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Royal Car Wash - Rochester, NY

Royal Car Wash - Rochester, NY

One of the first indications that this business is different from other car washes arises when co-owner and co-founder Anthony Daniele talks about the guests who come to Royal Car Wash, based in Rochester, NY.

Guests? At a drive-thru car wash?

“Yes, absolutely, we want people who use our car washes to feel like they’re our guests,” explains Anthony. “Our family has worked together on a lot of businesses, and we’ve always been in customer-centric areas like retail, restaurants and marinas. Now, we’re applying hospitality-industry hallmarks to the car-wash business.”

It’s one of several competitive differentiators that the Daniele family has integrated into Royal Car Wash—and with six locations up and running and a seventh slated for early 2019, they’re clearly doing something right. Here are essential small-business success lessons that Anthony and his family have learned and that other businesses can apply, too.

Set the business apart by focusing on a single, core service

An important way in which Royal Car Wash is different than many competitors is its focus on offering a single service—car washes.

“There are other car-wash businesses that have done really well expanding their services, offering things like oil changes and convenience stores and gas. And that’s great, when customers want those things. But sometimes, all the extras are just upselling,” says Anthony. “Sometimes, you just want a car wash and when you do, you should go to the place that’s going to give you stellar products and service.”

The first Royal Car Wash location opened in 2009. At that time, the Daniele family didn’t have direct experience in the industry but, as Anthony puts it, “We’ve been in the restaurant business for years, and explained to potential lenders that putting a car on a conveyor for a wash wasn’t that different from putting dishes on a dishwashing conveyor to get them clean. Happily, they understood the correlation!”

Make the experience the best it can be

Anthony explains the family’s focus on service, saying “We knew we could improve the guest experience by cutting out excess. In our case, it means that when you come to our car wash, you drive up to a self-service machine and choose the level of wash you want. There’s never any pressure to upgrade.”

He continues, “Your car comes out 99.9% clean and 99.8% dry already, so you don’t have to worry about stopping, waiting for service and tipping the employees who towel off your car. You’re in and out in about two minutes. There are free vacuums available for guests to do interior cleaning, if they’d like. And we ensure that the staff have our core values and hospitality-minded focus at heart, so that when guests do interact, the outstanding experience continues.”

These are simple things that have made a tremendous difference.

Find the right financing—and the right lenders

Every Royal Car Wash is built from scratch on properties that the Danieles identify through criteria they’ve developed over the years. When they opened the first Royal Car Wash in the Rochester area, they worked with the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency for the funding they needed.

As expansion continued and moved further into Western New York, the Danieles’ bank, Canandaigua National, introduced them to New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC). In partnership with their bank and NYDBC, the Danieles obtained an SBA 504 loan, which enabled them to acquire property and build their first Buffalo Niagara locations.

“We’ve had success with SBA-backed loans in the past, so the opportunity to work with our bank and NYBDC on our most recent expansions was great. NYBDC made the process as easy as it could be, too,” says Anthony, adding that having previous experience with SBA loan applications was also advantageous.

He offers this insight, “Lenders have a lot at stake and they want to see that you’ve got clarity about your business. Spend time reviewing the documents they require and look into the additional services they offer. They have a lot of resources available to help. Prepare sound financials, show you’ve done your competitive research and have clear, attainable goals. That makes the process easier for all.”

Outstanding products and services are the best marketing tools

“While we do some typical online marketing, like a website and social media, our service is very location-driven, and our best marketing tools are our buildings and grounds and the way they’re tended, and, of course, the beautiful cars that come out of our washes,” says Anthony. “When potential customers see all that, then the next time they want a wash, they’ll remember us and find us.”

Acknowledge challenges and work to overcome them

While the Danieles have done a lot to build a successful business with Royal Car Wash, it hasn’t been without its challenges.

“Staffing and human-resource issues are always our biggest challenges,” Anthony says. “We reward great work and hold our employees to a high standard. Given that, not everyone’s the right fit for us, and we’re not the right employer for some. As long as we have great people in key roles, though, we know that we’ll always find other excellent people for our team.”

Be optimistic, but realistic

With several successful small business lines within their family, the Danieles have a wealth of insight.

Anthony offers a simple-yet-powerful tip for small business owners to help them get closer to success, saying, “Once you’ve got your business plan and financials together, reconsider them at 60% of the revenue coming in.”

“Small business owners tend to be optimistic early on, and that’s great. But if things don’t go as you plan and you only bring in 60% of the revenue you project, will it still be a viable business? If not, consider whether it’s still worth it or if you can make it viable with some adjustments. If you can do that, then at least you know that while you’re still new and learning, you won’t struggle as much as most small businesses.”

He adds, “Keep aiming for 100%, though!”

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