The History of the Aircraft Wash Guys, Part Three

As we study this grass roots history of a franchise company in the making we see how opportunity in the market grows companies and how entrepreneurial thinkers take advantage of those opportunities to deliver goods and services, which match the desires of the market place. In this review of the history of the aircraft wash guys we see the company diversifying and finding other niches to serve, some of which were actually better than the original plan. This is very common and typical of entrepreneurial from the ground up companies, yet all to often government regulators and rules fail to see how real companies come to be. This study shows similarities to many of the humble beginnings. If you look at Walt Disney who started in a shed behind the studio or Apple’s jobs in the garage or even Bill Gates and his car counting machine you can see how things grow and build and entrepreneurs find and exploit niches. Now back to our story of the History of the Aircraft Wash Guys Part III:

Mr. Winslow decided after all the research that it was time to go for it; time to launch the franchise company on his own without any venture capital. He planned to build the business the way we had always done it, out of gross receipts. He kept building the business washing cars and aircraft and renamed it The Car Wash Guys. He built up car wash guys to 35 units serving 43 cities using independent contractors. In 1996 he decided to become an actual franchise company, forming Car Wash Guys International, Inc. He could now better control consistency, color schemes and service quality, driving on the comments of Ray Kroc in his book “Grinding it Out”.

Coming from aviation into automotive services he tended to run our business strictly by the book. In aviation things are more critical than in the automotive sector, but he believed that being overly concerned with the little details would actually be a good thing and advantage over the competition when dealing with cars. During the “.Com” craze he changed the name to WashGuy.com and added web sites for the different brand names. Of course Aircraft Wash Guys has always been the favorite of Mr. Winslow since this is where he started out some 27 years ago. After the successes and hardships of the learning all the other different market segments for Team Wash Guys, it was wonderful to offer Aircraft Wash Guys as a completely separate Franchise Module to those people involved in aviation who would like to own their own business.

Wash Guys wash cars, trucks, boats, concrete and many other things and as you are probably aware, aircraft washing requires different training, soaps, equipment and wastewater recovery for environmental reasons. The FAA will with hold monies for aircraft improvements if airports are not following strict environmental laws. It is for this reason Mr. Winslow has been so proactive in helping the team with environmental compliance and giving his expertise to government agencies who are developing BMPs for the Aviation Industry.

In 1997 Lance Winslow met and hired Arthur Dickey the originator of Tidy Plane to work in product development. Trying to better a product called Dry Wash, using kerosene as the active ingredient. Tidy car tried to market Tidy Plane, but that didn’t work to well without Arthur’s devotion. Arthur helped the company design labels and with the help of his chemist design better products which were safe for the aviation cleaning industry working actually out of Lance’s garage. Arthur was one of the original Tidy Car Franchisees, his dad once owned a small airline in Los Angeles, which flew jets and later had one of the top performing Mail Boxes Etc. franchises. Tidy Car made Arthur stop his Tidy Plan Concept, through a franchise agreement clause feeling it did not work with their brand name. A decade Later Tidy Car sold that brand name to Ziebart. Arthur’s brother operated the Tidy Car Franchise after that and did lots of aircraft washing for jet customers in Florida. Arthur was hired away from the founder’s of the Paxton Super Charger, and the Paxton Racing Team after he had developed their super wax brand to sell in Wal-Mart and Pep Boys, after Arthur left the brand never did reach it’s full potential. Arthur with all this knowledge made it easy for us to comply with all the MSDS requirements. Arthur after developing the companies product line moved on to explore other opportunities and continued his passion with the Dry Washing Concept and with a friend convinced Fed Ex to use it exclusively in many markets and he set up with some associates a network of operators using his new blend.

