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Show Me, “Wash The Car…”

Show me, “Wash the car…”

…Or “the day I realized I was unequivocally an entrepreneur”.

So my son is 17 years old and like a lot of young men his age he’s trying to figure out the best way to earn enough money for his first car. I’ve told him that I’d be willing to help him out but only after I saw him work for it himself. So we’ve had some ongoing conversations about jobs he could consider applying for. We’ve gone together and he’s applied for a few but so far, no dice. In fact, no call backs at all. At one point he said “what if I come work for you?” and I quickly responded that I’d be happy to hire him. After he got his first job working for a real boss that could fire him at a moment’s notice. I think you need to learn to work with those kind of consequences as early as possible in your work life.

So ever the marching band drum major, I kept on banging the drum beat of “what are you going to do now?” Being a GenX father of three Millennials I sometimes clash with their apparent lack of motivation, but that’s a topic for another post. (Besides I hate those broad classifications anyway.) So on a recent weekend I was out to lunch with him and my wife and we were brainstorming ideas again. One of the challenges he’s facing is transportation and timing with a very full load of junior year classes. So we arrived at an idea of washing cars in the neighborhood. A quick breakdown showed that it would address a lot of needs and challenges for him. That’s when it really hit me though.

Immediately my mind started to race ahead. My undiagnosed ADD instincts had already slammed the accelerator to the floor and off I went. In about 30 seconds I had left behind the idea of merely washing cars for a few bucks. I hit 5th gear and in my mind I had invented an entire business model:

  1. Start by canvassing the neighborhood with slick color business cards featuring a referral or loyalty program on the back side. He could get 500 cards for $40 or so. Marketing done.
  2. Signup for an online appointment setting SaaS service so that he could set his own hours and make it easy for potential customers to book and pay for his services online. Sales process, check.
  3. Then he’d need to do his research by doing some smart Google sleuthing to determine who else was offering mobile car washing services in the neighborhood and what they were charging so he could undercut them. Market research!
  4. Next he’d need to price his inventory and model his business process. A trip to Home Depot to check retail prices for his fixed and disposable supplies, then cross check prices on Amazon to get the best deal. On to the business process
  5. Wash a few cars with his new supplies and time each section, interior, exterior, wheels, waxing. Now he’s got the appropriate time schedule in hand.
  6. Wait I almost forgot! How many houses are in our subdivision? how many cars per house? How many cards does he need to drop in order to generate enough convertible leads to book 10 car washes each week? Let see, 10 cars at $20 each is $200 bucks per week gross revenue, less his cost of goods, and in 26 weeks he’d have about $4,500 to work with. Financial model ready for testing
  7. We’ll get back to the financial model in a minute, first let’s think of a great first time incentive to make it easy for people to say yes and refer him to more customers? I got it! First wash is 50% off! Incentive based marketing
  8. Hmm… What if we flipped it into a membership model? Sign up for $25 a month plan and you get a wash once a month and a free wax every 90 days? Can you say recurring revenue?
  9. Ok so we remembered that we have seen a mobile car washing truck canvassing the neighborhood. What can we do to not compete on price with these guys? Brand Positioning! Let’s shoot a video and share via social media and his booking service of how this hard working young man you’ve seen around your neighborhood is trying to build his own business. He’s hoping he can count on his community to support his efforts and dreams of becoming a sports management major in a few years!
  10. A few years? We’ll have to think through how to scale this sucker when he leaves for college by recruiting other local neighborhood kids to help him reach more customers in other subdivisions. To scale you need to Elevate and delegate!

I swear to you all of this was talked through in less than an hour. I could not help but see the bigger picture and how to avoid the classic pitfalls for my son sitting across from me. That was the moment it hit me square in the forehead. I was helplessly in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur. It’s just in my bones and I’m pretty sure it got there from my own mom and dad.

This experience reminded me of a great story I heard last year from an icon in the entrepreneurial community, Jack Daly. He’s a force of nature and I would highly encourage any entrepreneur or professional salesperson to “Get Jack’d” and see him speak. He himself started from a similar humble place delivering papers but refused to accept the terms that were laid at his feet. Instead he flipped the whole model on it’s head and found a way to earn more money than his own father. His story was echoing in my mind as we sat there having this chat over sushi. I only hope that I’ve passed on those genes to my kids. The jury is still out on that, but I’m still thinking about how I (ahem, he) can get this car washing business going…

P.S. That photo up there was some “early field research” of my son and I getting our feet wet together.

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