The History of the Aircraft Wash Guys, Part Three

As we study this grass roots history of a franchise company in the making we see how opportunity in the market grows companies and how entrepreneurial thinkers take advantage of those opportunities to deliver goods and services, which match the desires of the market place. In this review of the history of the aircraft wash guys we see the company diversifying and finding other niches to serve, some of which were actually better than the original plan. This is very common and typical of entrepreneurial from the ground up companies, yet all to often government regulators and rules fail to see how real companies come to be. This study shows similarities to many of the humble beginnings. If you look at Walt Disney who started in a shed behind the studio or Apple’s jobs in the garage or even Bill Gates and his car counting machine you can see how things grow and build and entrepreneurs find and exploit niches. Now back to our story of the History of the Aircraft Wash Guys Part III:

Mr. Winslow decided after all the research that it was time to go for it; time to launch the franchise company on his own without any venture capital. He planned to build the business the way we had always done it, out of gross receipts. He kept building the business washing cars and aircraft and renamed it The Car Wash Guys. He built up car wash guys to 35 units serving 43 cities using independent contractors. In 1996 he decided to become an actual franchise company, forming Car Wash Guys International, Inc. He could now better control consistency, color schemes and service quality, driving on the comments of Ray Kroc in his book “Grinding it Out”.

Coming from aviation into automotive services he tended to run our business strictly by the book. In aviation things are more critical than in the automotive sector, but he believed that being overly concerned with the little details would actually be a good thing and advantage over the competition when dealing with cars. During the “.Com” craze he changed the name to WashGuy.com and added web sites for the different brand names. Of course Aircraft Wash Guys has always been the favorite of Mr. Winslow since this is where he started out some 27 years ago. After the successes and hardships of the learning all the other different market segments for Team Wash Guys, it was wonderful to offer Aircraft Wash Guys as a completely separate Franchise Module to those people involved in aviation who would like to own their own business.

Wash Guys wash cars, trucks, boats, concrete and many other things and as you are probably aware, aircraft washing requires different training, soaps, equipment and wastewater recovery for environmental reasons. The FAA will with hold monies for aircraft improvements if airports are not following strict environmental laws. It is for this reason Mr. Winslow has been so proactive in helping the team with environmental compliance and giving his expertise to government agencies who are developing BMPs for the Aviation Industry.

In 1997 Lance Winslow met and hired Arthur Dickey the originator of Tidy Plane to work in product development. Trying to better a product called Dry Wash, using kerosene as the active ingredient. Tidy car tried to market Tidy Plane, but that didn’t work to well without Arthur’s devotion. Arthur helped the company design labels and with the help of his chemist design better products which were safe for the aviation cleaning industry working actually out of Lance’s garage. Arthur was one of the original Tidy Car Franchisees, his dad once owned a small airline in Los Angeles, which flew jets and later had one of the top performing Mail Boxes Etc. franchises. Tidy Car made Arthur stop his Tidy Plan Concept, through a franchise agreement clause feeling it did not work with their brand name. A decade Later Tidy Car sold that brand name to Ziebart. Arthur’s brother operated the Tidy Car Franchise after that and did lots of aircraft washing for jet customers in Florida. Arthur was hired away from the founder’s of the Paxton Super Charger, and the Paxton Racing Team after he had developed their super wax brand to sell in Wal-Mart and Pep Boys, after Arthur left the brand never did reach it’s full potential. Arthur with all this knowledge made it easy for us to comply with all the MSDS requirements. Arthur after developing the companies product line moved on to explore other opportunities and continued his passion with the Dry Washing Concept and with a friend convinced Fed Ex to use it exclusively in many markets and he set up with some associates a network of operators using his new blend.

