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Industry Interview: Jeff Brown of Griot’s Garage!

by

Jeff Brown of Griot's Garage

1. For our readers who don’t know you, can you give us your professional background of before you joined Griot’s Garage?

My career started in 1992, where I was a Detailer at a Volkswagen dealership in Burnsville, MN. I worked alongside a dear friend of mine, detailing at Volkswagen, while consecutively running a detail business cultivated by word of mouth. This experience exposed me to many products and honed my skills which established a strong foundation for my career in car care.

My Dad called me one day while I was studying in my college dorm room in River Falls, Wisconsin. He mentioned that a sales position would be opening up with this car care company, with the responsibility of managing Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. He encouraged me to apply, since making cars shiny was a clear passion of mine, something instilled in me by my Dad. Two interviews and a month later, I was working for Meguiar’s.

My 17 years with them contributed to what I consider significant growth both personally and professionally. I started by calling on body shops, where as a 21 year old I’d demonstrate wet sanding, compounding and polishing fresh paint. It became clear that for me to garner respect from these seasoned professionals, I’d have to hone my polishing capabilities. I spent countless hours practicing and becoming the very best I could be.

Additional roles in the early years including calling on Parts Stores and Autobody Supply stores selling products and obtaining shelf space through setting up retail displays. To support the products, I trained store personnel on the features, advantages and benefits of all products. We called that “training the trainer”. For a store to be successful, it was imperative for the store staff to train and sell after we left. One thing I enjoyed the most and still do today is training end users. I’ve worked with all kinds. Those whom consider them to know it all, to those whom couldn’t read or write, relying on detailing to put food on the table. The latter would express such emotionally charged gratitude it makes me emotional to reflect on it.

Over the years, I’ve conducted countless training classes and sold many a bottle of wax. My real passion has always been product development. There is nothing like the feeling of developing a product from an idea, then having FedEx drop of a finished good at your front door. From idea to reality, it is one of my greatest joys.

In 2012, new opportunities presented themselves and my family and I were on our way back home to Minnesota. I took a position as a Regional Manager for a paint body and equipment warehouse who sold to paint stores and more. Managing 6 people and 13 states was a wonderful learning experience for me and one which I greatly appreciate.

Throughout my career, I’ve carried myself in a humble way, always seeking knowledge from those I’m fortunate to encounter. This includes countless detailers, painters and car care enthusiasts. That knowledge, combined with my personal experience, has accumulated over the years. It’s important to continue that mindset regardless of how experienced you believe you are. Always look for new ways of doing things and honing your skills- continuous improvement! Fortunately, I met a man who shares the very same values. A man whom subscribes to a famous Sir Henry Royce Quote, “Strive for Perfection in everything you do, accept nothing near right or good enough…”

I firmly believe my 20 years in the business was to prepare me to work for whom I consider to be the most authentic, passionate, driven, humble, and appreciative car guy in the business…Mr. Richard Griot.

2. What do you think sets Griot’s apart from other detailing brands?

Richard Griot’s leaderships sets the pace and drives our passionate employees to push the envelope. We all feed off his genuine passion and love for the business. Some companies are driven solely by profitability. Griot’s Garage does what it takes to create the very best. We create our formulas from an idea, formulate in our Indianapolis laboratory, test extensively and manufacture in house to ensure the very best. We have total control over raw materials and employ the highest quality control standards to ensure consistent product performance. Our employees sincerely love what they do and it translates into exceptional products.

3. The BOSS line has really set an industry standard. Can you tell us more about the process that lead to their creation?

To have DetailedImage.com acknowledge our efforts at Griot’s Garage with such a statement is very much appreciated. It was a tremendous investment for Griot’s Garage and something we’re all very proud of. It wouldn’t have come together if not for so many fellow associates who share the same values…Strive for perfection, passion and share a love for what we do.

