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.
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.
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!