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jamesrensen

Existing car wash and detail shop expaning into tint

9 posts in this topic

Hi all,

 

I'm hoping for some guidance...

 

We are a prominently located automatic car wash and auto detailing shop in the mid-Atlantic, and are expanding our product offering to include tint. 

 

We detail an average of four-six cars per day.  I am putting my head detailer in charge of tint, without a plotter.  He seems to be taking to it pretty well, and I'm hopeful that he continues to master the skill.  I've seen other posters comment that the fail rate in this business is quite high (some quote 90%).  Given that we are an established business and have committed to adding this service line, failure won't come about for lack of patience or resources - which I think is what probably gets the individual tinter going solo.

 

My question is this:  Other than a loss of interest for lack of profitability early on for an individual striking out on his own, what are some of the most common pitfalls?  What are the pitfalls that might affect an otherwise healthy business that is expanding its offering to include tint? 

 

My primary concern is that we have only two guys in the shop who've started to take this on - my on-site partner and my head detailer.  I expect that business will slowly pick up over time, and expect that my two guys will continue to ramp up with it. 

 

I've heard it's very difficult to attract talent, so I'm concerned that if business does pick up, we'll be caught flat footed.

 

FWIW, we are a 3M shop, and are the only one in the area.  I do not expect much help from 3M, but chose them for their name recognition, since our existing clientele probably fits their profile.  My intent is to not move into the rims, electronics, etc., but rather, to stick to detailing, tinting, and car washing.  I expect that our client base will continue to be those not otherwise interested in other car accessories.

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Adding tint to your business would be very profitable (if your set up is right). However, the way in which you are taking it on can potentially ruin the reputation you have worked so hard to build. By the sounds of it, your head detailer is doing the tinting with little to no training at all. Is this correct? The learning curve to master this skill takes a very long time (for me a few years before I became really really good) and there are just too many variables with different cars, films, tools etc. which it seems nobody at your carwash knows nothing about.

 

I suggest taking a step back and re-evaluating how you are going to add tinting to your business. What I see happening is your detailer screwing up or putting out shoddy work on a few installs/cars here and there which will result in unhappy customers and negative reviews.

 

Consider hiring someone with experience, perhaps an independent contractor, Or contract another company and sit back while they do the work and you collect the money.

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Thanks so much for the advice - it is very sound.  I am definitely fearful that we will damage our very good reputation with shoddy work.

 

Here's my concern with subbing it out - I would love to hear how you might approach it:

Subbing it out to a future competitor would provide the benefit of having immediate access to expertise, but is tricky water to navigate - it's only in their short-term interest to help, not their long-term interest - I'm not sure how that would work out.  Do you have an example where that was successfully pulled off?  Is there some period of profit sharing after the sub is no longer doing our work?

 

Here's my concern with hiring someone who has this expertise - I would love to hear how you might approach the demand and social issue:

Bringing someone in-house immediately who has that experience requires hiring ahead of demand - with so much of a tinter's compensation being tied to commission, it's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation.  It'd be difficult to keep a tinter happy if there's no work - we do not yet have the reputation for doing tint.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, hiring a tinter would effectively be hiring someone above my head detailer, given the respective profit margins of detailing versus tint.

 

Here's where my head detailer is currently:

My head detailer has been to 3M training, which was great, but woefully insufficient.  He's been doing lots of practice for friends & family, and is still very much in 'learning' mode.  He's even done a Crystalline job, which came out pretty good, for his first attempt - he does have the potential to be very good at this.

 

Given the constraints and where we currently are, here's how I plan to roll it out - I would love to hear what you think of this, too, and how perhaps to better-approach it:

My plan is that we offer tint for what approximates cost in return for forgiving customers for the next several months while my guy gets good enough to sell at market price - is that unrealistic?  I figure that if we're totally up-front with customers that they will not get a perfect tint job, but will get it for approximately cost, then we should be able to avoid the dreaded negative review.  My expectation is that this would be a mutual agreement before the work was done.  If they were totally dissatisfied after a few attempts, then we could remove the tint and give them a refund.  The cost of wasted materials is really just a cost of training, and is probably cheaper than hiring an outsider at market rate and risking the social fall-out with my head detailer who's been really consistent for me - I think he deserves the opportunity, but you're right - we can't risk the business's reputation on it - it's really just about finding that right balance.

 

Thanks again for your advice thus far, I'd love to hear any additional thoughts you have on the above.  I saw other posts about a really great trainer in Oregon, but it's not realistic for me to send my guy to Oregon - I was thinking about sending him to be an apprentice at another 3M shop for a week or so - that would probably get him up the learning curve quicker.

