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How Do You Prepare For The Worst In Business?

by

This is both a question and answer in one article, geared toward professional detailers or those weekend warriors working for profit.

How does one ensure success in their business?  How do you quote a job accurately, give yourself enough time for each job, deal with tough customers, etc.?  I like to think of it as preparing for the worst so that you can provide the best.

Personally, I feel like I learn something new as I go along, but always try to improve ahead of time and not make any mistakes.  One main thing I’ve realized to run a successful business, is you have to become a successful businessman.  Even if you’re the greatest detailer in the world, you must also be able to properly manage your business, your time and your money.  This means learning from your mistakes and staying ahead of any potential problems.  Below are three examples of an issue one might face in the industry and my take on how best to solve it.

Scheduling and Quoting Work

I have a very easy time scheduling clients.  Reason being, I find out way ahead of time what exactly will be done to the car, which allows me to set aside the right amount of time to do the work.  There is never a scheduled job that has a note saying “do the best you can” or “however much you can get to”.  It’s always a set job for which I can plan and know that we won’t need more than 30-45 minutes to complete.  The way I do this is by having set services and then quoting based on a client’s budget or the amount of work they would like to get done.  If they’re on a budget, it’s easy because I can simply tell them a service that fits within that budget and what they can expect.  If they’re looking for my advice on the work the car needs, I will have them over for an assessment and recommend a service after seeing the car in person.  Many times we’ll also perform a few polishing test spots to ensure the client knows what results to expect from the service.  This makes it very easy to not only schedule properly, but always quote accurately and not overwork yourself on any job.

Inventory

Keeping track of products, tools and supplies is very important.  Unfortunately, I’m very bad at keeping inventory :).  Actually, I may be great at it, I just refuse to do it.  Instead, I simply know what products we use most and I make sure we have plenty of those on hand.  If we’re doing a lot of paint coating work one month, I’ll make sure that I buy applicators, towels and of course the coatings to cover almost twice the work we have planned.  This way, I know I have extra in case we need some and I know we’ll need it anyway for next month.  Even more important for me is to keep track of what polishes and pads we use mainly so that I can have a large amount as backup.  This way, while I know I always have a backup or 5 to some polishes and pads, I know that the “tried and true” products will be at hand regardless how many we go through in a certain day, week or month.  I’ve been very adamant about this as I never want to run into a situation where only that ONE pad and polish combo is working well, but we just used up a lot of those pads yesterday and are simply out of luck.  It’s happened before and won’t happen again.

That said, I do recommend having a better system of inventory than I currently use.  It’s much better to know exactly how much/many of everything you have and also know how much you use up within a certain amount of time, as this will make re-ordering much easier.  This may be one of those “to each their own” type of thing, but one way or another it’s good practice to keep inventory of everything used in the business.

Customer Service

Last but certainly not least is satisfying your clients.  We all love those clients who are extremely easy to work with, paying on time, doing the recommended work and showing up on time.  It’s the “other” clients who we need to please that sometimes make for hard work.  Clients who are only looking for a deal, who show up late to appointments or miss them completely and of course the nitpicking clients who expect a Concours level detail every time.  My solution, simply put, is honesty and professionalism.  Honesty in recommending work that’s best for the car and always maintaining a level of integrity with the client.  Being professional in terms of speaking about the work needed, scheduling, payment, etc. is very important because the more professional your manner, the more a client is to step up their game.  This means having a fair but strict policy on everything that takes up your time.  If a client wants to schedule, I take a non-refundable retainer to book the date.  I would say it works as I probably have 1 of 50 clients cancel on me and even those do it weeks before our appointment, then reschedule.  For clients who are shopping around for a deal, I think it’s important to try and work something out with them without discounting your services.  If they’re on a budget of $300 but want your $400 service, you don’t necessarily have to say NO, rather explain that you can still perform a great detail job that will result in a great improvement to the vehicle for only that $300.

Aside from that, it’s obviously very important to reply to calls and emails quickly, be on time (on time always meant 15 minutes early to me) and only reschedule a job if you must.  As I said above, the more professional and perfect, in a sense, you seem to your clients, the better of a client they will become and will take you seriously.

That’s all I have for now on the topic, but will delve into a few of these topics a bit deeper probably very soon. I hope this helps out some aspiring detailers out there!

Ivan Rajic Lustr Deatil
Ivan Rajic
LUSTR Auto Detail
481 W Wise Road
Schaumburg, IL 60193
LustrDetail.com
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12 comments on How Do You Prepare For The Worst In Business?

  1. Bob B says:

    Hi Ivan, excellent presentation and easy to understand and apply. To solve your inventory problem you can get an inventory software to take care of your supplies, there are some that are free. Try it.

