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  1. #1

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    About 99% of what I learned about detailing aside from trial-and-error, I learned from this forum. However, I`ve noticed that this forum is heavily weighted towards a boutique brand of detailing that in my experience:

    * Is much more difficult

    * Has lower profit margins

    * Is less scalable



    I am an entrepreneur by nature. I did not get into this business because I like to clean cars. I got into this business because I like to do something new every day while I pay other people to clean cars (not that I don`t like getting outside and cleaning cars every once in a while, just not every day)



    I`m writing this thread to see if there are any other people like me on here, and to see if a dialog can be opened up for us to share our experiences, hints, knowledge and know-how.



    A few examples of the kinds of things I do:

    * I avoid services that someone cannot learn how to do in a few days.

    * I NEVER tell customers I will remove scratches or do wet-sanding. I tell them very light scratches will probably be removed or be less visible. I do this because:

    a) It is difficult to communicate to a customer over the phone what kinds of scratches a detailer can and cannot remove and customers have a strong statistical likelihood of under representing the damage.

    b) Most calls I get are from people wanting their cars to look shiny and nice and to clean out the interior that has been trashed by their two year old. Customers who are looking for a detailer experienced with a rotary and wet sanding are, in my experience, a statistical minority.

    c) Proper scratch removal requires a high level of skill as well as assumption of risk. In my experience, it is much more profitable to operate to stick to jobs that are easier, less risky, less expensive for the customer, and more straight-forward.

    * I NEVER use a rotary. Rotaries require a high level of skill and are risky. It is hard to train someone new in a reasonable amount of time to use a rotary. (I use Dual-Action Polisherers)

    * I offer low-cost services in bulk. I use day-laborers for a lot of the wholesale stuff.

    a) Quick washes, spray-waxes, vaccuum, and Dashboard wipe-down for $30 (minimum of 10 cars)

    b) Auto dealerships

    c) vehicle fleets

    d) calcium/cement deposit removal for parking garages (2/3 posts I found on cement removal suggest using vinagar which doesn`t work very well, I use something that dissolves it on contact)

    e) The kicker for all this is I make a lot of money doing this stuff. Using advice and methods on here, I`d have to charge much more and make much less.

    * I have computer software that I wrote myself that handles my scheduling. It uploads a calendar online so that the detailers can view what they are scheduled for and download and print out job information and invoices for the customer. I`m currently having a better version of this software developed my someone else.

    * I use chemicles and products that work very well in my opinion, but seem to be vastly cheaper and easier to use than anything reccommended on here. (Seriously people, why would you want to work just to pay for your supplies and equipment?)



    Some of the products I use are:

    * Turtle Wax Ice Car Wash

    a) Eliminates water spots

    b) leaves paint glossy

    c) costs $6.99/ gal @ Costco

    d) I saw some clown on here offering some boutique car wash that looked like it did the same damn thing on this site for $30/gal.

    * Stoners Products! - I order the cleaners in 5 gallon drums, 55 gallons at a time for the 55 gallon drum price. Shipping is free East side of the Mississippi and usually comes the next day. This company is awesome, they actually develop and manufacture the products themselves. (Stoner is your factory direct source for professional detailing products and car wash chemicals & supplies.)

    -) Bead Max (straight polymer sealant, aerosol can)

    -) Spead Bead (polymer sealant w/ cleaners, aerosol can)

    -) Polish and Seal (One step)

    -) APC (heavy dillutions)

    -) Wheel Cleaner (heavy dillutions)

    -) Trim shine

    -) Tarminator

    -) Window cleaner

    * Microfibres from Costco

    * Odo-Ban from Sams Club

    * Detailing brushes from Wal-Mart ( sells brushes that work great for cup holders and another that is awesome for the crevice between the seats and center console)

    * Zaino - (A good value, in my opinion, for our higher end stuff)



    My Question:

    - I have a lot of questions, but the one I was looking for the answer too that got me side-tracked writing this post is:

    ---Where the heck do I get good polishing pads for cheap???---

    I feel like polishing pads are such a rip-off. They wear out too fast for my taste and cost too much to be just a stupid pad. Right now I use EDGE pads which I think are expensive, but they last longer. I used to use the ones with the velcro backing plates and the backing plates would get all full of gunk that I couldn`t wash off and quit sticking to the pads. I feel like pads should cost a lot less than they do.

