Small and Specialized vs. Large and Volume-Based Detailing Businesses
Many times I see people wanting to go big within detailing. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with big goals but going big is not always the best answer, nor does going big mean more profits. Society today seems to be addicted to the bigger-is-better way of thinking and detailers are at the heart of this line of thinking. I want to share with you my feelings about what I have seen in the detailing industry when looking at both the large- and small-business models.
Let’s talk first about the small, home-based mobile business. This business has low overhead, a small staff, maybe even just the owner working solo, or maybe with a helper or two. This model can accommodate both a high-end market that takes aim at the upper levels of local society or a more moderate market where the daily d rivers are a blend of more average-level vehicles such as Fords, Chevys, Toyotas, and such. This smaller, easier-to-manage model offers a far greater lifestyle versus the larger, volume-based model. If I were to go back in time, I would keep my business specialized and aimed at the niche-based, going after those within my market that were looking for quality-based services.
The flip side of a small, specialized detailing business is the large, volume-based shop. Before we discuss this option, I know people who run these shops and love it. But, I know few who have what I would consider a lifestyle that offers much outside of work. I have been in this position and built up a sizable clientele, and while it did a great deal for my ego, it hurt my lifestyle, my hobbies, and took away time with my wife, kids, family, and friends. It changed me as a person. I was always driven but when I was running a big detailing operation, I got angry. All I did was deal with staffing issues and work. It was a huge pain in the butt and I hated it.
Taking aim at building your business into a sizable organization is not a bad thing. Just realize that detailing is a hard business to take regionally or statewide, and very hard to take nationally. Detailing is a business based on relationships, connections, and trust. Many think of combining retail and wholesale opportunities into one company. Mixing a retail and wholesale detailing business means, to me, that you need to have two crews; a dealership crew performing the wholesale work for dealerships while the retail crews performs the high-end work. Mixing the two is not ideal as staff will often over-deliver on the wholesale side or under-deliver on the high-end retail side. Either is detailing gone bad.
A big, high-volume detailing business can bring in the money, it really can, but at what cost? If you don’t mind working a ton of hours, six to seven days a week, and addressing issues with staff at every corner of your day, a big detailing business could be rewarding.