By Mark Tentis, OPW

Businesses are not static; each one is like a living, breathing organism that is susceptible to the forces of change. While our typical view of the world and how it operates has undergone profound change over the past few months. A shifting landscape needs to be viewed from both short- and long-term perspectives, and nimble and forwarding thinking companies can identify and combat market upheavals to emerge healthier as communities begin to re-open and heavier traffic returns to the roads.

In preparing for the path to full re-opening of local businesses, new car wash operators should consider the following:

  • How will the local economic impact of COVID-19 affect your consumer base and their willingness to spend their disposable income?
  • Are any potential disruptions in the supply chain just around the corner, or have some already occurred—and what has been or could be their ultimate effect?
  • How have local distributors been affected, and will they have shipping or service delays in the months to come?

The answers to these questions will be different for every new car wash owner since each site is unique. The level and rate of change will differ depending on what part of the country, and in which part of a town, a new car wash is located. This will ultimately help determine the best course of action. Their operators must focus more directly on the status and health of their relationship with distributors and other channel partners.

And, because new washes are coming into a unique business landscape, it is also a good time to identify creative ways to bolster revenue, another area where distributors and industry connections can be of assistance.

Here are six ways that new car wash operators can fully leverage the distributor relationship to optimize their businesses:

  1. Perform Due Diligence: Research the market area in which you operate. Talk to the local Chamber of Commerce, for example, to see what they can tell you about the distributors in the area, including any significant successes they’ve had or, on the flip side, any complaints lodged against them. If feasible, reach out to other operators in the area and ask about their experiences with local distributors. Some may not be willing to talk, but those that do can offer invaluable insight. The end game is to identify a distributor with a strong reputation who can be your best ally as you work your way through the site selection, permitting, equipment selection and installation processes.
  2. Access Local Knowledge: This is especially true if you are operating in a new market. Distributors that know the area can provide important information regarding population demographics, travel patterns and other variables that must be considered when setting up a wash program. The distributor can also provide background on any competitors in the area and maybe even give you some tips on what has been successful or unsuccessful for them.
  3. Take Advantage of Product Expertise: The best distributors are the ones who know the systems that they sell and represent, inside and out. This knowledge can be indispensable when the operator is trying to decide, for instance, if the best car wash solution is soft-touch, touch-free or a system that combines both technologies, or the best type of entry system to deploy.
  4. Define the Bottom Line: Once the car wash is installed and ready for operation, the distributor can offer advice regarding pricing based on experience with other customers in the area. The distributor can also aid in recommending any ancillary profit centers or loyalty programs that can also contribute to the bottom line.
  5. Look Down the Road: A distributor that is familiar with any changes or enhancements in equipment technology can help keep the car wash operator’s wash offering on the cutting edge. This can include next-generation remote-access technologies that let the operator stay in touch with the wash and be aware of its operational and maintenance patterns. This technology can allow an operator to make instant adjustments to those patterns from anywhere in the world via computer or smartphone. Better, more efficient wash technologies can also reduce water, soap/detergent, polish and electricity usage, leading to streamlined operating costs that will result in a healthier bottom line and a more environmentally friendly wash operation.
  6. Plan for An Emergency: There is always a chance, especially as systems age, that an equipment breakdown will occur or some form of preventive maintenance will be required. To ensure that profit-absorbing downtime and repair or replacement costs are kept to the bare minimum, partner with a distributor that not only has a vast knowledge of the complete car wash system, but also employs a staff of expert technicians who are able to respond quickly and confidently to any equipment emergency.

The COVID-19 pandemic will leave many of us changed in ways both great and small. With that said, the foundation of a successful car wash business—whether new or existing—remains a rock-solid relationship with wash distributors. The ones who can reliably offer wash operators a complete package of services, from site and equipment selection to ancillary profit center advice and on-time maintenance service, will be the ones to rely on as we get back up to speed.


Mark Tentis is the vice president of global sales for OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions and can be reached at OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions consists of PDQ Manufacturing, Inc., a preeminent provider of in-bay automatic wash systems and payment terminals, and Belanger, a leader in soft-touch tunnel and in-bay automatic wash systems. A third member of OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions is Kesseltronics, a specialist in electronic car wash control systems. For more information visit