients have access to subject matter experts providing insights and guidance on financial and legal services, real estate, operational advisory, emerging technology solutions and more. Lanese Barnett, senior vice president of business development, said, “Amplify is focused on the people side of car washing and values building meaningful relationships that span well beyond a transaction. There’s a special, communal nature to the car wash industry, and I love being part of a team that champions its continued success.”