By Fred Grauer
In Southern California, as May drew to a close, residents prepared for June Gloom, a time of the year when much of the state prefers to hibernate rather than go outside to wash cars and have fun. People are down in the dumps, the sky is falling and, in general, malaise prevails throughout the land.
Being a frequent visitor to the state, with four of five children as well as several friends and customers living there, I had to wonder about this phenomenon, not out of morbid curiosity but real concern. I have since learned that June Gloom occurs when the ground warms, yet the ocean remains cold. The results of this convergence are gray, overcast skies, uncertain weather and unpredictable sailing conditions. Are we talking about climatic circumstances or the economy? In either case, it doesnt sound like a good time to be venturing into uncharted waters or washing cars.
A Greater Incident
Is June Gloom strictly a weather-driven, regional condition, or is it a general dissatisfaction being experienced by the entire country? Normally, to answer such deep, philosophical questions, I consult my Ouija board. So I did. But not having arrived at any palatable, sensible answers, I decided to seek out the facts.
It didnt take long to confirm the South and Southeast has had rain; the West is going through a drought; employment is up; durable-goods orders are going up; interest rates are still the lowest they have been in years; petroleum margins have improved; net profits in most industries are better; and, most important, the International Carwash Association celebrated its 50th anniversary and had its best annual convention ever. Most car-wash operators volumes and profits are up. So whats the deal?
There is no doubt that, globally speaking, America is not the worlds favorite son. Its easy to blame our poll numbers, which are in the basement, for the countrys unrest. But lets face it: When you are successful in your business, personal or political life, someone is going to dislike you. We still know the weather is plus or minus a degree over last year, and our economy is rebounding nicely; so what is the real cause of our dejection?
I think its the story of Chicken Little all over again. Even though the forecast indicates sun, we have elected to become defensive rather than proactive in all areas of our lives, business included. But unlike the weather, over which we have no control, our economic and political woes are things we can counteract. For those of us who have weathered every storm imaginable, June Gloom is actually an opportunity.
One autumn, years ago, I faced a particularly challenging season. My car washes had suffered from 26 weekends of rain, and I was ready to cut my throat. I called a dear friend and great car-wash colleague, Fred Frattaroli. Freddy and I were commiserating, and he made a statement to me Ive never forgotten: In every seed of adversity, there is a seed of equal or greater opportunity.
Whats the point of all this rhetoric? Its a message to those currently suffering from the gloom: Get real! This is a time of action. Its a great time to start a new businesswhy not a car-wash business, in conjunction with selfstorage or separately? Our government, the same one that brought you freedom of speech and choice, also offers some pretty tremendous tax incentives. But the time on its deal is running short; so be proactive, put a smile on your face as well as your wallet, and invest. Your Chicken Little counterparts will be cogitating, and youll be enjoying a more efficient, profitable business.
Fred Grauer is the vice president, distributor network, for MarkVII Equipment LLC, a car-wash equipment manufacturer in Arvada, Colo. He has made a lifelong career of designing, selling, building and operating car washes. He can be reached at [email protected].