Jimmy Starnes learned the connection between relationships and success from an early age, though not through the easiest of circumstances. His parents divorced when he was five, but went on to remarry individuals who became integral in his success. “While the divorce was obviously painful at the time, I gained two amazing individuals in my life,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade any of them – I love all four of my parents so much.”
Starnes grew up in the Atlanta area and has lived nearby ever since. He never enjoyed school, except for the people. “School was extremely difficult for me, apart from the relationships,” he said. “The great friends and great teachers had a huge impact on my life. The only way I made it through was because I had such great relationships and could connect with people.”
That ability to build relationships and connect with people led Starnes to success in multiple leadership roles in his career. While Starnes’ original career dream was to become CEO of Atlanta-based Home Depot, he eventually decided that entrepreneurship was the path for him. Starnes launched his own coaching and consulting business, helping individuals create a plan for living their best lives. While that business was just what he’d hoped, another opportunity came his way. “I got a call from a good friend, Jim Dudley, who said he was buying a car wash and needed my help,” Starnes said. “I told him I was in, and I’ve been in ever since.”
Starnes partnered with Dudley on the full-service wash adventure seven years ago, but he’s been close to the car washing business since childhood. “Every Saturday, our family would wash our car at a full-service car wash and eat breakfast together,” he said. “To this day, you won’t find a cleaner car than mine. The expectation was instilled in me from a young age that your car was always going to have a full-service wash every week. It’s part of my regular rhythm of life.”
That first car wash location turned into what is known today as Wash Me Now. “I love having individual clients and consulting, but I also love showing up to one of our locations and focusing on all aspects of the car wash business, like leadership development, hiring, promotions, marketing – you name it,” he said. “I love my coaching business, but also love the idea of being part of a team.”
Wash Me Now has fulfilled Starnes’ desire for teamwork, and he especially values his business partnership with Jim Dudley. “Jim and I are very different, but we love working together because our styles complement each other,” Starnes said. “In business, that works out really well. Not many people find that kind of match.”
Starnes knows he’s one of the lucky few who can find a good business partner while also being part of an industry that fulfills a higher purpose than just cleaning cars.
“I get to wake up every day and be in a business that’s way bigger than what our product is,” he said. “We have the privilege of helping our employees get to where they’re going in life, and we want to give them a chance at the hopes and dreams they have for themselves. We also love the ICA and their leadership – we go to everything they do because they push us to new heights. I’ve been in the industry for six or seven years, and have watched ICA take the industry and revive it.”
The pair’s love for the industry drove them to brainstorm how they could take things to the next level. The answer was a fundraising initiative they call Wash Away Thirst. “Clean water is a huge need across the world,” Starnes said. “The car wash industry is using water every day in what we do. It was Jim’s vision to take something critical to life, something people need, and connect and inspire an industry to rally together for this cause.”
Dudley has been the key to the program’s development and success. “Jim Dudley is a guy who, when he has an idea, doesn’t let it stop there,” Starnes said. “He can get everyone he knows and the ICA and everyone they know to come around clean water and raise money. We want the car wash industry to be known for doing some good around the issue of clean water.”
This year, the team has a few fundraising activities planned, but they’re still developing the big idea that Starnes hopes will make some waves. “We’re going to come up with something unbelievable before this summer,” Starnes said. “My challenge right now is trying to connect the ICA, all ICA members and our fundraising efforts together.”
Dudley and Starnes have already dedicated themselves to this work. For close to a decade, Dudley has been traveling to Guatemala to build houses and provide clean water to families in the Guatemalan mountains. Starnes has been making the trek for six years. They’re joined by family members and Wash Me Fast executive and employees. The team uses Charity Water, an online charitable giving site focused on access to clean water, to raise funds for the trip. Starnes said the great thing about using Charity Water is that 100 percent of the donations made through the Wash Away Thirst program go directly to Charity Water. “We don’t accept checks or see any of the money,” Starnes said. “It all goes directly to and through Charity Water.”
When Starnes is not busy coaching and consulting, mentoring leaders and teams at Wash Me Fast, or raising money to provide the world with clean water, he’s either watching sports or spending time with his family. “My wife is huge into education and is way smarter than I am,” Starnes said. “My daughter is really into baking, and my son can’t wait to work at Wash Me Fast. We love spending time together, whether it’s eating a family meal or traveling the world.” Starnes played football in college, but acknowledges that playing ball with his kids today “just hurts.” Instead, he has embraced sports that are easier on the body, like golfing and fly fishing.
While Starnes has had a number of impactful mentors throughout his life and career, he attributes his involvement in the car wash to one person. “I would not be in this industry without the vision of Jim Dudley,” he said. “That first phone call changed everything for me. I would not be as happy and joyful without Jim. I’m not a self-made person. The community and tribe around me have been critical.”
Today, Dudley and Starnes hope the car wash community will come together and rally around the need for clean water. But Starnes knows that so many in the industry are incredibly generous around a number of other causes. “Car washes are already doing so many great things,” Starnes said. “Water is the lifeblood of what we do, and I think it’s critical that we as an industry are doing something together to provide clean water around the world.”