The best there is.
If you're reading the blog up until this point, firstly let me say thank you for paying your attention to what I have had to say. You've probably noticed I talk about the demographic, business end of things just as much, if not moreso than the technical, hands-on side of my profession. Before making any blindsided assumptions into the sub-title of this instalment, I'd like you to realise that it is merely backhanded satire giving an insight into what I am about to delve into, rather than an egotistical remark.
As I have already covered enough times, public perception of cost is one thing. But just like Yin and Yang, there has to be something on the other side of the scale, and that is quality. Quality is what sets you apart, and you need to be able to sell that to your customers to get work, whatever your trade is. Mentioning and explaining the perks and benefits of the service you provide to educate Joe Public and turn them into a paying customer is the foundation of running a successful business. There is however, a limit.
Compared to 12 months, 2 years, 4 years ago, where peoples' snags and remarks were 99% orientated around my cost, I'm now being questioned and compared on the quality of my work.
There are various online detailing forums that would be so advantageous of being apart of, if only I could get over that hurdle of being around people that jump on conversation threads originally posted by those looking for a detailer, transforming so incongruously into wild vultures frothing at the mouth, somewhat managing to string together the words "don't go to them, they're no good! I'm the best!"
Indeed, I myself am sometimes told about how "you're good, but such and such is number 1 in the area, number 1 in the country, they already have a personal reservation to detail God's car when they die.."
The first thing I have to ask is, who on Earth said these people were number 1 in the first place? Surely, someone who has the brass balls to call themselves number 1 needs to visit Sigmund Freud to get their Id, Ego and Super Ego in check. Secondly, does this person sound approachable to take your business to? Are they painting an unrealistic picture of what service they will actually deliver?
Having said this, there are varying degrees of skill and end product quality out there, again applying to more trades than just the one I work in. There are companies out there with specialised studios that have clearly had big money backers make huge investments, and there are also the humble new-starts working from the back of their hatchback car with simple inventory; and vast levels between. The people doing the work, should have the same common denominator; a respect for the fact they all started from the same beginning. Whatever it is you are having done, whether that be a haircut, law soliciting, car detail, DJ at a night do, plastering - find yourself someone humble that tries their damn hardest to give you value for money and put a smile on your face. Don't care about being number 1 in whatever place, just be number 1 to yourself and your customer.
It's not You, it's Me, or You and Me.
For those not quite in the know up until now, I started plying my own business in the valeting/detailing industry starting in 2011. If you are wondering why I put a forward slash between these two antonyms, or equally arguable synonyms, I intend to discuss this issue someday, somewhere over the rainbow; just not today.
Contemplating exactly how to write the supplement to this very blog post, I look back on how I started out. A young lad, so obsessed with keeping his Peugeot 206 so remarkably clean and shiny, that I garnered the attention of friends of my family and others located in my street. Indeed, I was so anal about my car that remarks from those that drove past eventually floated over my head, just like I had heard it all before. The year, was 2010, and I was a meager 18 years old existing in the midst of the "Credit Crunch", a phrase that was all too strangely dropped as soon as VAT rose to 20%. Youth unemployment was astronomically high, and redundancy letters were being printed like they were going out of fashion. Big businesses were crumbling to the wayside. Looking even further back to 2008, I remember being 16 years old, desperately handing out CVs in return for the slightest bit of work experience; it seemed not even my hot body was enough....
At the time, I was studying at college in another trade that was forecast not to be, when I noticed an online job advert offering work at a local valeting company. 'This could be my big break out of unemployment', I thought, finally a breakthrough to rid myself of the digs and jibes I often received for being an unemployed young man, not that I could help it. I was offered a job-trial day.
Dressed smartly, with new-fangled shoes and a bright eyed outlook, I was in for big surprise. The 'safe wash' process I had so lovingly adhered to when cleaning my own car, what with the three bucket wash method (one for the shampoo, one for the mitt rinse, and one for the wheels) and snow foam (Oh Lord, don't forget the snow foam) was not present in the slightest. Instead, we were sent out to the car park of the local shopping center, harassing innocent shoppers before they had fully stepped out of their vehicle, to have their car "washed" with dirty rags and a wheelie-bin-esque container or yesterdays water. This really went against the grain for me, and before the end of the morning, I was done, and resigned.
The next day, I was in the car with my dear Mom, she said "you know what, you should make a go of it on your own." So I started small from the boot of my little 206, cleaning cars for those who cared to have the work done, with a very basic inventory of what I could afford, and what I could fit in the back of my car. It was tough at first, I remember many leaflet drops that involved my then 13 year old sister helping me out, in return for a McDonalds Meal - talk about a good deal! APS Valeting was the name, and making a name for myself was the game. My Dad, was quintessential in sending some very good customers my way through the contacts he knew. Don't forget to thank your family.
I stuck it out in this fashion for a while, enjoying the custom of some regular car wash jobs, until my next door neighbor made me aware of an industrial unit at Pensnett Trading Estate becoming available, where his business was also based. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Perhaps a little more blindly than I should have done. In hindsight, I should have carried out a leaflet drop, or even a survey of the area to ensure I had enough work already waiting for me to hit the ground running. Starting there in September 2012, work started slow, and I had just about enough personal funds to pay the monthly rent and re-stock inventory; just.
I consulted a local print company to produce my building sign-writing. Against what I requested, they offered a design of my logo surrounded with bubbles. Myself at the time not being one to question or cause offense, went ahead with the design knowing it did not represent what I wanted my business image to portray. With no bad feeling intended towards any customers of that era, I was perceived to be "Car Wash Man", working nearly all morning on one car to make a net turnover of £30, if I was so lucky. Although, I did indeed have plenty of 'detailing' work so to speak, too, where I was given full jurisdiction from my customers to go machine polishing mad and make their cars look as good as I could possibly do; I still quite simply under-priced all of my work regardless of work undertaken, and ended up informing the landlord of my three month notice period to depart from my tenancy in June 2014. I had not only miscalculated what it was costing me to operate, but what I needed to achieve in net turnover as well. In business, you can have too much of a heart.
I left my tenancy at Building 53a in debt, despite the grueling hard work I had done and every last penny I had plowed into it.
Luckily, I was not to be drowned underneath the crashing waves. A rubber dinghy had been thrown to my aid by Virgin Media. *Cue Sega Megadrive Super Monaco GP background music "Concentration"*
At Virgin Media, acting as a service technician I learned a lot about dealing professionally with customers, thinking fast and using initiative. This was my first job fitting in with a team of "lads", it was tough, but I'd like to think I managed it. There was a lot to be taken from my 15 month tenure at this company to be transposed to what lay ahead.
This experience, coupled with my naturally evolved straight talking nature lead me to get back on the saddle, refreshed, ready to go, ready to re-invest in better equipment, ready to learn more, ready to collaborate with the right kind of fellow professionals, and not least, ready to take a right ear bending from the Professional Valeters and Detailers Association about how I had been doing it wrong all along, and how simple it was to put right.