It’s that time of the year when snowstorms create lines of salt covered cars waiting in line at your wash. You’ve probably spent time going through the tunnel, checking the conveyor, brushes, soap and wax applicators. You’re sure you have enough products on hand to handle that record weekend. These are the things that can make or break your month. You’re too good of an operator to miss the “Block and Tackle” issues.. right?

But what about the most important component to your success, your people, are they ready? If you are like most operators you will or have already hired a few extra staff members to help during the busy winter months, are they ready, do they know what to expect? The recent job market has tightened up with record low unemployment rates and at the time I am writing this column there are more open jobs then there are applicants to fill them. The bottom line – employees have choices and lots of them. We are competing with all types of retailers, many of whom have flexible hours, and inside work where it’s dry and warm.
Employees want to be part of a team, they want to contribute to a goal, and they want direction and training.

We have all at one time or another handed a new hire a vacuum, towel or a prep gun and find that they last until lunch. Training has always been important but never has it been more important than right now. We have heard a lot about Millennial employees. These employees have choices. The days of being lucky to have a job are over, and employees want to be engaged not managed. This “employment cultural shift” once thought to only be part of the cultures of Google or Apple, with their “open work areas” and slides instead of stairs have taken a firm hold in small business.  

Think about the Bombas Socks or Toms (look them up if your not familiar with what they do and support). They have embraced the idea of engaging their employees and created a corporate culture that employees believe in and support. According to the Employee Engagement Group, highly engaged employees are 250 percent more likely to make recommendations for improvement and 370 percent more likely to recommend your company as a place to work. Employees who are not engaged are four times more likely to leave. At a time when there is record low unemployment can you really afford not to engage your employees? Employment engagement starts with a conversation, what do we do and more importantly why? What is the employee’s place in the process and why is it important? Do you have a plan or do you show up and hope for the best? Employees want to be part of the plan, engage them in the preparation and the review process and you’ll be surprised at how much they have to offer. Give employees the same attention as you do your equipment, maybe more. Here’s to a great season!

Walter Hartl

President, New York State Car Wash Association