Richard Enning is in his second tour with the ICA board as an operator member and is now the incoming president. Enning took time out of his day as CEO of Mr. Wash Autoservice AG in Germany to discuss what he’s thinking about in his business, his time with the ICA and his life outside of car wash. Enning began his car wash career working as a car wash manager at a Mr. Wash location in Munich. He went on to work in consulting and for a large industrial company before stepping back in to the family business of car wash.
Q: When you started your career in consulting, how did you know you wanted to get back into the car wash industry? Back into your family business?
I was working for one of the major industrial companies in Germany as personal assistant of the CFO. He liked me and opened up the idea for me for a career in the international steel market. But he knew about our family business, and he wanted me to decide between the “real big business,” as he said, and car wash. I decided on car wash and did not regret it.
Q: What keeps you coming back?
The smiling faces of our customers — and of our employees.
Q: What do you think car wash professionals need to be watching out for, and paying attention to, right now?
Technology is very important for the car wash industry, but it’s only a tool. What really matters are the interactions between customers and us as service providers. I hate the expression “human resource management,” because it does not reflect the full picture of our management needs in the service business. We need “human relations management,” which means all related human beings (customers and employees) and their touchpoints with our business.
Q: What has been your biggest learning from the car wash industry?
The car wash industry is not an automotive industry, as many may think. It is a pure service industry and has more similarities with restaurants, airlines and hotels than with any other car-related business, like repair shops or car dealers. You have to learn this to become a successful car washer.
Q: What trends or potential trends are you watching in the industry?
I think the most important trend is creating more simplicity for the usage and payment of the wash. Unlimited is one option, but I think in the future we will see a tendency that the cleaning of the car will be part of an overall solution. If you look upon the most attractive apps for smartphones they all are extremely simple in usage. Look at the Uber app, for example.
Q: What are you most excited about that ICA is working on?
I think a core function of an association is creating networks for its members to share experience, information and ideas. And in the last years, ICA has created more and more events to achieve that goal. Besides The Car Wash Show, we now have the Splash! event, we have the Car Wash Excellence Summit and Supplier Summit, Car Wash Show Europe, Car Wash Show Australia … the list keeps growing. We all should use these events to interact.
Q: What are you looking forward to in your term as ICA president?
I feel honored to be the first European in this seat. But I think we all have the same perspective in this industry, because we all are washing the same cars with the same technology and with the same problems. There is really no difference if a car is pulling on an automatic brake on a conveyor installed in Atlanta, in Hamburg or in Melbourne. So I feel most obligated to the idea of regional, national and international networking in our industry.
Q: What do you do when you’re not ‘on the clock’? What do you do to refill your tank?
I have a sailing yacht on the Baltic Sea. Sailing is my passion, water is my element.
Tell us something we’d be surprised to learn about you.
I started in the car wash business very early: At the age of six, I “constructed” a wash for bicycles and tricycles with two garden chairs, our lawn sprinkler and some old towels, so I know what I am talking about!