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The following considerations represent only a few items that should be considered prior to getting into the business. Remember that each investor is unique and therefore possesses her/his own set of considerations. What applies to one investor may have little or no bearing on another.

There are three considerations that must be explored during the feasibility phase:

  1. Money
  2. Management
  3. Personal Assessment

1.  Money

This is the first consideration when attempting to determine the feasibility of investing in the car wash business. As a prospective car washer, do you have the necessary capital and are you capable of borrowing any additional funds you may need?

Monetary requirements for establishing a car wash include:

  • Initial cash or down payment
  • Interim financing
  • Long term financing
  • Equipment and fixture financing
  • Reserve for contingencies
  • Working capital

Refer to the table in the section on Financing for more information concerning capital requirements.  If the estimated cost of getting into the business is beyond the prospective car washer's financial capabilities then a project cannot and should not be undertaken.

2.  Management

This is the second consideration that must be looked at closely.  The operation of a successful car wash, regardless of size or type, depends on good, knowledgeable and consistent management. The prospective car washer needs to introspectively and honestly examine their ability in the areas of planning, organizing, directing, controlling and staffing.

Planning  This plan should be workable and adaptable. Do you posses the ability to formulate a comprehensive plan that will carry you through the process starting with the initial "idea" to the "grand opening" and beyond?

Organizing – Organization is vital to any successful operation.  Do you have the organizational skills to form a coherent plan? Can you establish priorities that can lead to an orderly achievement of goals?

Directing – The directing process blends resources into a workable operation that is capable of achieving your goals.  Do you have the leadership skills to set the organization into motion? Do you know how and when to direct? Can you use your organizational resources (i.e. labor, money and materials) to best achieve the objectives laid out in your plan?

Controlling – The controlling task is the execution of a continuous improvement program that constantly improves and corrects deficiencies and adjusts the course of the business. It is designed to assure that the methods and the people chosen achieve the goals of the organization. Do you have the capacity to maintain the efficiency of this organization by continuous inspection, testing and verification? Are you aware of how your operation fits into the environment and how each affects the other? Do you have the ability to make the necessary changes if the operation lags behind or veers off course?

Staffing  The staffing challenge is continuous by nature and will never cease.  It will always require constant attention and understanding.  Do you possess the skills to develop an efficient and compatible team? Do you have the capacity to train them and orient them to your particular operation?

3.  Personal Assessment

This is the final consideration.  You must know yourself very well because you will be your own boss.  You need to determine who you want to be as a car wash operator and what you want from your car wash investment in terms of risk and return, time commitment, employee responsibility, and liability exposure. You need to profile yourself to ensure that you match your objectives and desires with the challenges of the various car wash business models.  It is important to balance all four of these considerations to reduce risk to an acceptable level for your mental well-being while achieving your desired return.

Risk and Return – Risk is the degree of uncertainty about the expected return from a given car wash investment.  Return is the overall profit that you might expect to receive from your investment.  In car washing, the risk and return increase as the investor chooses more complex car wash business models, moving from a simple self serve toward a complex full serve car wash.

Time Commitment – Your ability or desire to commit time resources to your business should be carefully considered.  Like risk and return, your time commitment will increase as you choose to move from the least time demanding model (self-serve) to the most time demanding model (full-serve). 

Employee Responsibility – Employees and employee management are critical considerations when choosing which car wash business is right for you.  Self-serve car washes are designed to be operated without the necessity of an on-site employee.  Conversely, the very nature of a full-service offering demands several employees on the clock during all open hours.  The various combinations of car wash offerings and ancillary services between the two ends of the spectrum all require employee–customer interface; just different types and intensity.  The number and complexity of services you offer will dictate the number of employees you will need to hire, train, and manage.

Liability Exposure – Our litigious society has promoted liability exposure to the forefront of our business thinking.  The different car wash models and services all create differing degrees of personal injury and personal property liability exposure.  Like all of the other factors, self-serve liability presents the least exposure.  As one increases the service offering, one increases liability exposure.

Don't forget that the International Carwash Association is comprised of 2,000 of the best car wash professionals in the world. ICA member events provide unique opportunities to connect with other car wash professionals, while education opportunities help car wash professionals take their business to the next level.

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