Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Becoming a Professional Detailer

[: 15 percent of one's financial success is due to one's technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering-to personality and the ability to lead people] - Dale Carnegie

Success Rate
Many people seem to think that being a professional detailer must be the coolest job ever, and in some ways it is. Working on both everyday driver vehicles and amazing exotic cars day in day out and doing something you love to do for a living is pretty awesome, but there is also a harsh reality to being a detailer that you should be clear about from the very beginning.

A large % of the people attempting to open a detailing business fail; as too many focus solely on the actual detailing side of the business and never learn how to run a business properly.

Be a businessman first and foremost; and learn to sell yourself and your services to the customer and your profits will increase dramatically

Education is the most important component of the success of any business. There are a lot of great detailers out there. Some are well known for their marketing, some for the level of professionalism, others for the work they perform
Knowing the products, you use and their application methodologies and what works in a given situation from practical experience, will help strengthen your knowledge to provide an invaluable service to both existing and potential customers. By letting them make an informed decision it builds trust and that adds up to better service, increased sales as well as repeat and referral business.

You need talent plus experience and knowledge and understanding; establishing creditability is one of the biggest challenges for small start-up businesses.

Random success plays a part in all industries; randomness or the ups and downs of luck, both good and bad, sometimes mask for a while anyway; underlying quality. But few people are confident enough to stand by their judgements about underlying quality or character and so remain fixed upon short-term indicators - indicators bedevilled by chance.

You also need to decide what niche market you want to concentrate on.

Aimed towards the average vehicle owner, which caters to ‘wash & wax’ type clients, this market sector provides a higher cash flow but small profit margins. High turnover (volume) provides the biggest profits. It produces a steady work load and a guaranteed pay cheque. Other advantages are-
·         It’s more productive, consistent because all cars receive the same service and you want to complete as many cars as possible per day.
·         With a higher turnover and bulk buying of products greater profits can be realized
·         You do not need special facilities; a garage or warehouse is all that is required.
·         There is little need to advertise because you only have to depend on one or two dealer contracts.

Many operators of retail-oriented detail businesses simply will not do dealer work, as they prefer catering to higher end clients, usually ‘exotic’ or specialised automobiles, this market sector provides lower cash flow and higher profit... There are several reasons for this, including a combination of job satisfaction, higher profit and emotion:
·         The gross profit per car is less for dealer work than retail services.
·         Retail vehicles are typically in better condition and the customer is generally more positive about the end results of the detail service.
·         You are able to hire a better quality staff because you do fewer cars at higher revenues.
·         The loss of one customer or two will not break your business in the same way losing a dealer contract would.
·         The retail market is bigger and has great potential for growth.
The retail market would not be much affected by the loss of a customer, but the production market would be very negatively impacted with the loss of just one dealership
If you think that detailing is just a job think again, because it isn’t. It’s more like a lifestyle choice, and the spirit of what it involves will need to run deep in your veins if you are to succeed and thrive as a detailer.

The ultimate question is this: are you trying to open and invest in a properly functioning business or just trying to creating a job. Usually a business needs to operate for a period of months before it breaks even, so it’s a very poorly paid job. You could be the best detailer the world has ever seen but unless you learn how to correctly operate a business properly you're just setting yourself up for failure

If you know deep inside that you will work as hard as it takes no matter what, and that paying attention to minute details day after day and vehicle after vehicle appeals to you even though it will be extremely challenging then this type of commitment will help you to succeed

Attention to Detail
Dependent upon your detailing goals and the areas of concern you would like to work on. You do need to understand some of the basic chemistry behind the materials and finishes used for automobiles to understand how to care for it.

Diagnosis is the key, not guess work; the most important thing to find out before you attempt to clean or care for something is to ascertain what the material finish is made from. Much the same is true if you’re trying to remove a stain, what caused the stain (Organic stains, Inorganic stains or Petroleum soils) and what is the material ( Finished or  Synthetic Leather, Fabrics, Wool or Synthetic fibres) you are trying to remove the stain from.