  2. #2

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    I pretty much agree with you. But you could train your detailers to use rotaries, you`ll do the job faster, this means more cars, more money

  3. #3

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    Well, I wish you luck with this thread, but your premise is a bit like walking into a GMC dealer and complaining that all they have is trucks when you want to buy a car.



    This site is "heavily weighted towards a boutique brand of detailing" because that`s the kind of site it is. I kind of doubt that when you print out your detailing schedule for your employees that can be trained in a couple of days, that any Porsche Carrera GT`s or Ferrari`s are on the list.



    But to each his own.

  4. #4

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    My tone was probably a little too surly when I wrote this. It was not my intention to knock people who do Exotics. Or to complain about the board. My intention is to offer a different perspective and add some new information, new ways of thinking. This forum is really great and I`ve learned a lot from it that is essential to my business.



    You`re right, I don`t do a lot of exotics. But you know what? I do a lot of Mercedes and BMW 5 and 7 series`s, Land Rovers, etc...



    And yeah, I can train a new guy in a couple of days. But it takes months to work out the kinks with someone and get them to where they are working efficiently. I have a low turn-over rate because hate training new people and finding out if they are any good or not. I had a lot of growing pains learning to run my business. But now I have an extremely low complaint rate, my detailers are very solid and I run a right ship. Its just that I`m always reading about people trying to one-up each other on here, doing more and more complex and delicate jobs. I just read about a guy who put 17 man hours into restoring holograms from the paint on a Corvette. He used strong soaps and alchohol to remove all polishes and oils from the paint to be EXTRA sure the holograms were out, he even taped up the whole thing to do the polishing. Thats really impressive, but so much stress. I`d rather send a few guys out to clean up some toddler-trashed mini-vans and then spend my time figuring out how to secure a $50,000 annual fleet account by charging less money and providing better quality than the compettition (and making more money)



    So I guess my alternative point of view is this:

    - Porsche Carrera GT`s and Ferrari`s are great. They are beautiful cars. Their owners are probably wealthy enough to pay well too. Also, it is prestigious to do this type of vehicle, and I think very fulfilling to so many people on here to work with such beautiful pieces of machinery. Thats really great to be doing a job that you love.

    - However with so much talk of these exotics, its easy to assume that this is the only way to go, the only version of detailing, the only way to satisfy the customer, the only way to run a respectable business. But you know what? Not very many people own exotics, the market is small. A lot of people have cars that a pretty too, but cost less, they want their cars to look good too, but they don`t want to pay someone to put 17 man hours into removing holograms from their clear coat when a $5 spray sealant and 15 minutes can conceal them for months and some kind of sealant or wax should be maintained on the vehicle at all times anyway. Or heck, put sometime into it, take an hour or two and compound it with some Meguiars, then seal it with some Bead Max or Zaino Z-2.



    And heck, the day I did 70 quick vacs, wipe downs, washes, and waxes for $30 a piece? Those cars looked great when I was done and I made $1000. Its no 17 man hour corvette detail, but it was definitely a good value for everyone involved.





















    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy
    Well, I wish you luck with this thread, but your premise is a bit like walking into a GMC dealer and complaining that all they have is trucks when you want to buy a car.



    This site is "heavily weighted towards a boutique brand of detailing" because that`s the kind of site it is. I kind of doubt that when you print out your detailing schedule for your employees that can be trained in a couple of days, that any Porsche Carrera GT`s or Ferrari`s are on the list.



    But to each his own.

  5. #5
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    The vast majority here care more about doing fantastic work than they do about making money. We do this because we`re passionate about cars and doing it right. I really could not imagine doing this kind of work your way...

  6. #6

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    Not the place for wholesale or production work.
    Detailing Technology - specialista vernice di correzione

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by DutrowLLC
    My tone was probably a little too surly when I wrote this. It was not my intention to knock people who do Exotics. Or to complain about the board. My intention is to offer a different perspective and add some new information, new ways of thinking. This forum is really great and I`ve learned a lot from it that is essential to my business.


