Sapere aude

We’ll get to the title, but first:


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


No, it’s not that random infill text you sometime get on half finished websites. It’s Latin. – Conjugate the verb, and all that.

I don’t speak Latin, but it’s a phrase used in a Terry Pratchett book, so it makes me feel smart trotting out the occasional phrase once every now and then, pretending I’m fluent in a dead language – which I’m not, per se…

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” means “who guards the guards”, and it’s relevant to this blog as there is often the question asked in detailing:

“who trains the trainers”.

It’s not an irrelevant question in an ungoverned industry either.  With so many companies out there offering their services it can be difficult to identify those who are able to pass on relevant, understandable and useful knowledge, against those who will just use you as free labour cleaning a customers car in the guise of “shadow learning”.

Who assesses out there then?

Well, in the UK, there are two independent trade bodies dedicated to the assessment and accreditation of detailers and valeters. The first is PVD – the Professional Valeters and Detailers Association – a UK Based not-for-profit whose aim is to promote higher standards and assured features such as insurance and customer service amongst its 300 odd members.

The other is the IDA – the International Detailing Association. These guys started in the states backed by some pretty well known names, and have since set up chapters in India, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Belgium and France, the UK and a few other countries, with the aim of standardising detailing around the world, and exchanging information and skills and promoting the industry.

As both trainers and professionals, we’re always on the lookout for ways to improve and expand our knowledge base – there’s no such thing as “finished” when learning to detail, as there’s development happening all the time. Unfortunately for us we couldn’t do the PVD exam, as we wrote and developed it  –  seemed a bit of a cheat really. However, when the opportunity arose to book a date with the IDA to be assessed and accredited, we signed up, completed our online CD (Certified Detailer) theory exams, and a few weeks later headed up to one of the few RTs (Registered Trainers) in the country at Gtechniq Works to complete our SV (Skills Validated) assessment with Adam. We covered chemical knowledge, exterior washing, interior care, product knowledge, machine polishing and general detailing knowledge in a two-hour-each, one-to-one asessment.

We passed!


The next step for us is to progress to RTs ourselves – we hope – in order to to help bring more people into the validated “fold”, and lift the industry up as a whole…


So why doesn’t everyone do this?


The detailing “community” – and by that, we mean a fairly small but vocal group – seem to have an issue with people assessing and passing judgment on their skills. We’ve read comments on various threads over the years ranging from “what gives them the right to assess me” (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, again) to “a badge won’t get me more customers…”

On the same page, sometimes even in the same thread, these self sames complain about there being no regulation in the industry, and about the bloke down the road charging a tenner for a full machine polish.

This seems a bit of a chicken and egg problem.



Some may not have the confidence for asessment – Imposter syndrome is rife in our industry, with experienced detailers and valeters sometimes not realising the value of the skills and knowledge they have acquired over time; to those we would say – try! You’ll either pass, and have your well earned confidence boosted, or you won’t and you’ll find advice on ways you can improve your own business! There’s no shame in failing whilst learning, and if you do learn from it and come out better the other side thats a win for you, your customers, and the industry as a whole! The only people who will know you fail are the assessor and yourself, and frankly if you’ve been doing the job long enough, your only struggle will likely be thinking in more basic terms again.

As for those who think they are “too accomplished” for assessment: Perhaps, if everyone swallowed their pride slightly and supported the organisations who are trying to improve standards across the board, maybe the recognition of these badges would improve and they would gain more custom and work as a result. Maybe it would gain them cheaper insurance due to their professional approach, or maybe it would serve to improve their efficiency by adapting to new techniques, and ultimately earn more money.

For example; If out of 5 detailers called by a new customer, 4 are similar priced and IDA/PVD members, and 1 is a cheap “non union” cowboy, then it’s likely the customer will call an approved guy to fix any issues they get as a result of going cheap the first time…

There is a saying in the hospitality industry – which I was a part of for some years prior to changing career paths – which says

“Every satisfied customer will tell 3 people, every dissatisfied customer will tell ten”.

If that dissatisfied customer then warns ten people off the unapproved and uninsured hack, tells them who they went to to fix it, and for their friends to look out for X badge they hold in future, that brings new understanding to a small section of the public. They then tell 3 friends too, and from there, if this happens to hundreds of professionals, it snowballs and maybe, just maybe, things will just click in public perception, and these organisations can start to act as the grit guard in the detailing industry bucket, with the chaff trapped at the bottom whilst the approved float happily in the suds…


Sapere aude.

– you can look that one up actually, it’s good advice to live by.

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