Formulate a detailing plan, then utilize proper detailing techniques, combined with quality products is what makes a details outcome, successful.

“God is the details” and it’s often the small things that make the difference between a good detailer and an outstanding one. Once your paint is polished and protected look to the finer details; wheel wells, brake callipers, wheel lug nuts, glass surfaces, tyres and the exhaust tips and the interior: brake pedals, control knobs, instrument cluster, door kick-plates, seatbelts, buckles and retractors.

 [A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent of us; we are dependent of him. He is not an interruption in our work; he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business; he is a part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him; he is doing us a favour by giving us the ...opportunity to do so] Mahatma Ghandi

Becoming a Professional Detailer

In most cases a city or county in which you are going to do business requires that you have a business license (See also Business Insurance).

Before the late ‘60s most major car dealerships had a staff of trained professional detailers. The economic downturn has forced many dealerships to eliminate their detailing staff and hire junior staff to wash and polish vehicles or contract the service out to the lowest bidder. 

Becoming a professional detailer takes knowledge of the materials used; experience to both see defects and using methods that succeed in removing them, plus talent and skill in using the correct tools; and most importantly an "attention to detail" As well as keeping current with the developments in automotive products, trends  demographic, and financial influences that impact auto detailing.

One man who should know is Paul Normyle, founder of vehicle preparation service Shine. Seven years ago he was a very dissatisfied sales and marketing director for an engineering company, schlepping around the Midlands in a Rover 214. Today he's at the helm of a Bentley GT (part of his 11-car collection) and a firm with an annual turnover of £4 million. And he got there by cleaning cars.

[I thought there had to be a better way to earn a living," says the 41-year-old, "so I bought my first van and valeting equipment with a credit card and went from there. I started by cleaning other people's cars, now I'm paying 78 people around the UK to do it for me.]

Attention to detail makes all the difference to customer satisfaction and retention.

Is an essential part in the maintaining the appearance of a vehicle. The objective when detailing a vehicle is to make a vehicle look as good as it can. In many cases make it look better than it was when new. Detailing can take a lot of time, but the results are always worth the effort.
Proper detailing will also protect a vehicle from environmental hazards that can rob life away from your vehicle. In order to attain and maintain an optically perfect shine, you must protect it from natural deterioration and dullness that occurs over time.

A detailer combines chemicals, equipment as well as knowledge of the materials used in automotive manufacturing (vehicle surfaces). ‘Chemicals’, refers to the cleaning and protection products used, ‘equipment,’ refers to the tools used, for example, random orbital polishers, high-speed rotary polishers, extractors and power washers, to name but a few. Vehicle surfaces require a basic understanding of chemistry and how to rejuvenate and protect each of the many and varied material surfaces, regardless of its specific surface composition making objective observations based upon experience, the results obtained, and adjusting the techniques and products used as necessary.

It requires -
·         Knowledge of paint technology and the differences between single stage and multiple stage paint
·         Knowledge of clear coats and their reactions to different types of compounds and polishes
·         Ability to appropriately choose proper equipment, pads, and match chemicals to different materials
·         Knowledge of various types of fabrics, carbon fibre, finished leathers and other very difficult surfaces

Will a full professional detail increase the resale value?

By presenting the vehicle in a clean and as close to new as possible condition will increase its selling price. A clean detailed vehicle  in itself will make the car command a higher price  (in most cases) a vehicle that has uncared for , stained and faded paint will be perceived as worth less than it could be
Go to Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds and check out the difference in the trade-in and resale values of an Excellent condition versus Good or Fair condition; it’s usually several hundred, if not thousands of dollars, this price differential will be greater for collectable vehicles.