Richard was one of the first to promote a safe and effective way for people to polish and wax their paint by machine. In the early 90’s he promoted the Porter Cable Random Orbital, revolving around a uniquely formulated machine polish system. The system helped people achieve paint perfection for years. As paint and technology to care for it evolved it was clear we needed to go to the drawing board to develop what we consider to be one of the highest performing systems on the market. The entire team drew on their experience to contribute to what would become BOSS – Best of Show System. During development, we created a secret code word which was how we referred to the system internally. This was a big deal and certainly something that had to be kept quiet. The old saying goes… “Loose lips, sinks ships”. We bounced around some ideas and it soon became known as “Project Cowbell”. We have fun at Griot’s Garage, often pulling out or phone playing the cowbell app… Quoting the famous Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live skit “I need more cowbell!!!!”.

There are few “systems” on the market that were built from the ground up that addresses a unique tool, liquids, buffing pads and accessories. We were fortunate, as we had a blank drawing board. Everything we know about automotive finishes, abrasives, ergonomics, engineering, image, and detailer’s expectations combined with perfectionism went into BOSS.

Another quote Griot’s has been using from day one is from Sir Henry Royce: “Take the best that exists and make it better. If it doesn’t exist, create it. Accept nothing near right or good enough.” With that in mind, it’s essential to understand the competition. One thing I’ve always focused on is to strive to know the competition’s products better than they do themselves. Capturing every attribute and detriment of their products was key. Once that is identified, you propose a product scope. This outlines all the products, performance targets, features, advantages and benefits you want to instill in them.

In developing BOSS Creams, and working with our team of chemists, we extensively explored abrasives types, sizes and percentage of load. In addition, each product had to have a unique emulsion developed which carries the abrasives, lubricates the surface and determines the buffing cycle; taking considerable time and effort. In fact, the four BOSS Creams took over 120 formulations to get to where they are today. Hundreds and hundreds of hours were invested, working with countless pad types, painted panels, vehicles went into optimizing the system.

The system was tested against virtually all leading compounds and polishes and would not go in a bottle until it out performed them all.

4. What are some of your personal favorite Griot’s products and why?

Sincerely… there are a lot of them. Obviously, I have a special place in my heart for the BOSS – Best of Show System. There are many products which were here before I joined the company. A few of my favorites include:

  • Leather Care– I’ve got most every leather care product under the sun in my cabinet. This formula stands out from the rest, both cleaning and imparting a leather feel that I just love. It’s got the most accurate leather fragrance on the market. Available in gallons and perfect for an enthusiast or a professional to deliver the best
  • Spray On Wax– From the high gloss it creates to the fragrance. I find myself using this after every wash to boost protection and enhance gloss. Love it!
  • 6″ Random Orbital– I’ve had much respect for this machine since it was launched in 2012. It is without a doubt the most powerful 8mm orbital on the market. The rotation it delivers is second to none and great for both polishing and wax removal.
  • PFM Terry Weave Towel and Drying Towels– These towels are by far the most efficient microfiber on the planet. They remove mist and water in one pass, and can dry an entire vehicle… not leaving a drop.

Some projects I’ve worked, collaborating with a wonderful team include:

  • Microfiber development including the PFM Terry Weave Towel and Drying Towels
  • Buffing Pad Development
  • Liquid Gloss Poly Wax
  • New Best Of Show Wax liquid and paste
  • Leather 3in1, Interior Detailer
  • Convertible Top Cleaner
  • Complete Compound and Complete Polish
  • Interior Detailer
  • Surface Prep Pads and more.

Formulations don’t see a bottle until Richard Griot, the product development team and myself are confident it exceeds the performance of the competition. We do not settle for anything less.

5. With the detailing industry growing every year at SEMA, where do you see this industry in 10 years?

Interesting question… From the perspective of products; with the power of the Internet, there have been countless companies enter into the market these past years. From what once were regional professional detail products blenders with a limited footprint, are now re-branded and marketed to consumers and professionals alike. Other small passion driven companies are partnering with a product blender/ manufacture to sell under their own brand utilizing social media and flashy websites to spread the message quickly. All of this has been great for the industry and is elevating the game.