In 2000 Mr. Winslow gave a notice to all Car Wash Guys stating it was forbidden for them to wash planes due to potential negative PR in newspapers if they polluted, plus the insurance requirements and equipment was not right in case of damage and the UFOC for Car Wash Guys did not cover these issues and those independent contractor contracts were10 years old. This was a major dilemma. So the team got together to make a set of training videos, upgrade equipment so that the team could keep the aviation customers and comply with the laws. Several of the franchisees with Car Wash Guys complied and kept washing Aircraft. It was determined that the market in aviation was not being satisfied so we have expanded into a full-blown franchise system. It was noticed that FBOs, Flying Schools and especially the fractional jet market was really taking off. This allowed the Car Wash Guys to sign Aircraft Wash Guys agreements or in some cases where they bought specialized equipment made verbal agreements for them to continue.

Then as we started get going the FTC hurt many of our franchisees by attacking Car Wash Guys and then the other terrorists of 9-11 just about put the death blow in General Aviation, but aviation people are tough as they come and today the market sector is rebounding. Lance often wondered who was worse the government terrorist regulator lawyers or the actual Osama Bin Laden and company?

Mr. Winslow has always been passionate about flying and aviation. His Father was a decorated naval Aviator flying in the Puerto Rico Squadron F-8s during Cuban Missile Crisis, 250 combat missions in an A-4, later CO of a Naval Squadron (A-7 Corsair II), later Captain in the Navy, later and Airline Pilot (737, 727, DC-10, 747, 777, 757), then after retirement, currently fly’s a Gulfstream Corporate Aircraft. Mr. Winslow’s dad wishes he could be flying F-18s in the Sand Box right now. Mr. Winslow’s Grandfather was head of FAA in Fresno International Airport and flew in a B-24, while his step grandfather flew a B-17 Flying Fortress) and his other grandfather built the first laser ring gyro now used as a guidance system throughout the aviation, marine and space industries. It is in my blood. Lance Winslow’s brother is a Pilot in Command for a C-130 in the US Marines stationed out of Miramar.

Today the Aircraft Wash Guys team has washed for Millionaire Aviation, Executive Jet, etc. And companies like Raytheon, Cessna and others. They have washed jets in Little Rock Arkansas, Scottsdale AZ Airpark, Colorado Springs CO, Bozeman MT, Columbus OH, Van Nuys CA, Palm Springs CA and many other airports across the country. The goals today include having 35 Aircraft Wash Guys in 2007 and 50 by 2009 and 100 by 2011. Ambitious, Big time, and can they do it? Well they think its possible, time will tell. They do have some competition in the Industry like any business, not much, but they plan on doing whatever it takes to be and stay leading edge.

If you study any service franchise in the United States or in the aviation sector any great company you will see they all came from the most humble beginnings, made mistakes along the way; had to battle with government regulators and competitors and press on to succeed. Of all the great names in aviation hanging up in the wall in museums across the country such as the Wichita Aviation Musuem, Wright Patterson Aviation Museum or even the Smithsonian you see the diehards that make this industry and this country great. Recently Burt Rutan made such a comment to Congress during his testimony on the birth of the private space industry. America is great but we must get out there and take a few risks if we want to stay on top.

A New Car Wash Franchising System – P&G’s Mr Clean Carwash Franchise

Why on Earth is Procter and Gamble getting involved in the Car Wash Industry? Moreover, why is perhaps the greatest consumer product company of all times getting into the franchising business. You see, P&G is a great branding company, and some believe the best in the world.

What intrigues Corporate America about the car wash business anyway? Well, here are some of my thoughts: There is a contingency of Harvard Business School MBA’ers who have as part of their class assignments to access the concept of a nation-wide “Car Wash Company” and once these kids get out of school, they remember this and then think it’s a good idea.

Thus, some end up in large fortune 500s like P&G (which is a GREAT COMPANY, so don’t get me wrong), some end up as investment bankers, and a few turn up in the car wash sector every once in a while.

I can recall P&G’s Mr. Clean showed up to debut at the International Car Wash Convention back many years ago and I actually sensed a bit of angered from car wash owners. It appeared that P&G assumed that car washes would sell their ‘personal’ car washing systems for home washing and thought they are a kindred spirit to those in the car wash industry.