(CNN) 8 easy ways to boost your car's value -

Choosing and trusting a professional auto detailer can be a tough decision; when you look for a detailer you want a person you can trust with your vehicle, one with experience, knowledge and specialized training, one who provides the best possible workmanship and products for a fair price.
It is said that the highest art is simplicity; usually experts in their field make what they do look simple, this is due to their technique and extensive experience

For many, the thought of spending over $300 for cleaning and applying protection to - $450 - 1000 plus for pint surface correction / renovation seems faintly ludicrous, especially when an automatic car-wash charges less than $30, and there are many products available from high street retailers that claim to shine your car to perfection. The reality is that to detail a vehicle correctly takes time (typically 6-8 hours) and the better detailing products are not usually available at a local auto superstore. Professionalism and the overall customer experience are also very important...

There no standard of what a detail consists of in this industry; detailers from different locations charge a wide spectrum of fees depending on their experience, geographical location, scope of work (i.e. their interpretation of what a detail should consist of) and the type of products used and cars they're working on.

It is in your best interests to ask question about what actual work is involved. The most significant costs involved are labour; products are not a huge component of a details cost, although using premium car care products will make some difference to a details quality.

Things like detailer's experience, marketing the company, insurance; taxes, overheads, etc. will be the larger factors in a price of a detail. Even if you're not that astute about detailing, if you ask questions on the process common sense will enable you to make an informed decision

For the professional detailer there are three major groups 
1.                  Volume (car dealerships or daily drivers that just require a wash, one-step polish and interior vacuum)
2.                  High-end work (this entails paint correction and both interior and exterior detailing)
3.                  Concours or Show Car Detailing (keep in mind that inspection is done to ‘white glove’ standards)

One product doesn’t fit all; use high-end products on high-end cars and use medium-end products on low end cars. Not every project deserves to be gold plated but when you need durability and great looking end results buy good products and learn the variables of using them.

Volume detailing 
Volume detailing is where the most money is to be made, catering towards people who don’t care about paint correction, or detailing, but just want their vehicle clean and shiny. But be cognizant that vehicle dealership work is very much bottom-line driven and the lowest bidder will almost always be successful winning it. This is partly the reason so many dealership and high volume production shop detailers suffer from a bad reputation.

Do not make the mistake of treating this work like you would detailing vehicles for our regular customers as volume work is all about speed, cost effective products and working efficiency while still producing a reasonable end product in the time allocated. You can’t spend 6 or 8 hours on a vehicle detail that you’re being paid $100 and expect to make a reasonable profit from. You will need to work smarter (efficiently) not harder as you’ll need to process several vehicles per day

Becoming a High-end Detailer 
Advanced detailing; comes about with plenty of experience and when someone becomes so in tune with their craft it becomes art. High end A-list vehicles and prestige concourse entrants; customers in this type of niche market will have their vehicles detailed on a fairly regular basis, especially during the concourse show season.

More time and care along with specialised products is required to detail a high-end or super car than it takes to do a minivan or daily driver.

This is partly due to the advanced materials used like glove soft finished leather, exotic woods and carbon fibre, special paint finishes, carbon fibre disc brakes; this is often an $8000 option and requires specialist care/knowledge, as well as other specialist materials. These types of cars need to be detailed to provide a flawless finish and this is why it requires specific experience, knowledge and a good eye for every little detail.

Most owners of this type of vehicle are looking for a high level of expertise and are willing to pay a premium for it. Depending on the condition of the vehicle and what level of finish they require it will take anything from one o four days to complete and charges will range from $500.00 to over $1200.00

Building long lasting customer relationships should be your main goal, ideally you want to establish a customer base that uses you not only for the major concourse details, but also for maintaining their vehicles on a weekly to monthly basis.

What is the best demographic to cater to as a detailer?
If you live in an area where there are people with prestige cars and high disposable incomes, the sky is the limit.

Once you realize how much you don’t know, only then will you be willing to research and enhance your knowledge and understanding

I would strongly recommend that you learn the most you can from Internet detailing forums you’ll find a wealth of knowledge from people who have experience of most if not all of the problems you’re likely to encounter as well as the existing high end detailers who contribute and are making a lucrative living with this type of detailing.