In 2000 Mr. Winslow gave a notice to all Car Wash Guys stating it was forbidden for them to wash planes due to potential negative PR in newspapers if they polluted, plus the insurance requirements and equipment was not right in case of damage and the UFOC for Car Wash Guys did not cover these issues and those independent contractor contracts were10 years old. This was a major dilemma. So the team got together to make a set of training videos, upgrade equipment so that the team could keep the aviation customers and comply with the laws. Several of the franchisees with Car Wash Guys complied and kept washing Aircraft. It was determined that the market in aviation was not being satisfied so we have expanded into a full-blown franchise system. It was noticed that FBOs, Flying Schools and especially the fractional jet market was really taking off. This allowed the Car Wash Guys to sign Aircraft Wash Guys agreements or in some cases where they bought specialized equipment made verbal agreements for them to continue.

Then as we started get going the FTC hurt many of our franchisees by attacking Car Wash Guys and then the other terrorists of 9-11 just about put the death blow in General Aviation, but aviation people are tough as they come and today the market sector is rebounding. Lance often wondered who was worse the government terrorist regulator lawyers or the actual Osama Bin Laden and company?

Mr. Winslow has always been passionate about flying and aviation. His Father was a decorated naval Aviator flying in the Puerto Rico Squadron F-8s during Cuban Missile Crisis, 250 combat missions in an A-4, later CO of a Naval Squadron (A-7 Corsair II), later Captain in the Navy, later and Airline Pilot (737, 727, DC-10, 747, 777, 757), then after retirement, currently fly’s a Gulfstream Corporate Aircraft. Mr. Winslow’s dad wishes he could be flying F-18s in the Sand Box right now. Mr. Winslow’s Grandfather was head of FAA in Fresno International Airport and flew in a B-24, while his step grandfather flew a B-17 Flying Fortress) and his other grandfather built the first laser ring gyro now used as a guidance system throughout the aviation, marine and space industries. It is in my blood. Lance Winslow’s brother is a Pilot in Command for a C-130 in the US Marines stationed out of Miramar.

Today the Aircraft Wash Guys team has washed for Millionaire Aviation, Executive Jet, etc. And companies like Raytheon, Cessna and others. They have washed jets in Little Rock Arkansas, Scottsdale AZ Airpark, Colorado Springs CO, Bozeman MT, Columbus OH, Van Nuys CA, Palm Springs CA and many other airports across the country. The goals today include having 35 Aircraft Wash Guys in 2007 and 50 by 2009 and 100 by 2011. Ambitious, Big time, and can they do it? Well they think its possible, time will tell. They do have some competition in the Industry like any business, not much, but they plan on doing whatever it takes to be and stay leading edge.

If you study any service franchise in the United States or in the aviation sector any great company you will see they all came from the most humble beginnings, made mistakes along the way; had to battle with government regulators and competitors and press on to succeed. Of all the great names in aviation hanging up in the wall in museums across the country such as the Wichita Aviation Musuem, Wright Patterson Aviation Museum or even the Smithsonian you see the diehards that make this industry and this country great. Recently Burt Rutan made such a comment to Congress during his testimony on the birth of the private space industry. America is great but we must get out there and take a few risks if we want to stay on top.

A Car Buying Story – Part Four – The Dealers

You know, while researching the cars, I read a lot about dealing with car dealers. People generally have a negative attitude towards them and the whole car buying experience, and you can find tons of information on how to avoid their scams, how to lower the price, how to negotiate with them, what to tell them, etc, etc. An excellent website to inform yourself on all aspects of car buying is Car Buying Tips: (http://www.carbuyingtips.com/). Now with all the great info and details I learned from various sources, I still thought that generally the prevailing attitude is not realistic. I mean, you almost get a feeling that if you pay anything more than a factory price, you made a bad deal. You can certainly succeed in lowering the price apparently to a large extent, but it is the fact that the dealers have to make money too. Ok, sometimes just selling the car, e.g. to meet their projected numbers, is beneficial to them, and they might give away even the whole of their profit for that sake. But come on, I can consider such situation just a crazy luck, not my goal! Anyway, I think that the current craze about “beating” those prices down to the floor is just as unrealistic and aggressive as the dealer’s craze to take as much money from you as possible.