With an uncertain economy, there may be more acquisitions of brands by large corporations or investment groups. This can often have an adverse effect on the company acquired, changing its priorities and direction. Additionally, it may be that some of the smaller players will not endure the fluctuations in the economy. Cash flow is king.

On a more positive note, technology continues to evolve. With competition, both products and tool development will be emphasized as companies attempt to differentiate themselves to set them apart from the pack. This will deliver significant benefits to the end user, many of which we’ve seen in the past 5 years or so. Vehicles will continue rise in cost, motivating people to keep them longer and feel compelled to more proactively care for them, protecting their investment.

People will become busier, having less and less time to do it themselves, which will in turn grow the “Do it for me market” aka Professional Detailing.

The respect for Automotive Detailers is continuing to evolve. It puts a smile on my face to see how we as Detailer’s are getting recognized for our craft and abilities to care for vehicles. New terms such as “Paint Correction” which once was known as “cut and buff” elevate the profession. It’s been a long time coming and has plenty of room to go.

The Internet has enabled many foreign companies to enter the U.S market growing the choices available to achieve surface care goals. A person’s choice may come down to associating themselves with a brand they trust. A brand that clearly shares their passion and delivers products in an authentic and consistent manner. I’d like to think that Griot’s Garage has and will continue to earn that.

6. How much fun is it working with Richard Griot?

Richard Griot is a riot! Without a doubt, I’m sincerely blessed to have the opportunity to work for the man and call him a friend. Both he and I are exceptionally driven people. We both get excited like little kids when it comes to this business. We want to win, finding it difficult to ever find contentment with the business. We are always pushing to develop more products and more importantly share our passion with people like us.

He will run down the hallways in Tacoma shouting from the mountain tops, exclaiming his enthusiasm for a product. This happened recently when the PFM Microfiber material was identified.

He has more charisma in his left pinky than most. He has a keen ability to motivate people and make you feel incredibly appreciated for your efforts. Being appreciated compels his team to push hard for perfection.

His real love for cars keeps it exciting. Whether he grew his collection with a shiny new toy or watching him race at Laguna Seca in his McLaren Cam Am race car, it’s a real joy to work for someone who gets it. What more could a guy ask for… Doing what you love and being supported by someone who shares your same beliefs and motivations. I couldn’t be more blessed.

7. Do you have any new and exciting products or any news you can share with us?

Well, that is top secret… Stay tuned as we’re hard at work in the lab and having fun in our garage developing and testing. We look forward to SEMA! We’re just getting started at Griot’s Garage. I encourage everyone to stay tuned as we’ve got our foot on the floor doing what we love. More to come!

5 comments on Industry Interview: Jeff Brown of Griot’s Garage!

  1. Greg@DI says:

    Thanks for sharing so much with us Jeff! I can tell everyone first hand Jeff is obsessed with the details in every aspect of product development and that is why you’re going to see more great products from Griot’s Garage! We appreciate your time and can’t wait for the new items from SEMA to arrive!

    • Jeff Brown says:

      Thank you for the good word Greg! We are fortunate to be in a great business, offering so many wonderful products and solutions to Detailers & Enthusiasts. The business has come a long way since the advent of foam pads, clay, microfiber and now long-throw polishers. Appreciate your support,
      Jeff

  2. Bryce says:

    Nice work Jeff! – I know Griots in Australia is probably a pipe dream – Know that people that care will go to great lengths to get great products in their arsenal – BOSS Fast Correcting Cream was just the product I had to have – Thanks for pushing the game forward!

  3. John K. says:

    This is a great write up. I admire Jeff’s story. I been detailing cars for 22 yrs on the side. Being around the products and learning about how thay work etc. Drives me. Im still not in the business full time. I wish I had the opportunity like Jeff to do what you love daily. Keep up the good work Jeff I look forward to learn and use new products from Griots. Thanks DI for this write up.

    John K.

    • Jeff Brown says:

      Appreciate that John, I consider my self very fortunate. Not many have the privilege to work in a field that centers on their passion. I look forward to getting up every day to work on the next new thing, approach, training, etc. Hard to believe its been 25 years…

      Take care,
      Jeff

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