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Fulltime Car wash owner/operator?

ShineShed

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Any guys out there that own/run car washes full time as their job? Particularly self service car washes. Im wondering at what point did you guys know you had to quit your day job and go out on your own. 3 or 4 car washes?? I know it all depends on size and profitability of each wash. I want to expand so bad but will be hard to do with my 6-5 millwright job (that i hate).
 

Waxman

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My full-time job in the industry began in 1996 when I opened my full-service stand-alone detail shop. It was rough; I was in business with family, which I DO NOT RECOMMEND, for many reasons. We rented a location ( which we built ourselves; long story ). The business only made money 8-9 months a year because of seasonality. I went without pay for those months. I was able to to this because I was good with my money and my family members always lived hand-to-mouth.

Eventually my partner got another job and sold me his 'share' of the business, which was insolvent at the time. It was my plan all along to build a self-serve car wash, so I did. I went and got a job part time at a great local chain called Golden Nozzle so I could learn the business first hand. I learned so much from my old boss, Mike Forgotch. I put a business plan together and went to banks. I experienced alot of rejection. I worked hard to refine the plan and got my little 2/1 SS wash open. Then I lost my lease and was evicted from my old location for the detail shop. I went back to the bank, borrowed more $$$ and built a sweet 4 car detail shop next to my wash. Then I applied for and got my used car dealer's license. Now, all this time later, I operate the business full-time, along with an 8 plex apartment building I bought at the urging of 2 good friends. What a great decision that was for me! It is awesome to be diversified, especially now.
 

ShineShed

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Awesome thanks for your story waxman! Im lookin into other small business ideas with low overhead that i can do on the side after i buy a 2nd self service wash i think thatd be enough for me and family to live on , just have to figure out what else to start (like small home improvement/construction) since im good in that field as well. I think id have time to do a job here and there along with running the 2 washes. My current 4 bay does good & im actively looking for my next ‘larger’ purchase hopefully at least a 4ss2iba..
 

Wash4Life

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You're asking the wrong question. You yourself know that in your current situation, expansion will be hard to do.

Here's what I look at your main question as being, Do I keep the full-time job and my one car wash, or do I leave the full-time job in order to expand?

Another question to ask your self is, Is working a full-time job allowing me to maximize profits at my current business?
 

ShineShed

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It is going to be hard to keep my job and run 2 busy car washes i know for sure, and ya i do feel like my fulltime gig gets in the way of efficiently runnin the wash i have as i do all repairs myself. I guess i just want to hear other guys stories of going on their own fulltime in this business to give me some hope that it is possible to transition from day job employee to car wash businessman!
 

MEP001

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Trust me, I know from experience, it's hard to keep a full-time job and run one SS car wash, unless you have someone to clean up. I did it for seven years back in the 90's, and I'm doing it again now. Back then it wasn't so bad - I was younger and I had gotten things where I barely spent 30 minutes at the wash most days. Customers there respected the place and almost never made a mess. My current wash doesn't have that yet, may never because of the customer base. I spend at least two hours just cleaning every day, even if it rains. At least I'm making some decent money, more than the full-time job pays.
 

mac

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I own and operate a 5 bay plus an awesome automatic, and it is my only job. Since I sold my regular business last year, I needed something to do to get me out of the house. And trust me on this, if you spend 24 hours with your wife, things can get uncomfortable sometimes. There was one time I really regretted showing my wife how to use a handgun, but that's another story. So I spend anywhere from three to nine hours a day at the wash. The customers love the fact that someone is there. And I listen to them when they tell me what they like or don't, and what they would like to see added
 

ShineShed

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I wish my wash was larger like yours but its my first one great location so i cant complain but it doesnt profit me near what the day job does unfortunately. Im 100% mindset on doing this full time and sayin to hell with a “job” im hooked and addicted to the business. I have been calling car wash owners in the area to see if theyd sell, a couple will but i got the “you seem like u really want it” price since i am the one reaching out. Theyre crazy pricey around here. If the bank goes for it ill take another leap on 2nd location that would make quittin a job easier for sure. But then i hear of guys with 4-5 even 6 washes and i think dam maybe im dreaming ..
 

