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An Honest Self Assessment For Aspiring Professional Detailers


This is for any auto detailer who is serious about starting a business in professional detailing.

I believe it is important for you to ask yourself an important question. “Am I pursuing entrepreneurship as an escape from my problems in the workplace or as a pursuit of something I feel a passion for?”  If you see operating a detailing business as more of an escape, it is very likely your frustrations will follow you and manifest itself in your business. It is a precursor to failure.  For those who have exhaled because detailing is your passion, I caution you to re-read the question.  “Am I pursuing entrepreneurship as an escape..?”  A major dilemma for many professionals in this industry is our motivation to start a business came as a consequence of our auto detailing skill set not our business acumen.

portrait 1

Many auto detailers can relate to this story.  You were that one guy that was always seen taking care of your car.  You got the comments “It’s just a car!”  “You are a little extreme.”  “My car next!”  “But seriously, how much for my car?!”  Many of us started detailing for money because we were the recognized and distinguished car care guru of our neighborhood and workplace.  No one saw us polishing a car and said “you look so business savvy with that machine.”  But you can not separate the two.  Our ability to run a business generally determines our success.

I put months of thought into my decision to start my business.  I created a plan, expected trials, and have no regrets starting a business.  Still, I have had moments of angst. When I feel frustration, I will often evaluate myself in three different areas.

  • A Flexible Plan
  • Business Leadership
  • Your Health

A Flexible Plan

I believe in developing a clear but flexible business plan.  Writing down who you (business) are is vital to a great marketing plan.  One area I worked hard at improving on was making my business congruent to my vision.   I made several significant improvements to my business marketing strategy just from having a clear picture of what I want.  Objectifying how I stand out from other businesses gave me a great blueprint for success.

Business Leadership

Human interaction comes with the territory of entrepreneurship.  It is a must that you both set personal boundaries of how you will be treated professionally and also put the health of your business above your ego.  There are no hard or fast rules for what always constitutes the right thing to do for your business.  But you always want to be mindful of the big picture in customer service.   You usually know more about car care than your customers.  But your customers do not know you personally and may not have a rapport/trust in what you are offering.  Many people have prejudgements about auto detailers that you may not find flattering.  This is why being transparent, confident, empathetic, and approachable are great qualities for you to have or develop.  I truly believe that how you behave with anybody is how you behave with everybody.  You have to carry yourself in a way that is both respectful to yourself and your customers.

Your Health

Something often not discussed but a very important topic is your health.  Detailing for money will take a toll on your body.  It is much different than working on your own car.  Diet, exercise, and rest become even more important for us.  Resting does not just mean a good night of sleep, but also listening to your body when it tells you to take it easy.  Also a Foam Roller is a great investment.

portrait 2

Hopefully this helps shed some light on a few things to think about before starting up a detailing business!

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
YouTube | Facebook

14 comments on An Honest Self Assessment For Aspiring Professional Detailers

  1. Matt Carter says:

    Great article Rodney! Spot on. I see this from your perspective as well, most detailing businesses are run by craftsmen and not businessmen. It can be easy for detailers to hone and perfect their craft but much harder to focus on the business decisions that need to be made to run an efficient, healthy operation. Great points here.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      Thank you! This is something I definitely still work on regularly knowing that business savvy does not come as naturally to me as detailing related problem solving.

  2. Agreed! Great topic for discussion and certainly something I know I can relate to.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      I was just thinking about the experiences non detailing people have when they are shopping for coatings and paint correction. Someone will give me a short list of what they are looking for and it will take me a few minutes of research to provide a completely different list. I feel like running a successful business is a little like bridging the gap of two different worlds to communicate value.

  3. Terry says:

    Good read! Thanks for writing this. People should also consider the math, can you make money? Enough money? Like you eluded to, what is your niche going to be, what can you provide that is needed in your area and not currently offered? I would say tap into friends that do have a good business sense for an objective view if you know you lack in that area.