However, after this buying experience, I lost pretty much any respect and sympathy for the dealers. And I will always advise anyone never to become one. Of course some of them were great examples of normal and pleasant behaviour, but unfortunately I must say that most of them have taken the activity of deceit and aggressiveness to such extent that for an honest and well meaning man the idea of going to a dealership must be repugnant. I very quickly got such a strong feeling of insecurity about everything I was told by them. I think everything was a lie, smaller or bigger. A lot of what I’ve heard I don’t believe, and none of it I trust.

Here are some of the examples, more or less funny, from my recent experience:

Systematic approach

I enter a dealership, with the intention of exploring a car that really caught my attention simply by offering all of the basic features I wanted. So I wanted to see it, test drive it, and ask a couple of questions. So I ask the dealer: “I’ve read that the crash test scores for this model are not that good, most are graded 3 out of 5. Now, I know that there are different tests, and you can’t judge simply by the grade. Do you know more details about those tests and the scores? What is tested exactly, and how did they score the cars?”

The answer was: “Yes, yes I know, the scores are not the best possible. I know. But you know — what do they mean really? (And I’m thinking — yes, that is exactly what I asked) You see, a grade of 3 is really not that bad. It’s almost like 4. What is the difference? Almost nothing let me tell you. And also, all of that means something only in most severe crashes!!”

Well, no kidding!! What a thorough explanation. Now I understand and my worries are gone. And what a relief. So, if a car is simply parked on a lot, I shouldn’t worry that it will suddenly open the hood and hit me right in the face!

Bonding

A question occurred to me about a car, and I decided to drop by a dealership to ask. My visit was about 10 minutes long — of course we exchanged numbers, I got the brochure and usual stuff. Tomorrow morning, my cell phone rings, I answer and I get this:

– “Hey Michael, Jord here from the dealership.” – “Hey Jord, how are you, what’s up?” (I thought he might have just gotten some good used car) – “Nothing, nothing…just wanted to see how are you.”

Huh… If this doesn’t sound as a start of a beautiful friendship I don’t know what does!

Then he goes on: – “So have you made a decision on which car you want?” – “No, not really, not yet. I told you I’ll need some time, and I’m not rushing really.” – “Ok, tell me, what’s blocking it? Can I help?”

Man, of course you can! Go do something else instead of asking me questions…

Landing on all four whatever happens

I wasn’t sure about a size of a trunk of one of the models, so on my visit to the dealerships I brought couple of boxes and a cart that I use often to see how they fit into the trunk. Now this was one of the smaller cars, so I wasn’t sure about the trunk size. And I tell the dealer what I’d like to do and he says no problem. So I take out the stuff and he laughs:

– “C’mooon, how can you doubt it — that will fit without a problem. Don’t worry!!” – “Wait, wait, let me try, I know what I’m talking about.”

And then I try, and he tries, but it doesn’t go so easy — the cart is a bit long and the boxes a bit high. Separately they go in no problem, but together, not that easy. Finally, he laughs again and remarks:

– “And you really thought ALL OF THAT will fit into this trunk??!!”

Wha…??

Get all the money you can

I receive a long talk describing how I should buy the replacement insurance. And the more expensive one (“better” in the jargon), which covers you for a longer time and gives you the value of the new car, rather the amount that you paid. Ok, that is a fine product. Now I also get a long description on how I should absolutely buy a VIN engraving package where they engrave the VIN on all windshields so that the thieves are less likely to steal it (they can’t sell the windshields for parts). It’s about $300. Well, I gave both of these things a good thought, but tomorrow I realized a simple thing: Why do I need two protections? If I get the replacement insurance, and if they are going to give me a new car if mine is stolen, why would I then protect it even more?? Damn, I should also probably buy two cars in case one is stolen after all.

And on top of that, I found on the internet that the engraving kit, very simple to use and apply, can be bought for mere $20.

Get all the money you can — again

This one is well-known, and usually titled as a “dealer scam”, but I decided I put it here anyways just as another example.

