Ken Littrell earned his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Purdue University, but it didn’t take him long to find his way into the car wash industry. Littrell worked with contractors and developers before starting his own construction company, where one of his projects was building a self-serve wash for an operator next to his full service wash. Littrell now owns seven washes in Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa and Illinois and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q: Did it really take just one project to realize you wanted to be a car wash professional?
I was mesmerized by the whole process. Soon after that project, a well-built car wash in our town was being sold on the court house steps in a master commissioner sale. And I bought the wash! I learned it’s tough to turn around a bankrupt service business. It took three years to break even, but once it got going we’ve never looked back.
Q: It sounds like you earned your proverbial stripes from the outset. What keeps you coming back every day?
The desire to have a perfectly operating wash, connecting with the staff and motivating them. It’s all about constant improvement through small incremental changes.
Q: What have you learned from the car wash industry?
Everyone is willing to help you. Manufacturers and suppliers are working hard to develop new products and services to improve your business and profitability. Fellow operators are willing to share new ideas. It really is a sense of family. The educational sessions at our show(s) are outstanding.
Q: What trends or potential trends are you watching in the industry?
I think everyone is waiting to see what the impact will be from all of the consolidation in the industry. Where does this leave the independent operator? I still think that the hands-on individually-owned operator can outperform the consolidators.
Q: What are you most excited about that ICA is working on?
I’m glad the ICA is staying connected to the car manufacturers, keeping us aware of the new developments and how they will impact the washes — everything from self-driven cars to car share programs.
Q: What do people need to know about the ICA board?
The ICA board is made up of operators, manufacturers and suppliers. The industry is well-represented. We are well-aware that the decisions may affect not only the industry but our livelihood as well.
Q: What do you do when you’re not ‘on the clock’? What do you do to refill your tank?
Outside of car washing, I’m involved in our local Christian school. This year my wife Peggy and I will have been married 40 years. We’re enjoying the empty nest but seem busier than ever!
Q: Tell us something we’d be surprised to learn about you.
My wife and I enjoy riding bicycles. We’ve done RAGBRAI, the ride across Iowa, twice. We attended The Car Wash Show Europe in Amsterdam and arrived a week early to bike Amsterdam. This fall, we will be joined by two other couples to bike Vermont. I know, it’s hard to see me in spandex! The outdoors really reinvigorates me!