As an experienced concourse detailer you need to know how to tackle any detailing problem, including paint and  interior renovation / restoration that comes along, although it is impossible to prepare for every situation possible, the more knowledgeable you are, the more valuable you become, and hence the more you can charge for your services.

With a well thought out business and a solid marketing plan, a good work ethics, quality tools, products and workmanship, along with outstanding customer service, knowledge and experience of products and the tools of your trade you'll be on your way to achieving success. (See also “What detailers should know and the skills required”)

[Good quality is never cheap, and poor quality is never good] Anon

Paint Renovation
I would also add that paint renovation (the removal of serious paint surface scratches is normally charged on an hourly rate, an experienced paint renovation detailer will have a good idea of how long this should take, so do ask for an estimated time and cost before giving the go-ahead as this could cost between $450 - 1000.

 The best way to increase turnover / profit is to find reliable employees to work with you. But always be cognizant that both of you are mutually critical to the company’s success, so threat them accordingly. Bear in mind that we need to retain good employees as well as customers “Hire for attitude, and train for skills”. Train your staff to be courteous and don't use a reward system that undermines that behaviour.

Providing a clean well organized and enjoyable working environment, ongoing training, empowerment and decent pay will go a long way towards the retention of loyal employees.

·         If you have employees, you will have to abide by the labour laws in the State in which you do business.
·         You will have to purchase Workers Compensation Insurance.
·         You will need both liability insurance and Garage owner's insurance
·         Ensure that they act and work as ‘professionals’ at all times.
·         Provide work shirts and ensure their work attire is maintained in as clean a condition as possible
·         Ensure that their ‘workspace’ is maintained in a clean and tidy state as possible
·         Train them one-on one in the skills they need (Videos are a great training resource)
·         Either you or an experienced detailer should mentor them.
·         Monitor the work closely, do not micro-manage but provide guidance
·         Make sure that a high quality is maintained by carrying out QA checks on finished details.
·         Ensure that they understand that company success is beneficial to both them and you
·         Become the business owner not their best friend; always remain courteous, friendly and understanding
·         Be generous with praise for a job well done.
·         Praise publically criticise privately

Professional Working Attire
Distinguish yourself from the competition; always ensure you look more like a "business" than just someone who cleans cars. Selling your service to an audience - it follows then, that if the salesman doesn't look the part, he can expect the door to be slammed in his face. Perception is reality from the customer's point of view.  Wear a polo shirt and dark colour khaki pants or shorts; it gives people confidence in you and your business; which is the main reason most people choose to purchase your services.

Jeans and / or t-shirts present the wrong image.  For a few extra dollars you can get a few polo shirts embroidered with your company name / logo instead. And ensure their work attire is maintained in as clean a condition as possible. Dark gray, dark blue and black of course work the best. It goes without saying quality is of paramount importance. If you do not put out a quality product, no amount of professional image will make you successful.

Work Vehicle
I make sure to keep your work vehicle clean and scratch free as your work vehicle speaks to your work, and that’s going to the first vehicle they look at

OSHA compliance
There are many requirements to be a good businessman, marketing, finance and people management to name but a few. One of the most critical, and often the most overlooked, is Health and Safety. Health and Safety is not a revenue generating area, it’s a cost, a lot of people don't like to spend time on matters that donĂ¯¿½t generate revenue. However, it also has the ability to turn, in a matter of a few seconds, in to your biggest single cost, and one that can put you out of business.

The agency that enforces Health and Safety in the work place is OSHA. There inspectors have the right to enter and inspect your premises at any time. You have to co-operate with them in the same way that you have to co-operate with any federal entity. They have the authority to fine you, or in severe cases, order you to shut down until the necessary improvements are made. According to the research I did, nearly 90% of all OSHA inspections in the detail industry are as a result of a complaint being filed by a member of staff. 5% are as a result of accidents, and the remainder is "planned visits".