So I finally decide to buy the car and I arrive to the dealership at around 6:00pm. I expect the process to last about an hour. However, little thing here and there and I end up at the dealership for four hours. I think ok, nobody’s fault, there are simply a lot of things to do and a lot of people to involve — the dealer, finance guy, insurance girl, then the finance guy again, then the manager because there was an error, etc. So, I get the contract with all the figures there, and everything looks fine: all the figures match almost perfectly to mine that I calculated before. Except one thing — $900 of loan life insurance. So I ask:

– “Why is it there? Is that mandatory?” – “Well, we made such an application to Company’s Finance.” – “Ok, but is it mandatory?” – “We could reapply and see what happens — if you have life insurance elsewhere.”

Now, you see, I am not too easy to confuse, but it was late and I didn’t want to repeat the whole process again, so I’m thinking: “Ok, I’m going to think about it tomorrow.” And I let it by. Now good thing was that I had the contract with me (I had to take it home for my wife to sign), so I wasn’t too worried.

Anyhow, in the morning I realize that not only it is not mandatory to have the insurance and that I definitely do not need life insurance elsewhere, but another application without it will certainly go through. And, at that point I sincerely doubted that they need to make another application at all. So I get really angry and I go there and I get the exact same answer again. So I say:

– “Let’s apply again; I am sure the application will go trough. I simply don’t want it and I never wanted it and I never asked for it. And if it doesn’t we’ll see then what we do.”

And she does the paperwork, and seeing me irritated, remarks: “Don’t worry I’m sure it will go trough.” Of course it will — and it does.

Get on customer’s side — even if you overdo it

One of the dealers was affirming every little thing I said. It got funny and a bit annoying:

He thought that the features I wanted are absolutely the only important features in the car.

He was also in computer business just a few years ago.

The funniest was when we discussed payment options. He told me that leasing is a better option if I want to change the car every couple of years. So I say:

– “You know, I am more the other type of buyer, at least so far. I drive one car for years before I buy a new one, so I probably won’t go with the lease.” – “I understand, I completely understand. You know, the worst part of the auto business for me is that you simply have to change the car every 1-2 years. I hate that. If I wasn’t selling cars, I would do the same as you.”

Well, this really made me feel like home. C’mon guys, we just met and will probably never see each other again; don’t do these things.

Advertise what you have

This one was not really on the negative side, it was just funny. I went to Subaru and dealers there were actually very cool. They were very cooperative, and without the aggressive edge. And they never called me to push or ask whether I’ve made a decision. They also have a great program where you can take the car for 24hr test drive. I had really a good experience with them.

Anyhow, I told this dealer that I know that their cars use specific technology in their engine that is different from all other cars, and that repairs can be expensive. And he says:

– “Yeah, it’s so called Boxer engine where pistons are opposed horizontally instead of vertically. But we are not the only ones to use it… Porsche uses it — you know Porsche Boxster. … And some smaller planes.”

Well, that much for the affordable repairs…

Then he also added that it’s an old technology that has been well perfected so far and that I shouldn’t worry really, which was a bit more reassuring.

Always fish for customer’s weak spots — even in the dark Honda was giving rebate and they advertised it everywhere: that was very important sales pitch. Now I come to a dealership, and one of the first things the guy tells me is: “You know, I’ll tell you one thing: we will give you a good rebate, and it’s Honda’s rebate but most of the dealers won’t even mention it.”

He made it as if he is letting me know a secret, and not only that it isn’t, but it’s all over radio, their website, everywhere. But I might have been uninformed and careless and would think that I’m getting a special deal.

Lie like there’s no tomorrow and hope you don’t get caught

I was quite close to buying a car so I called some dealerships inquiring whether they have a certain model and the color on the lot. I told them I don’t want the car to be brought from some other dealership. I want to see the car and get the one I saw. This is because I don’t want to get into whole new set of issues and questions. For example, one dealer told me that they charge extra delivery fee if they bring the car from other dealership, which is by the way ridiculous and perhaps deserves story on its own. It can also happen that the car that arrives is different in some detail than what you wanted, and you already signed the papers. Etc.

So I made sure they know what I want, and then came to one of the dealerships. We chat a bit and then I say:

– “So let me see the car.” – “Oh, I was afraid you were gonna ask me that. I really don’t know exactly where the car is.”

