AT THE CAR WASH

Fred Grauer Comments
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Is it possible to run your business remotely? expansion, multiple locations and absentee management are tempting scenarios as we grow and change our facilities.

It’s said in the car wash business that “owning just one isn’t enough”—and many self-storage facility owners feel the same. It may be because we have large families or big appetites. Whatever the reason, most entrepreneurs aren’t satisfied with a single site.

The wider your geographic locales and business responsibilities, the more difficult it becomes to manage. So much occurs on a daily basis, it’s hard to control all aspects of our businesses successfully. To remain in control, we need to rethink the tools at our disposal, as well as how to structure our relationships with customers and employees.

Handing Over the Reins

Remote management may have already entered your mind or be hovering on the edge of your business consciousness. You may be expanding, downsizing or simply need others to share in operations while you take a break. Regardless, handing the reins to somebody else takes an enormous amount of planning.

First is it possible to manage remotely? Ask the Internet folks or any tech geek and the answer is a resounding yes. You can monitor remotely, thus managing should be possible too. Thousands of companies are doing it every day; all you have to do is replicate their processes.

Where to start? The key to successful remote management relies on the team and technology you have in place. Assuming your employees are capable and you build in the right controls, the expectations of all stakeholders should be met.

The old expression “garbage in, garbage out” emphasizes the importance of management/employee skills. Your key to success will be the talent of your team to execute the remote system. What are the elements to look for in management?

Depending on type of business and number of employees, either you or your proxy should possess:

Human Skills. The ability of the manager to work effectively in a group, to lead the team to accomplish goals and objectives in an atmosphere of cooperation, sensitivity and understanding.

Technical Skills. The emphasis is on the understanding of processes, procedures and technology that allow the enterprise to operate with the least amount of non-value activity.

Conceptual Skills. The ability of the manager to see and understand the relationships of all aspects of the business in its entirety. example: Implementing Internet controls to facilitate remote monitoring, and evaluating impact on production, sales, marketing, customers and employees.

Resource Skills. Not only does this require in-depth knowledge of your business but the ability to search, interview, validate and choose the right systems to enable implementation of remote management systems.

Oversight. Establishing clear, obtainable goals and objectives. Success comes with execution and holding management accountable.

Planning. You can’t get from point A to B without a roadmap. If the strategy is to implement remote management and monitoring tools, you must plan, assign responsibility, obtain buy in and communicate the plan.

Communication. The biggest challenge in any business is to communicate visions and goals to all stakeholders.

Leadership. Clear demonstration of the above skills confirms your position of leadership. Add to this the understanding of risk, accountability and the balance should be clear.

OK, we have the team in place and our strategy, plan, mission and goals are clear. Can we manage remotely, or is it an oxymoron? Of course, we can! As in any business endeavor, the golden ticket is having a clear and realistic plan that’s well communicated and executed flawlessly.

In the car wash business, we’ve made huge strides in all areas of business resources. Web-based technology and monitoring enable us to expand and manage our business in ways previously unimaginable. Consider:

We can track our customers, manage and monitor labor, oversee and manage activities at our site, train remotely, instantly track all mechanical and financial details, market remotely, sell and deposit funds electronically, research and communicate with other operators, and (whew!) deliver a more viable successful business.

The other day a potential car wash investor asked me, “What are you doing to bring to market new wash technology?” I explained that the future isn’t mechanical technology, it’s information technology. As a car wash operator and manufacturer, what excites me most is the increasing ability to communicate, manage, market, train, expand and profit through the every improving and expanding use of electronic technology. One of my goals this year is to make it easy for people to find and do business with me. My tool will be extensive use of the web.

Remote-management reality boils down to this: What are you willing to invest to ensure the same results as when you were physically onsite? Keep in mind that experienced vendors can assist you in defining and implementing the best solution to your remote-management goals. (And let’s hope you can contact them on their PDAs!) 

Fred Grauer is president of Grauer Associates and executive vice president, investor market and conveyors, for Ryko Manufacturing Co., a car wash equipment manufacturer in Grimes, Iowa. He has made a lifelong career of designing, selling, building and operating car washes. He can be reached at fredgrauer@comcast.net 

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