Greg Pack

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Started part time in 1992 and became full time in 2000. I've run as many as seven low-moderate SS only washes at a time. I know people that have run more. I really don't want to work full time anymore so I'm down to just two nice SS/IBA ( although will be starting to rehab a third soon) and work four-five hours a day most days. I make more at a part time job than I could make working for someone else, unless I had MD after my name.

You have to learn the 80/20 rule if you want to run multiple locations: 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. You can spend all day at one wash if you want to try multiple profit centers, lots of vending, etc and run a spotless wash, or you can run several pretty good locations in the same amount of time if you keep things simple and aren't as OCD about the cleanliness. I'm in the latter category.

One piece of advice I give new operators: Never clean up your own wash if you can afford an employee- it will eat up your time and ruin your attitude.
 

ShineShed

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Thanks Greg for the input, i do pay 2 guys (one attendant everyday) to clean for me . Im there to do all the equipment maintenance . If i take on a 2nd location id have that one attended also
 

KleanRide

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One piece of advice I give new operators: Never clean up your own wash if you can afford an employee- it will eat up your time and ruin your attitude.
Thank you for that, Greg. Really good advice. I had that exact conversation with my manager last week after he had gotten lazy on cleaning. I told him that the wash will be clean, no matter what. If he does his job all will be good. If I have to do his job, I’ll be pissed off about it every single day.
 

wyatt

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I think it depends what type of wash you want to run.

If you are the maintenance man and the one calling all the shots, you cannot have a full time job. If you can find a manager that is handy and intelligent then yes you probably could manage 1-2 washes and still have a full time job.

You really have to weigh the pros and cons though. For me, when I purchased my 2nd and 3rd wash I quit my full time job because I could see the upside of the car washes potentially making more than my full time job salary. What I mean by that is if I keep improving my car washes sales would continue to increase which I felt would ultimately over time be more than my salary and current car wash profit ever was. I can say now that my car wash profit the year after I quit my full time job was more than my previous years car wash profit + the salary at my old job.

People want to see a well managed car wash, I feel like I can always tell when a ss wash has an absentee owner.

It was the right move for me to quit my job. I currently own 4 washes (18 ss bays & 4 autos) and have the time to look for new opportunities and growth.
 

ShineShed

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Thanks for your story wyatt! I am indeed the maintenance man and man calling all shots its harder then i ever imagined. I spend my 3 breaks each day at my day job calling places, ordering carwash parts, ordering chemicals, talking to the sign/logo company, returning calls to customers who got screwed at my change machine jamming up etc etc. then im there nights and weekends doing repairs. Ive kept it running but inefficiently in my opinion. On top of it all i have 2 little kids and wife at home so ya i need to buy another wash or two and just go for it! I just hope the bank goes for it . Not sure how the transaction will go or how it works yet, i have good equity in the wash i have now thats a plus. If i could be doing maintenance throughout the week my wash would be kick ass and id still have a normal home life
 

swampdonkey

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I've been in self serv for 31 years, 28 years ago I decide best way to run my 2nd wash was to move on site. My 2nd wash was a former car dealership building I converted to 3000 sf of living space. 3rd wash was muffler shop that I converted to ss and 1800 sf apt,i currently live in. I got a car wash mortgage, no house payments. On site for me was the best way to go.
 
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I went full time operator last year. Quit a 6 figure annual salary job to do it. I run 2 ss washes, a 5 and a 6 bay. The money isnt quite as good as it was with the job and the washes(obviously), but it is enough. I am much happier nowadays. I do a bit of auto repair here and there for my friends only as I have a big shop and was a professional auto tech in another life. I am doing that less and less though. Mostly I work on my classic car collection. I do everything at my washes. I used to hire clean up guys but was never too satisfied with their work ethic. As long as I keep up with the cleaning and maintenance daily, I usually don't spend more than 3 hours a day between both locations. "Working gets in the way of making money" is one of my favorite sayings. I make money other ways but the carwash business is now my main source of income. No regrets in quitting my job, but I do miss the benefits I had. I do not miss the stress.
 

ShineShed

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Very nice ! That gives me some hope that i can do it also. I too have a job making 6 figures a year so thats what im trying to replace with a couple washes and possibly starting a mobile power washing gig when im not at the car wash facilities
 
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