An industrial conurbation known as the Black Country, where I was born, is vastly all I have known in a practical working sense for all of my life, much less my valeting and detailing career. It has a unique, abstract yet proud background deeply rooted in the industrial revolution and a hard working character, with an intriguing throwback Anglo-Saxon accent to accompany it.
Working in the West Midlands and its surrounding areas provides no dull moment. It is a great place that I enjoy working in, whether that be serving customers in good old Gornal, suburban areas such as Droitwich or Wombourn, M6 J10, or quaint villages such as Kinvere and Enville. However, there comes a point in one's career where there is just that bit more to learn and experience where the norm has to go out the window, so to speak.
By saying this, I don't just mean geographically either. Myself initially cleaning, polishing and inspecting my car to obsessive standards in early 2010 and first starting as a business in 2011, have always had that express desire to constantly improve and learn. In contrast I feel such a disdainful emotion of disappointment when I hear, see or read of individuals who act so arrogantly and be all too prepared to shoot their peers and fellows down in the name of being, quite frankly, pretentious. It is far better to be humble, make allies out of your peers and accept that there is always something new to learn; there is always an aspect of your game you can proactively improve on. This, in my opinion, gives a professional the ability to work on a priceless Supercar one day, but still earn the bread and butter working on a Ford Fiesta the next. As they say "If you can walk with crowds and hold your virtue, or walk with kings nor lose the common touch"...
As a result, It was decided a couple of months ago that I would set aside six or seven days in November to do a little bit of travelling.
This wouldn't just be any old aimless travelling though. As part of this blog series I want to share with you my incredible journey learning and gaining experience with some of the people who have helped me to an extent they didn't quite realise, before I had even met them personally.
Jonny Fryett of Crystal Clear Valeting and Detailing was one of the first Professional Valeters and Detailers Association members to personally welcome me to the group on my acceptance back in September 2016. At the time, I struggled with pricing my work. Yes it sounds ridiculous to hear from me, but newly starting as a mobile business from a previous unit based set-up in a Kingswinford trading estate, whereby everything I offered was considered a "rip-off" without actual consideration of the full process and cost, I (re-)started off well but fell into the trap of the dreaded "mini-valet". What is a mini-valet anyway? As far as I'm concerned in hindsight it was a cheat code that the public used to get a neglected car to look like new at the fraction of the cost of the full valet that it should have been booked as. Needless to say, despite the full paintwork enhancements I was busily carrying out I soon ended up tearing my hair out, at all the excessive pet hairs I was tearing out of these mini-valets.
Jonny spent the time talking me through where he drawn the line between his distinctly separate service packages. He didn't have to, but he did, and at great length. We discussed in depth the kind of questions to ask punters on the phone, where to draw the line when a vehicle is presented in an unacceptable condition, and more. I had also met members of Jonny's family when they were visiting Kinver and a bird had bombed all over their car. Jonny gave me a call as a trusted individual to clean the Mercedes in a manner that the car wash just didn't care for. A gentle pH neutral cleanse of the bird lime, or an acidic splash and dash? The choice was simple.
So on the morning of Thursday 2nd November I got my van somewhat ready for a trip across the M6, M42, M1 and so forth before I reached Teesport and rocked up at Mr Fryett's. Our initial plan was to get some choice shots of our work vans in the local sightseeing backdrops, except the borrowed DSLR I had was out of charge and I kind of didn't have the charger pack. We made do with phone pictures whilst I went into the local electronics store to purchase a universal battery charger. With the Nikon battery confidentially on charge we headed out to an all-you-can eat buffet where I sampled the local delicacy called Parmo!
The next day, Jonny had a rather mucky Audi S3 booked in coinciding with my visit. Starting with a Citrus pre-wash applied through a pump sprayer, the car was then pressure rinsed with the Kranzle K7 powered by the generator. The customer was not home at all during the visit, so a fully mobile service was required seeing Jonny providing both water and electricity. We then cleaned the wheels with a non-acid based formula paying attention to scooping the build-up from the inside of the wheel barrels and arch wells with EZ Detail brushes. A safe wash to the bodywork was then attentively provided utilising the multi-bucket wash technique and mitts; carefully cleaning the mitts between each panel contact.
The car was then treated to safe iron fallout removal before a final rinse down and air dry and gentle plush towel dry. The customer specifically asked for attention to the tail pipes so after we hand polished the car my secret combination came into play from the bench to get them looking like new and sealed. Jonny explained to me that his speciality currently stands at hand polishing so we each grabbed a hand polishing pad with some Scholl S20 and met in the middle. Hand polishing can indeed provide some level of cut and a great finish. Jonny then phoned the customer to offer the various options in terms of waxes he carried on board to suit his customer's needs. Britemax Vantage was the order of the day, so whilst Jonny got on with this I tended to sealing the alloy wheels and dressing the tyres.
A layer of SiCoat was laid down on the doorshuts whilst Jonny got on with most of the interior work including a KKD Lush Leather clean treatment. All that was required following here was an attentive vacuum of loose carpet debris, a light spray to the interior fabric with Autoglym Interior Shampoo, some light dressage to the plastics, and Krystal Klear glass polish before the finishing touch of carpet stripes and leather scented air freshener.
Needless to say, Jonny received a text message form his customer to relay the delight in the work, and as the sun went down I headed towards an eerily quiet route towards the next part of the trip...