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Thanks so much for the advice - it is very sound.  I am definitely fearful that we will damage our very good reputation with shoddy work.

 

Here's my concern with subbing it out - I would love to hear how you might approach it:

Subbing it out to a future competitor would provide the benefit of having immediate access to expertise, but is tricky water to navigate - it's only in their short-term interest to help, not their long-term interest - I'm not sure how that would work out.  Do you have an example where that was successfully pulled off?  Is there some period of profit sharing after the sub is no longer doing our work?

 

Here's my concern with hiring someone who has this expertise - I would love to hear how you might approach the demand and social issue:

Bringing someone in-house immediately who has that experience requires hiring ahead of demand - with so much of a tinter's compensation being tied to commission, it's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation.  It'd be difficult to keep a tinter happy if there's no work - we do not yet have the reputation for doing tint.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, hiring a tinter would effectively be hiring someone above my head detailer, given the respective profit margins of detailing versus tint.

 

Here's where my head detailer is currently:

My head detailer has been to 3M training, which was great, but woefully insufficient.  He's been doing lots of practice for friends & family, and is still very much in 'learning' mode.  He's even done a Crystalline job, which came out pretty good, for his first attempt - he does have the potential to be very good at this.

 

Given the constraints and where we currently are, here's how I plan to roll it out - I would love to hear what you think of this, too, and how perhaps to better-approach it:

My plan is that we offer tint for what approximates cost in return for forgiving customers for the next several months while my guy gets good enough to sell at market price - is that unrealistic?  I figure that if we're totally up-front with customers that they will not get a perfect tint job, but will get it for approximately cost, then we should be able to avoid the dreaded negative review.  My expectation is that this would be a mutual agreement before the work was done.  If they were totally dissatisfied after a few attempts, then we could remove the tint and give them a refund.  The cost of wasted materials is really just a cost of training, and is probably cheaper than hiring an outsider at market rate and risking the social fall-out with my head detailer who's been really consistent for me - I think he deserves the opportunity, but you're right - we can't risk the business's reputation on it - it's really just about finding that right balance.

 

Thanks again for your advice thus far, I'd love to hear any additional thoughts you have on the above.  I saw other posts about a really great trainer in Oregon, but it's not realistic for me to send my guy to Oregon - I was thinking about sending him to be an apprentice at another 3M shop for a week or so - that would probably get him up the learning curve quicker.

 

SUBBING out work: I have personal experience in being both the SUBBER and SUBEE

 

When we used to do mobile tinting doing dealership work and jobs at customers homes we would occasionally be asked to do work for some competitor shops (this is not uncommon). And yes this was not personally in my long term interest but I had no problem going to a competitors shop to do work for them. I think this situation works really well in certain situations.

 

When we had a shop again, I remember some guys from a local shop a few miles away (one of our closest competitors) came to our shop to introduce themselves. They said if we ever needed help with any jobs or had some we couldn't do, to let them know and they would come down to do it. So occasionally when it got busy or whatever we would sub the work out to them.

 

I think subbing out the work to an independent contractor sounds like the best choice (for now) in your situation. Perhaps find a mobile tinter/company and strike up some sort of agreement with them. Then, in the meantime you will have access to that expertise and your detail guy can improve his skills.

 

HIRING SOMEONE: If you were to hire someone, yes it would be hard to keep them happy. I think you would have to invest in a considerable amount of money into marketing plan/advertising, etc. for tint in order to accomplish this. And yes I too agree that this may cause issues with your detailer who has been good to you. I get the impression that he already has his heart set out on being the tinter too.

 

As far as your plan, I would say that it's not a great idea. I don't think it's realistic to offer customers possibly shoddy work at a reduced price. I wouldn't even do this with some friends. This may work with only certain people. But nobody who brings in a brand new car is going to agree to this.

 

My personal advice would be to take a step back from the tint scene (are you already advertising this service?) and for the both of you to learn the skill as well as the industry. You are already taking the right step by being here on this forum. What I would do is spend the next few months reading the thousands of posts and learn this industry. Your detailer needs to do the same: get more adequate training, apprenticing, watching videos, practicing on "practice" vehicles, learning about different films, tools, techniques, etc.

 

Let me know if you have any more questions.

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Let me just add my personal experience: I started in this industry as a detailer and we wanted to learn tint. My business partner at the time had asked a few pro tinters to teach us how to tint. They all wanted about 2k to apprentice. We went to the guy that was willing to trade some audio work and cash that equaled about 2k. We became his apprentice for the next about 3-4 weeks and then was available as an advisor after that.