    Bob

  2. igor says:

    Hi Ivane ,
    I follow your posts , and all excellent advice , I am not PRO in all of tricks , but I made my choice asking for review of steps and eventually improvement in steps ,
    It is about bmw 2006 , silver , without major paint damages , garage car , weekly washed & quicky waxed (whipe’n’shine 1eagle) …
    1.meguiars clay kit
    2.klasse all-in-one
    3.meg glaze#9
    4.p21s concours look
    5.klasse sealant
    Step 3. I will do with random orbit polisher, if you have sugestion , I will be happy to add-on, by the way i leave in Schaumburg so i can step-by to show you my a(dis)ability of performens , thank you & wish you well

    • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

      Hi Igor,

      First off, you’ll want to swap steps 4 and 5 as you should be using the carnauba wax on top of the sealant. Then, you need to put #2 Klasse AIO just before the application of Klasse Sealant Glaze as that’s the recommended application and best bonding process. Before the Klasse AIO, you can use any polish(es) necessary, but if it’s a polish high in oils (forgot how good/bad Meg’s #9 is in this case) it may be pointless as KAIO will clean it up and you also won’t want to use something like that before the sealing process anyway. Maybe something like Meg’s 205 or a fine Menzerna polish may be your best step after clay bar. Hope that helps and I’d be more than happy to chat once I’m back in town, just email or call us.

      • igor says:

        I apologize,because I put my question at wrong forum-board. I will continue to pay attention to it.Thanks, Ivan for quick advice & response

        • igor says:

          oh well,I am back , with my experience …
          silver painted 8 yrs bmw came out EXXXCELLENT,all swirls 99% out , klasse works perfect,on top P21S gave me ,same feeling as you turn to see nice car on road .That was almost 8 hrs garage project with full satisfaction .Today,5 days latter I did same project following same steps , on my other car , but in black colour (infiniti ,only 4 months old,weekly washed in “touchless car wash) total flop ! Car has SWIRLs all over , it seems to me more than early , while klasse & p21s gave more deeper clearnes but visible only under 45° angle , seadly i can not post pics , but it looks like in post about door handle scratches (http://www.detailedimage.com/Ask-a-Pro/how-to-treat-door-handle-scratches/) , I worked whole day and i do not know what went wrong or did i use wrong stuff on black painted car!?),wearher was perfect,garage clean,overall nice but my goal was swirls-out
          I will continue reading your posts but i am confused , how to rid of ‘em , i hope Ivan you will give me idea what & how to do , not nice feeling after so much effort & time …

          • igor says:

            swirl removing idea , from other owner , who got same issue with Japanes soft black paint on Q50
            PF2500
            SF4000/4500
            OptiCoat 2.0 Nano
            is it way to go or …

          • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

            Igor black paint is definitely tougher to deal with, so I would suggest you read up on our polishing articles here as well as the detailing guide and get a good idea of the process. You’ll have to use an actual polish, such as the ones mentioned by you below, to remove the swirl marks, then you can protect with either the Klasse products or something such as OptiCoat 2.0, 22ple, etc. Hope that helps.

          • igor says:

            thank you,Ivan,I find some interesting views on same issue as mine here in forum , I will my car ?keep as-is for a couple weeks , than attack on black paint with PF2500 ‘n’ SF4000 , I got it in garage but I was curious about Klasse ,playing as new recommendation , from my German friends , telling me , klasse is best bang,100% idiot proof polishing solution for weekend work-out , but as I saw not for BLACK paint.never mind I will continue following you on forum having infos on all new trends , thanks again
            Igor

  3. Eric Schuster eric schuster says:

    Ivan, this is good information!

    I have a HUGE problem telling people Ill just do a two step to stay in their budget, but almost always end up doing a 3 step or going way overboard on the car with other things (like blowing the car apart to access it better even though there wasnt room in the budget for it on the clients end of things). I have a hard time sending a car out knowing I can make it better. part of being a good businessman is giving a little more than the client is expecting, but really I end up giving way more and it actually costs me more in the end than it helps because I get backed up. That is something that I have to work on…part of me doesnt want to, but the smarter part of me mandates that it happens!

    • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

      Thanks Eric. We too have that issue/problem, but now it’s considered only a small “thing” so to speak. Reason being, we do always like to do extra for our clients, but we’ve managed to nail down what the client wants and base the extra work both on that as well as the scope of the entire job. So if we’re charging for a 5 hour job, we will spend 30 mins polishing the hood to improve it more or something similar. If we’re doing a 25hr job we’ll spend 1-1.5hrs extra doing something not requested, like a wheel face coating, etc. In other words, I’ve learned to proportionally do extra work for clients and go above their expectations without really hindering the necessary profits as a business.

  4. Ron Ayotte says:

    I too tend to “go overboard” when it comes to detailing a client’s car… a one step turns into 2 when I am not satisfied with the way the car looks after performing step 1.If I quoted a 1 step, I’ll honor that price. I will tell the client that I did a 2 step. They appreciate it, and I use the opportunity to upsell the next time they book their vehicle with me.

    • Ivan Rajic Ivan Rajic says:

      Ron, I think my response to Eric above applies here as well. It’s good to do a bit extra, but within reason. I don’t think scheduling and getting paid for a 1-step and doing a 2-step is good business practice as that may work well with one clients, but most others will simply expect that always and that’s no good. As we always say in the industry though, just do what works for you and keep the clients happy.

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