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Site Development

Let’s now assume that you have closed on the property and have received approval for special use during the due diligence period of the conditional purchase agreement.  It is now time to complete your site plans, seek site plan approval, tighten your costs, close your loan, start construction and prepare for operations.

Complete Your Plans/Equipment Layouts and Mechanical and Electrical Drawings

It is now time to tighten down your drawings completely.  You, your car wash advisor, the supplier team, and the architect will pour over the drawings refining them to reflect your exact needs and specifications.  It is imperative that you incorporate the requirements for properly placed and supported equipment.  You will need complete plans to get your site plan permit approved.  Include all structures, such as canopies, and all signs, including monuments and wall signs.  This is also the time to begin your value engineering process.  Value engineering is an organized approach to the identification and elimination of unnecessary costs that do not affect the quality of the product.  This process demands thorough review of equipment systems. 

Sub Contractor Bid Packages

Your architect or GC needs to prepare sub-contractor bid packages, which can be sent out to multiple bidders in an effort to create competition for the work to lower your acquisition cost.  Your GC should organize your budgets and draw requests in accordance with commercial construction divisions. 
Loan Closing

Based on your budget, you will need to prepare a sworn budget statement.  This document will be used to fund your loan initially and then will be continually updated and referenced as your construction proceeds.  You must also be prepared for closing costs.  See the sample closing cost worksheet in this section.

Construction Schedule

Your GC should prepare a construction schedule most often in gantt chart format.  If time is of the essence, include contract language that provides incentive for staying on schedule and penalties for delays.  Time is money.  You begin paying interest as soon as your loan is funded.

Prepare for Operations

Refer back to your business plan to capture all of your marketing ideas and operational requirements that need to be addressed before you open.  A good car wash advisor should be able to assist you in this process.  The following identifies some considerations which should be contemplated and addressed prior to opening:

  • Manuals
  • Employee Training
  • Promotional Plan 


Employee Manual Contact a local labor attorney to understand your state’s requirements regarding employee rights.  

Safety Manual An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.  Develop safety procedures and capture in a manual.  Provide safety orientation and training. 

Operations Manual There are critical processes that encourage maximum operational effectiveness;

  • Opening and closing procedures
  • Daily, weekly, monthly and annual maintenance
  • Housekeeping procedures
  • Customer service policies and procedure
  • Accident response procedures
  • Cash reconciliation and shift change procedures

Equipment Manuals – Your equipment suppliers should provide you with comprehensive manuals featuring detailed explanation and drawings for installation, operation and repair.  Almost every piece of equipment you purchase will exceed $2,500 with many exceeding $10,000 and some costing as much as a car or a house.  Ensure that you are working with a supplier that provides manuals to match the price and the complexity of the equipment so you are armed with the information you need to stay running.


Employee Hiring – Duty stations need to be identified and processes thought through.  Your car wash advisor should be able to assist you in this effort.  Subsequent to identifying and capturing duty stations, job descriptions can be created so that employment advertisements can be placed.

Employee Training:

  • Maintenance training – Your primary equipment supplier should provide detailed maintenance guidelines and schedules as part of the equipment manuals.  Moreover, you should be able to attend local or factory sponsored hands on training for maintenance.
  • Operations training – Your car wash advisor should offer operations training or be able to arrange operations training at their store, or at one of their customers that is not in a competitive position with you.
  • Safety training – Guidance should be available from your car wash advisor but this usually falls to ownership.
  • Rights training – Guidance should be available from your car wash advisor but this usually falls to ownership.

Promotional Plan

Your promotional plan needs to be developed and ready to go when the site is ready to open. Many car washers choose to host an open house prior to public opening and a “Grand Opening” once the bugs are worked out of the equipment systems and the operational processes.  Coordinate site operational readiness very carefully in order to time the launch of your promotional campaign.  Your car wash advisor should be able to assist you in the design and execution of your promotional campaign.  The International Carwash Association’s Marketing Tool Kit is a great resource for marketing resources and tips and tricks.

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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