I laugh: “But I told you I want to see the car before I buy it.”

– “Oh, don’t worry — it’s here, I’m just not sure where.” – “Ok, I’ll go outside and look for it.” – “But our lots are really big.” – “I don’t mind, I have the time.” – “But they are not really all here — we have two lots a few blocks away.”

I just don’t like arguing that much — in cases like these I give up and simply walk away.

A good guy

The positive highlight was a young dealer for which I could quickly tell that he is not (yet) turned his abilities into a deceitful routine — he even gets confused a bit when I ask him a stupid question. To me that is the normal reaction. And when I asked him what he drives, he said: “an old Volvo, you know it’s a really good car.” I am really sorry that cars he was selling were not suitable for me — I would have been very happy to buy one from him. And I didn’t even feel like negotiating with him at all.

Buying a Used Car Part Wisely!

Each time you want to buy a used car part, insist on a great deal. Don’t think you will count on luck though – no way. There are a few things you need to do for making sure you don’t end up with a bitter deal.

Spend a little time now to save you serious money in the future. Make sure to check on Consumer Reports on the safest car parts out there. Appearance is one thing, but safety takes the priority.

Use a credible car yard shop and find out if you can bring the car for on-site fitting. Ask what cars they normally repair most frequently. Get details about the scope of inspection and, how long it takes, including the price. Have this information written as a precaution.

After car part inspection, get a written report with all costs involved for repairs. Also the vehicle’s make, model and VIN must be mentioned in the report. Read through every single small print and where in doubt seek for clarification. Your final offer should be based on the estimates if you ever decide to bargain for the car.

Why you should not buy used part from an individual?

Individuals or private sellers are not covered by the Used Car Rule. They also do not have to use the Buyers Guide. But, you can rely on the Guide’s list of an auto’s major systems to do your shopping. Do not be enticed by the outside look of the used car part, instead depend on the inspection by an approved mechanic.

A private sale is likely to be on an as is basis, the only exception is when your purchase agreement with the seller states otherwise. If a written contract exists, the seller has to live up to their full responsibility. Consider the manufacturer’s warranty or any other purchase contracts. The issue is whether these warranty and service contracts are transferable or not. Prior to the car part purchase, enquire if it’s still under warranty or service contract.

FTC Used Car Rule – Part 2

IF YOU CONDUCT A USED CAR TRANSACTION IN SPANISH, you must post a Spanish language Buyers Guide on the vehicle before you display it for sale.

The Buyers Guide has two versions: One says “As Is – No Warranty;” the other says “Implied Warranties Only.”

As Is – No Warranty. If state law allows it, and you choose not to offer a warranty – written or implied – you must use the “Implied Warranties Only” version.

Warranty. If you offer the vehicle with an express warranty, you must check the box next to the heading “Warranty” and complete that section of the Guide. Warranties required by state law must be disclosed in this section. Contact your state Attorney General about state warranty requirements. In some states, use of the As Is – No Warranty Buyers Guide may be legally sufficient to eliminate implied warranties. To determine exactly which version of the Buyers Guide you should use, contact the FTC or your state Attorney General.

You MUST list the percentage of repair costs are covered by the warranty and if a deductible will be charged. You must list the systems that are covered and the length of the warranty for each system. The Rule prohibits the use of shorthand phrases such as “drive train” or “power train” because these phrases are not specifically clear which components are actually included.

If the manufacturers warranty has not expired, check the “Warranty ” box and in the “systems covered/duration” section write: “MANUFACTURERS WARRANTY STILL APPLIES. The disclosure must be stated in this exact language. Using phrases such as “balance of factory warranty” is not sufficient.

You must give the buyer the original copy of the vehicle’s Buyers Guide at the close of the sale. The guide must reflect all final changes. The buyer must sign that they have received a copy of the Buyers Guide with all changes reflected.

Two publications are available to help you comply with these and other federal regulations: A Businessperson’s Guide to Federal Warranty Law and A Legal Supplement to Federal Warranty Law. Both are available from the FTC. Call toll-free 877-FTC-HELP, or write: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.