    Hey, different strokes for different folks, right? This is an open forum and and if this becomes a good discussion topic, that`s great. You`re just sounding a little insecure about the way you make your living and you want some validation.



    However, as Holden noted, I can`t think of one member here who has made himself rich by detailing. Most members here have a passion for detailing, be they enthusiasts, weekend warriors, or pros, more than they have a passion for business.



    I don`t think anyone anyone here will begrudge your flavor of detailing or the way you make your living, but by the same token, don`t expect to convert everyone to your religion. Peace, brother.

  8. #8

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    DutrowLLC- I can see your point and IMO there are different levels of detailing, suitable to different types of clientele.



    Indeed, a lot of folks/companies just want the vehicle(s) to look better "after" than the do "before" and I don`t see a point in begrudging those customers what they want. IMO getting those vehicles ~perfect would be pointless as they`ll just get marred up again and before long you`d have to quit correcting the paint anyhow as you`d run out of clear. To some people cars are just appliances- and IMO there`s nothing wrong with that. And there`s nothing wrong with wanting an appliance to look decent.



    And there`s nothing wrong with wanting to make money at your chosen profession, which depends on giving your customers what they want at a price they`ll pay.



    There have been a few members here who have operated along the lines that you described, but it seems that they are no longer active here. Too bad IMO, as I`d like for Autopia to offer something to *anyone* involved in detailing at any level, not just those of us who strive for perfection.



    I can`t help but see a parallel to individual car owners who want advice along the lines of "clay and cleaner-wax" levels of involvement. I sure don`t want to just blow those folks off and tell `em it`s either concours-level or nothing.



    OTOH, A detail shop in my area started out doing what I considered shoddy, production-line work (their "afters" looked worse than any of my "befores"). I`ve noticed that these days they seem to be turning out some *very* nice jobs on some vehicles (at least they look a lot better than they used to when I drive by). It`s the same company, but they`re sure doing a different level of work on *some* of the vehicles they do. I would think this is the sort of thing that can evolve if the market warrants it, so I do think it pays to keep an open mind. What if you could do what you`re doing now, and also make money doing great work on a few cars for people who want the best? Guess I don`t see it as an either/or type of thing.

  9. #9

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    Keeps me in business...
    Click here to see what I`ve been working on, or here to see my YouTube page!

  10. #10

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    i dont feel that its the same level of work alot of us do here.



    i find it impossible that having a car washed, clayed, compounded, polished, sealed, vacced and QD on the interior can be done right in 3 hours.



    in my opinion its businesses like yours that give us enthusiasts and weekend warriors a hard time. they wont come to us and pay us the amount of money it takes to get the car done right, when they can go to you for significantly cheaper thinking they are getting the same level of work alot of us do.



    again its great that your making money off of this, but for alot of us it isnt about making money. its an addiction, its a passion.
    2002.5 mazda Protege5:heelclick

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Setec Astronomy

    I don`t think anyone anyone here will begrudge your flavor of detailing or the way you make your living, but by the same token, don`t expect to convert everyone to your religion. Peace, brother.


    I`m not motivated to convert anybody. However I would like to discuss this version of the business with people who are interested. In order to do the things I am talking about, there are a lot of problems to solve. And most of them do not have any answers readily available unlike the answers that are available to the question "How to do the best possible work"

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by NCZ13

    in my opinion its businesses like yours that give us enthusiasts and weekend warriors a hard time. they wont come to us and pay us the amount of money it takes to get the car done right, when they can go to you for significantly cheaper thinking they are getting the same level of work alot of us do.


    Yep, I agree.

  13. #13

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    This is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about. It is extremely challenging to figure out exactly what a customer`s needs are and provide a job that fits their needs. If you do too much, they are paying more than they are comfortable with. If don`t do enough, they are angry because you did a bad job. It was really hard for me to figure out how to handle this type of situation.



    This detail shop that did cheap work, but did it badly, I agree, that is bad business. You don`t want customers to walk away dissatisfied, you want customers to walk away feeling like they got a good deal, more than they bargained for.



    It is a whole different skill set to be able to do work that is inexpensive but still holds a lot of value. There is a challenge to striking that perfect balance between price and quality to produce optimal value. And that is a big challenge that people like me face.