 

Let me tell you. We put out some shitty work for years and knew nothing about the industry. Lots of complaints, damaged vehicles, etc. it was a nightmare but we did just ok. Luckily, there was no such thing as social media at the time lol.

 

I still put out pretty sub par work for years after that. Then I found tintdude learned a lot about the industry and experiences of others), bought training DVDs, watched the very few videos available at the time and strived to become better. It took a really long time for me to get good and there is still the occasional vehicle that I'm not comfortable doing so I refer it to a competitor. I'm cool with some of my competitors. Good luck!

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Let me just add my personal experience: I started in this industry as a detailer and we wanted to learn tint. My business partner at the time had asked a few pro tinters to teach us how to tint. They all wanted about 2k to apprentice. We went to the guy that was willing to trade some audio work and cash that equaled about 2k. We became his apprentice for the next about 3-4 weeks and then was available as an advisor after that.

 

Let me tell you. We put out some shitty work for years and knew nothing about the industry. Lots of complaints, damaged vehicles, etc. it was a nightmare but we did just ok. Luckily, there was no such thing as social media at the time lol.

 

I still put out pretty sub par work for years after that. Then I found tintdude learned a lot about the industry and experiences of others), bought training DVDs, watched the very few videos available at the time and strived to become better. It took a really long time for me to get good and there is still the occasional vehicle that I'm not comfortable doing so I refer it to a competitor. I'm cool with some of my competitors. Good luck!

CaliTint,

 

Thanks a million for the advice - peoples' willingness to take on sub-work is counter-intuitive to me, but I really, really appreciate the advice - that is probably just a cultural difference that I was unaware of.  We are not yet advertising, and I was hoping to grow this pretty slowly, and through our current detailing customer base.  I will speak with the rest of the team to see where everyone's head is at.  It may be that we end up subbing work out in the beginning - I am open to whatever approach works best.

 

My head detailer is very much a novice, and we definitely need to get him lots more experience before going to the broader market.  We are using practice cars, and he's probably farther along than I've indicated, but I'm pretty certain our competitors are currently capable of putting out better work product.

 

Thanks again - I greatly appreciate it.

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I agree with Cali on offering subpar work... While it might sound like a good trade, lower prices for being able to practice... If the job isn't great, the customer isn't going to be happy regardless of the discounted price. And the last thing you need is unhappy customers. It would really suck if they then decided to not even use your biz for detailing.

Just my opinion. :thumb2

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well you got the first part right,  Chicken or the egg. 

 

2 heads are better then one,, suggest you train 2 and let them tag team.  week training class? I used to be a national trainer for electronics, one day they restructured and said i was now also the specialist/trainer for tint, alarms, remote starts, detailing, rust protection, sunroofs. for a region of 200 stores.  they changed my business card.  after I left i met my replacement, he wired a couple trailor hitches at uhaul, They got him for 24k/yr  So how was your teacher?  I learned to tint by taking a job teaching others, i saw people do it.  they knew nothing, i knew something,  just had to have good answers.

 

If you don't know, what you don't know,  how can you possibly know?

 

Have a sub on standby if you get stuck,  detail shop?  offer all the employees and their friends and families  deals to cover film and labor.  B lots preferably stock unit same deal.  little crease, little dirt they don't care.  back window one price, side window another (door or stationary), make it simple.  their custys look at engines and other things, they know its used.  60% or more of information learned is lost in 30 days if not repeatedly reinforced.  Make your tinters do a door and BG at least one a day to practice and reinforce skills learned.  Structure a compensation program fair for your market.  explain to your techs,  4 years of college cost X to learn a skill, their commitment has a financial reward.  they can commit some of "their time" for education.  k-12 you learn and are graded A-F whats your grade after school,  called a W-2.  

 

 So you did the in house training,  best to be followed up by a in store training a month later consisting of 2 or 3 days.  stories I could tell you.  improper tools, lighting work area.  sales staff not trained.  day 1, couple cars for instruction and evaluation, day 2 or 3 book 6 a day and let them see production and if they can do production.  Mental note, make sure the trainer can do it if they can't.  Sales staff has to know their skill level and what cars to avoid till skills improve.   

 

Are you on the right track?  If you want to vid your guys and area would be happy to review it and make suggestions.  Little slow here in Michigan, think my next job is saturday.  phone might ring and things will pick up with tax season.  Might take a month off again this year, current apprentice (1yr exp) averages 1.5 hrs a car now.  No fears letting him roll for a few.  Why do I offer?   I enjoyed teaching, Most companies put all their effort in sales, nothing in tech,  so the teachers are paid crap, and you probably know,  you get what you pay for.

 

Let me know

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