  4. Ron Ayotte says:

    The health aspect is spot on! Some of the detailing chemicals we use not only have a nasty smell but are acidic and caustic in nature, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must.

    Crawling into, out of, over, under and sideways to do interiors and climbing stepstools and ladder to buff roofs of large trucks and SUVs as well as bending over to do lower body panels takes its toll on your body. There are days when you finish and all you want to do is take a couple of Advil, a hot shower and take a nap.

    One has to stay hydrated and take short breaks to grab a bite to eat.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      That last part I still have to remind myself. Especially working outside in the summer, it is so important to start and stay hydrated throughout the day.

  5. Ray Scott says:

    I retired 11 years ago and was bored in about 2 months. I wanted to do something, but what. Work at Lowes or Home Depot part time, make nothing, work weekends and holidays. No thanks. I have been a perfectionist all my life and I owned several vehicles. They always looked great and i got lots of compliments on them. So, I decided to start a detailing business working from my home. I had the skills and my skills really improved when I discovered this website and learned about all of the great products and advice that was available. I started slow but this business has really grown to the point that I have a good following and i treat my customers very well. When I was in business I was a Customer Service Manager and Divisional Quality control Manager. I interfaced with customers from large companies (IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon, and other successful businesses). I knew how to satisfy their needs by satisfying their product needs by developing robust quality systems that guaranteed that their products would be manufactured using state of the art equipment. I developed a good relationship with them as well.I carried this mentality over to my detailing business. The name of my business is Ray’s Custom Care and my charter is professional vehicle detailing with a personal touch. I pick up and return my customers cars. I educate them on how to maintain their vehicles between details. I sometimes fix minor mechanical issues I see when I am detailing. I am considered the best detailer in the beach area where I live. Some of my customers have become friends and their referrals have helped grow my business. I only do 1 car a day so I take my time and do it right. I’m 74 and do about 5 vehicles a week.A good work ethic and good interpersonal skills will bring business your way every time.

  6. Dan Franco says:

    Rodney Tatum —
    Thank you for your most thoughtful, very well rounded, thoughts and accomplishments this far into your business..
    Having been around cars since a 10-year old and always, always, loved the work more than about anything, I always counsel those wanting to jump into this craft, that ultimately, this craft is and will always be – A Labor of Love… One really has to love the work or one will never be All In…
    All of your points – the Math, the Approachable Factor, Everything – is so perfectly described and needed or the Business may languish…
    Lucky for me, I have had much leadership experience speaking in front of hundreds, and then in front of some of the highest level men and women for the best Wireless provider in the US, regularly as part of my job..
    But even with that, we all have to bridge a feeling of absolute care for the potential, and new Client in the most humble and truthful way so that they actually Feel they are the most important person in the world..
    Having the best, most efficient skill sets ,and constantly striving to Innovate as we work also helps raise our levels of quality and expertise, and keeps our minds growing..
    I also counsel everyone to know that they need to be really, really, clear, regarding the take home pay vs the amount of work required to receive it..
    One can work really hard for a year, and after taking out the overhead, money to the State, State taxes, Rent, Utilities, Supplies, and all, there may not be as much as some believe can be made, until as you have so perfectly said, the Business Plan is really dialed in, through much thought, the highest work ethic and efficiency, and sometimes a certain amount of risk taking..
    Certainly, some will just naturally hit it big and quickly, and we are all so happy for them !
    But if there was ever a real study taken of this craft, the numbers might be for sure, not so high…
    Lastly, the Client base as I have learned in my experiences, is one of the biggest factors that helps make the new business move forward and continue moving forward for the longest time, vs a Client base that is more sporadic and not looking for a long-term arrangement…
    I wish your the best in your Business, and know that we Detailers are a group of the hardest working, loyal, and always ready to help men and women ever assembled!
    And no one else can say – We are Making America Beautiful – 1 Car at a Time !!!

  7. Dan the detailer says:

    Very helpful. Thanks mate !!

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