    * Is there a way to do it almost as good but three times as fast?

    * Is there a product that works just as well but costs 1/4 as much?

    * etc...



    As far as the either/or of doing Premium Work vs. Inexpensive work. My top if the line detail is around $300, its a nice package. But I draw the line at heavy scratch removal with a rotary, removing wheels to do the inside, etc. because I`ve found that I make less money and spend more time on the really high end customers because there arebn`t many of them and they come with a whole different set of needs, a different business system. I like to keep things simple, it reduces my risk. And I`ve had to turn away almost 0 customers because they wanted more than what I was willing to do.





    Quote Originally Posted by Accumulator
    DutrowLLC- I can see your point and IMO there are different levels of detailing, suitable to different types of clientele.



    Indeed, a lot of folks/companies just want the vehicle(s) to look better "after" than the do "before" and I don`t see a point in begrudging those customers what they want. IMO getting those vehicles ~perfect would be pointless as they`ll just get marred up again and before long you`d have to quit correcting the paint anyhow as you`d run out of clear. To some people cars are just appliances- and IMO there`s nothing wrong with that. And there`s nothing wrong with wanting an appliance to look decent.



    And there`s nothing wrong with wanting to make money at your chosen profession, which depends on giving your customers what they want at a price they`ll pay.



    There have been a few members here who have operated along the lines that you described, but it seems that they are no longer active here. Too bad IMO, as I`d like for Autopia to offer something to *anyone* involved in detailing at any level, not just those of us who strive for perfection.



    I can`t help but see a parallel to individual car owners who want advice along the lines of "clay and cleaner-wax" levels of involvement. I sure don`t want to just blow those folks off and tell `em it`s either concours-level or nothing.



    OTOH, A detail shop in my area started out doing what I considered shoddy, production-line work (their "afters" looked worse than any of my "befores"). I`ve noticed that these days they seem to be turning out some *very* nice jobs on some vehicles (at least they look a lot better than they used to when I drive by). It`s the same company, but they`re sure doing a different level of work on *some* of the vehicles they do. I would think this is the sort of thing that can evolve if the market warrants it, so I do think it pays to keep an open mind. What if you could do what you`re doing now, and also make money doing great work on a few cars for people who want the best? Guess I don`t see it as an either/or type of thing.

  14. #14

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    I have a few questions. Do you run the business out of a shop or are you mobile? Whats the majority of the work, wash and waxes?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by NCZ13
    i dont feel that its the same level of work alot of us do here.



    i find it impossible that having a car washed, clayed, compounded, polished, sealed, vacced and QD on the interior can be done right in 3 hours.



    in my opinion its businesses like yours that give us enthusiasts and weekend warriors a hard time. they wont come to us and pay us the amount of money it takes to get the car done right, when they can go to you for significantly cheaper thinking they are getting the same level of work alot of us do.



    again its great that your making money off of this, but for alot of us it isnt about making money. its an addiction, its a passion.


    I totally agree, these are different services. I have a whole method of cummunicating to customers what they can expect from each service. If you mess this up, you`re screwed.



    And you`re right, you`ll lost some customers to people like me. Thats what competition is. But there is a reason why competative economies work and non-competative ones don`t. Because without innovation and adaption, there is no progress. People like me also open up the market to more customers. I take some customers who would rather pay less and get less, but if given the choice between all or nothing, will take all. But I also make customers out of people who want the cheaper stuff and if given a choice between all or nothing, would take nothing. I create options for people.



    I laughed the first time a car dealer asked me to detail a car for $120. Now I know how to do them for $85 and make a tidy profit.



    And the $30 details? This was a gift from the company to its employees. People who make average wages. Most of these people would never have the means to pay for a detail. But they got a great service for a great price all while they worked at their desks. And I agree that these high-end details are impressive feats. But what about getting 10 day laborers to do a good, fast, and efficient job on 70 vehicles their first day on the job? Is this not worth discussing?



    Though I think my impact on the retail end is exagerrated. I don`t drive to cusomer`s houses for cheap details. The cheapest full detail I do is $160 and I avoid scheduling those. I have an exterior only for $100. I HATE scheduling those. But when things get dry, they keep my guys busy and paid. My average cost for a detailing is $220.

 

 
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