Original article: SBTDC Publication
John Hunter has been a Marine for more than twenty years, but now he also proudly claims ownership of the Green Clean Auto Spa. While studying construction at Auburn, he drove through a car wash and was suddenly struck by the technology and robotics, and how few employees were necessary. He was hooked and set out to learn everything he could. He traveled to Las Vegas for the car wash show and attended a car wash management course. Finally, in 2013 he called the SBTDC and made plans to make the dream a reality. John Hunter is a self-proclaimed doer. “You can’t just wish and hope things happen, you have to position yourself to make it happen.” And he has certainly made things happen.
SECOND IS THE BEST
No one in the Jacksonville area had a car wash like this, and John was determined to be the first. Before leaving for Afghanistan for a deployment, he started talking to a car wash services vendor out of Georgia about his plans and brought him to North Carolina to survey the area, but at some point during his tour, John lost touch with him. When he returned home from deployment, he found a sign reading “Car Wash Coming Soon” on the very piece of land he was working on with the vendor. He had been cut out by the vendor who brought in another investor. He was backstabbed and crushed, and came close to giving up. Instead, he rose to the challenge and purchased a run down car wash just down the street from his now competitors. He operated that car wash while working with the SBTDC to come up with the funding for the renovation. Applying for a bank loan took over a year and his first attempt was denied. The bank was not very familiar with the process and when they learned about the other car wash opening, they turned him down. His persistence continued and he started over with a new lender—a preferred lender of the SBA. “With the first bank it felt like they just wanted to watch me jump through hoops, but with the new bank it was smooth sailing.”
JUST LIKE LEGOS
John sat down with his SBTDC counselor to crunch some numbers. He was ready to build a brand new facility, but his counselor pushed instead for a retrofit. John eventually purchased a building from the city of Charlotte and describes putting it together like blocks of Legos. He expanded the existing building from 53 feet to 81 feet, saving tens of thousands of dollars. “I didn’t want to hear it when Robin said I needed to find an existing site, but it was smart. If I had been stubborn and built something new, I wouldn’t be here.
Within a few months, they opened for business and John admits to being nervous those first few days. He remembers thinking it would be one of those “if you build it, they will come” situations, but it was not. When they first opened up, they would only get a few cars and a full staff on payroll. But, within several months they were in the black. Now, a year later, they are number one on Yelp, Facebook and Google. He plans to open more in the future. His plans are aggressive and the competition is fierce, but that is what he loves about it – not having a huge budget but still being able to out think the competition. As a full-time Marine, John necessarily spends much of his time away from his budding business, but he is confident in his employees. “If you give people the tools for success, then they’ll make it happen. You just have to educate them and empower them.”
HOW THEY’RE HEROES
John is an avid believer in community involvement and believes whole-heartedly that the community is the reason for his success. The Auto Spa runs a fundraising promotion for non-profits, as well as organizations like school sports teams. During the promotion, non-profits receive 50% of the profits of each wash and other organizations earn 25%. So far, they have helped Active Hero, an organization helping veterans with PTSD, Ainsleys Angels, Carobell Inc. and many others.
I wanted to reach out and express my thoughts about my experience with Howco, specifically your Service Department. I’ve been in the car wash business for over ten years in the New York/Long Island area. I’ve owned and operated 7 car washes. I’ve sold my operations in New York, and purchased my first wash in Pennsylvania and decided to move my operations back to the Philadelphia area. The location I purchased, Velo Wash in the Andorra shopping center, was in complete disrepair and I planned on a complete gut renovation of the tunnel. I was fortunate enough to be referred to Rick Leroy, by Kevin Mast, my longtime chemical provider and friend. Rick, and your planning team, put together a concise and professional plan like I have not seen from other equipment providers. We were ready to go, and unfortunately, due to unforeseen landlord circumstances, we had to delay our renovation. Rick then brought in Brian and your service team.
I didn’t think that there was any way we could possibly get up and running with the condition the equipment and tunnel were in. However, Brian came up with a plan after his assessment and got to work. We ordered some parts and Brian came with Nate and got started. Over the course of four to five weeks, Brian, Nate, and Jon got my tunnel up and running. I’m happy to say that we are putting out very clean cars, and hopefully will be able to run this old raggedy equipment until I get the OK from my landlord to do our full renovation.
I’ve dealt with many car wash equipment sales teams and many car wash repair companies over my years of experience. I can honestly say that I have never dealt with a team like what you have put together at Howco. I count Rick as a friend at this point, and he is one of the most honest, understanding, and patient people I’ve dealt with in the industry. This may sound crazy, but I look forward to writing Howco a very large check for my equipment and install, and handing it to Rick when my landlord gives me the OK.
Regarding your service team: I HAVE NEVER SEEN A MORE COMPETENT, THOROUGH, HONEST, KNOWLEDGABLE, AND HARD WORKING GROUP OF PEOPLE IN THE CAR WASH INDUSTRY. I don’t know what else I can say. Brian, Nate, and Jon are nothing short of amazing to work with. They have continually gone above and beyond my expectations. There is nothing I’ve thrown at them that they can’t accomplish. I have complete trust in them and plan on purchasing a service contract as soon as my new equipment is installed. I also recently signed an agreement of sale to purchase another location in South Jersey, and I’ve already told Brian that I will be using him for service there. I’ve had the most experience with Brian, and I’m thrilled to have him as a part of my team.
I look forward to a long relationship with Howco and your entire team. All of the people I mentioned are an asset to your company. Thank you for the people you have on your team at Howco, and for running the business the way you do. Please feel free to share this with all of those mentioned in this email.
It's been a wonderful experience working with Howco. Our tunnel addition has been smooth and painless, and I would absolutely work with Howco again.
Howco held our hands and helped guide us through a rough period. I remembered how knowledgeable and patient they were when we were a fledgling operation, so when it came time to renovate, I called them. Howco is a "class A" operation. They are honest and reliable, the equipment is excellent, and we'll use them again for our next wash.
I'm very happy with the results. I knew of the company's reputation and experience, and Howco helped me make the right decisions about every aspect of the remodel. Everyone at Howco was knowledgeable, ethical, and very helpful, and I'd recommend them to anyone.
We used Howco to develop our first car wash eight years ago; we used them for this beautiful new wash conversion; and we'll use them for our next one. We are excited about the quality of the car wash equipment and our relationship with Howco. They did an outstanding job, and our business is growing every month.
I started researching car wash builders, equipment, technology, chemicals, and service...and Howco and Hanna equipment kept showing up prominently in our due diligence process. I can't say enough about the service and attention to detail provided by Howco. They went above and beyond the call of duty, and we've got a beautiful, brand new car wash that is growing weekly businesswise.
Your representatives went out of their way to ensure that I was quickly taken care of so that I didn't lose any more business. They drove from Charlotte, NC, to our location in Powell, TN, and worked past 8:00 the first evening and were back first thing the next morning to finish. I appreciate the help and support of your organization, and thank you for the high level of customer service. When I purchase car wash machinery in the future, it will be from Howco, Inc.
I wanted to let you know how satisfied I've been with Howco's installation of my new wash. Frank Donaldson, Steven Poarch, JR, Danny McRorie, and David Bergstrom have been extremely diligent in working with all the components. Your team has been an invaluable resource in making this project a reality. I look forward to continuing to work with them on this wash and hopefully others in the future.
Howco's mission statement and principles come through loud and clear with tangible results. I had a problem for over a year that the manufacturer could not resolve. Thanks to the efforts of David Wallace, Frank Donaldson and Steven Poarch, the problem was brought to a successful conclusion. I appreciate all the things Howco has done for me and will promote your company at every opportunity.