P&G advertised in all the Car Wash Magazines and spent huge money (in relation to the car wash industry, not the behemoth P&G, whose annual gross is 15 times the entire car wash industry combined). I laughed because, I thought it was good to rub it in the face of the arrogant and politically petty car wash industry, they deserve it, mostly knuckle-heads, only a few really get it (5-10%). [personal opinion from years of observing the industry].

The Mr. Clean product showed up at major box store retailers in little packages and sold well, as expected and well researched I am certain. Again, I felt the tension, it appeared to be making the industry angry, kind of like Maguire’s did when it turned on the auto-detailing industry and sold directly to the public, it pissed off everyone. Good move for their bottom line, but bad move for their dealer networks, especially with other strong product lines like Pennzoil’s sub-brands or Auto-Magic an industry mainstay, ready to pick up new dealers.

Car Wash Owners and the Car Wash Industry; well, it’s a cut – throat, throw you to the dogs industry, it’s a cash-cow business and it attracts disreputables, wannabe mafia types, it’s pretty sickening. Many have been critical of players like Mace Securities that got into the business for instance, interesting history there.

P & G could make a go of it, but I believe they should buy Mister Car Wash, change the name to Mr. Clean, and make the “Mister Car Wash” a mini-sub-brand, merging without disrupting either brand; I think I could make that happen well enough. This would give P & G market notoriety, but would cost them too.

Then, Mr. Clean could sell off those units as Master franchises, where they were clustered and use them for new training facilities, for new owners. P & G has big guns and could use this to help get financing since new car wash business building has come to a standstill, financing issues. Still, car washing is down straight across the board, virtually everywhere. Yes, it will pick up and the new model will have to be $5.00 car washes in 5-minutes. Only, a couple of companies have mastered that so far.

P&G plans to sell its franchises for $500,000 and that may not be enough to do a car wash venture, and I have not seen the FDD (Franchise Disclosure Documents), to see what all that gets the franchise buyer. Indeed, I’d like to see the “Pre-Fab” buildings first (if that is there strategy), then maybe it could fit into a 500K deal.

P&G could also make it work, as an all-hand-wash, mostly outdoor thing, like they do outside Tempe, AZ near the college, where college students wash cars on top of a concrete slab with a clarifier underneath, but that will not be so great for a inclement climate weather locations. And I doubt if P&G would be looking there because that is not their style, but it would work well. Although I have not seen the plans, I doubt they are looking there.

Instead they are looking at a full-on facility, it’s just not in the cards in my opinion and I question their strengths and weaknesses, I’d like to see their SWOT Analysis, and poke some holes in it. Plus, for a company like P&G, they want to sell their products, thus, they do not want to own the car washes so they wish to franchise them. Wrong! That’s not right for their corporate focus, or core-business. And franchising is a litigious industry, just as Amos their new CEO, he knows better than anyone in the industry that truth.

Most franchisors in the car wash sector; Bob’s Car Wash, Rapido Rabbit, etc, have failed due to undercapitalization, and selling to franchisees that didn’t get it. Whereas P&G doesn’t have to worry about that, it doesn’t mean they need to go and throw money into a car wash sludge pit!

The car wash industry is over-saturated now and with the economy down, more so, it will be clearly 18-24 months until it returns, meanwhile new outlets will not be hitting legitimate ROI targets in that climate. Sure, things will return, but it will be a while. Any company entering this market will have to be low-cost, extremely high volume to win.

Most cities will most likely expedite building permits now, meaning 6-9 months max between submitting plans and first shovel turn, and 6-months to build. That is 12-months and means 6-12 months of dismal performance. Yes, the best time to go for it is when land is cheap, available, and distressed sales. But there is a gap in the time lag here and biting the bullet now, for big a full-on-franchise system is the wrong strategy once again in my opinion. I could make it work, but I guarantee they can’t as it’s been laid out.

Mr. Clean brand is in a pickle, because NPDES and storm water rules are tightening, their home-use product puts consumers in jeopardy of breaking the law with water pollution rules. So, their only option is to do something different, but I do not think they have thought this through correctly. It will be interesting to watch, that’s for certain. Think on this.