Setting a Price- Setting a price should be fairly simple, materials used plus, a percentage % of (b) items 1 -6, plus Labour costs, plus profit margin

Any cost that is incurred by carrying out business
a) Materials used (car care products) + expendables (i.e. micro fibre towels, latex gloves, etc) + depreciation on tools (machine polisher, pads, vacuum, power washer, etc)

b) Overhead Costs
1.      Tools
2.      Water
3.      Electricity
4.      Rent or Lease
5.      Insurance, business licence, etc
6.      Marketing

c) Labour
Estimated time x expected hourly rate
To estimate labour wage cost it’s important to include paid holidays (9) 4% vacation pay, 1.73% Worker's Compensation Board (WCB) (both calculated on gross pay) a matching employees pension plan (PP) contribution and pay 1.4X what our employees contribute to employee insurance (EI).

As a general number for actual labour costs multiply hourly rate 1.35 (not including benefits). At a minimum wage of $10.25 per hour that equals $13.87 per hour. Your labour costs should never exceed 30-35% of your total costs so you need to include  3.3x labour costs included in sales to cover all your costs plus profit. This equates to approx $42-$45 an hour for a minimum wage employee. (Check these figures as they vary by state)

d) Profit Margin
Percentage profit that you expect to make on sales

e) Written Contract
Provide each client with a written estimate and ensure they sign it to agree the costs. Remember a verbal contract is not worth the paper it's written on

Profit is not a BAD Word
Make sure that both you and the client are very clear about their expectations and what exactly you'll be performing; this helps deter any negative issues later on, which will hurt any future relationship with them. Resist the temptation of doing ‘extra work’; although there is nothing wrong with exceeding (within reason) clients expectations. Simply explain what is included in the price quoted and stick to it (anything other than that is an ‘up-sell’). You need to know "all" your costs and develop a financial model and turn that into an hourly rate that will always make you a profit it you estimate the job correctly in terms of time. That is why you can get into trouble with posted prices; you are telling the customer this is the cost without evaluating the vehicle first.

 "Depends on condition of the vehicle” then becomes meaningless. Your price should always de dependent upon the time, materials and a margin for profit that it takes to complete the job, unless you recover these operating costs you will not remain in business for very long

Price reduction
Reducing price obviously means a reduction in profit, although reducing introductory prices is a different strategy, which hopefully will bring future profit.

When business is slow, especially when an economy is in recession, there is great temptation to reduce your price. Price reduction as a way to deal with a credit crunch and / or a slow economy is a myth, albeit a dangerous one. If your unit price is $100 and the net profit after all expenses and salary is 10% ($10) but you discount your prices in order to make a sale by 5% ($5) that is 50% of net profit. Your clients will receive the message that you are desperate for work and it also set a precedent and devalues your perceived value.

Once customers start shopping for price as opposed to value, and once you’ve offered a price reduction it’s very difficult to recover from and raise prices once the economy improves Focus on value and the service offered and never apologise for your price.

Other resources

1.      Pricing — Overcoming Objections, by Jordache Perozzo -

2.      How to Start a Home-based Car Detailing Business - Renny Doyle

Related Articles
I would like to think that these articles become an asset to anyone who is new to detailing and to professionals alike, as well as industry experts who seek to advance their knowledge - Jon Miller MBA
  1. Essentials for Starting a New Business –

  1. Business Partnerships -

  1. Business Marketing -

  1. Becoming a Professional Detailer -

  1. Basic insurance for an auto-detailing business -

  1. Selecting a Professional Detailer -

  1. Marketing to existing clients -
I would like to think that these articles become an asset to anyone who is new to detailing and to professional’s alike, as well as industry experts who seek to advance their knowledge.

I hope the above article was informative. By having some understanding of the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ as well as the ‘How’ along with a little science to help you understand how the chemicals we use react, you can achieve the results you desire.

I would appreciate it if you would share this article as it helps other detailers further their knowledge.
Questions and/ or constructive comments are always appreciated.

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