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Starting A Detailing Business – A Honest Look At What You Are Getting Into


2003 Porsche 911

Are you up for a challenge? If you are serious about starting this venture or any business, the following points provide a good foundation.  I wanted to provide you with a brief (not too in depth) outline if you are looking to start an automotive detailing business.

The low barrier to entry can make starting a detailing business enticing.  That is a positive for many people, because it presents OPPORTUNITY.  But the challenges will often be even greater for a low barrier to entry business for the same reason.  I will discuss much of the buying public perception of you.  Even your target market may not comprehend what goes into a detailing service, the credentials for finding a quality detailing business, the actual detailing process, and or the value of the service provided that is obvious to us.  Most people have a basic understanding of the difference between an upscale locally owned restaurant and a fast-food chain restaurant.  Aside from this important business aspect, you are doing everything right providing (superior) quality detailing.  But communicating what differentiates you from so many others in an increasingly saturated field may be a challenge you were not ready for.

I wanted to give you a cheat sheet and I will expand on these topics in future articles.  Some of the issues I see with struggling detailing businesses reveal common red flags.  Typically, someone starts out detailing their car on a regular basis.  With some encouragement, it evolves into occasional friends and family detailing.  This inspires a decision to start a business without much thought put into the actual business aspect of organization (the leadership component) and marketing/sales.  I will be very transparent and honest here, not with the intention of being malicious towards business owners or the buying public.  Many of my critics of new business owners have come from my mistakes and the tribulations of other experienced owners who shared their stories with me.  I am still a work in progress; a mentality you should adopt.

Key advice I would give to someone starting out and if I only had 5 minutes to talk to them:

  1. Have two budgets! You do not have to have everything to start this business, with respect to tools.  You do not want to be in a position, especially early on, where you are desperate.  Desperate people do not make good long (even short) term business decisions.  Have two budgets in your mind.  One to start even if it is small, for what you think you know!  Have another one for your trials and tribulations, mistakes marketing your services, and other hidden expenses.  You will underestimate your ideal amount of non-detailing supplies to invest in your business.  That is not a bad thing!  It means you are trying to figure out what works for you with respect to marketing and advertising your services.  Experimentation is an expense that will usually not yield a great return.
  2. Acquire a basic understanding of some business concepts.  Create a mission for who you are, then have a vision and a plan for how you are going to overcome these hurdles and differentiate yourself.  You do not have to be a business professor but learn the meaning of some marketing advertising terms.  It will make you organized and able to pick up changes you need to make with your business, even if you outsource these responsibilities to another company.
  3. There is no excuse to not build some resume of detailing with at least some pictures or video.  Do you have a car?  Do you have someone in your family who does (or does) not care that much about his or her to test out?  I detailed a rental car and posted pictures before.  I still have pictures detailing my car before I even started my business.
  4. Last I want you to be really honest with yourself about starting a business.  This question may (and should) make many of you uncomfortable.  My peers and I encounter many people starting out who we instantly can tell will not make it for long in business.  We also see signs that they are in it for the wrong reasons.
Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
YouTube | Facebook

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