How sustainable is your business?
At the Academy, our whole raison d’etre (that’s French for “reason to be”, not a breakfast pastry…) is to help our students to build sustainable businesses from the start. That isn’t just from an ecological or economical point of view as some might assume, but rather a completely holistic foundation that can then be broadened as experience and business grows.
We haven’t sufficient space here to look deeply into each facet, so let’s go for an overview of some distinct points:
Referring back to a previous blog, any sustainable business needs to make sure that it is charging enough. we have lost count of the number of times we’ve been asked “how much should I be charging” and the answer is always “as much as you need to”! Your first task when setting, or revising, your pricing structure must be to calculate your own costs – both fixed and variable – add in a percentage for profit margin to give you a figure that can then be divided down into a weekly/ daily/ hourly rate. Then, and only then, should you turn your eyes outwards and maybe adjust slightly to take account for market research.
The other thing to keep in mind is also the subject of the recent blog about working for free. If you want your business to succeed, you need to ensure that you are working to your clients’ requirements – not to fulfil your own personal vanity. After all, TIME IS MONEY!
One simple exercise that we ask all Level 1 Students to do is to identify their ideal customer. Of course, it is different for everybody and the key is to find that theoretical person that you would like to carry out your services for and then try to build up a picture of them and what their interests might be. Think about the area they live in because that will help you to pinpoint the Geography of your marketing.
Finding the peripheral interests of your potential clientele is key. To pick key hobbies such as “Detailing” or “Car Care Products” will most often end up with you showing off to other Detailers rather than targeting customers; and as much as a bit of verification from other professionals is great, it is not generally possible to pay your mortgage with “likes” and ❤️’s.
Health & Safety
Yes, yes. I know… But it would be remiss not to include it in an article about sustainability. We have certain legal obligations as business owners, but to summarise the Health & Safety at Work (etc) Act, we all have a Duty of Care to ensure the Health, Safety and Welfare of our clients, workmates, employees, sub-contractors, members of the public AND OURSELVES!
This topic in particular could warrant a post all of its own – and maybe it will – but for now ensuring awareness of your chemicals, methods, tasks and processes and how they can affect you are of utmost importance. Perhaps taking a bit of time to put together a Method Statement and set of Risk Assessments for a typical workflow will help you to organise your thoughts and ensure that you control any particular hazards sufficiently. Take a look at www.hse.gov.uk for some free examples.
Detailing, Valeting, Car Washing, Specialist Vehicle Decontamination and Perfecting, call it what you will it is a physical activity. But what are you doing to manage your own body? Keeping up some activity outside of work is absolutely paramount for managing existing issues and helping with the prevention of new ones.
For example, there is a proliferation of lower back issues throughout our industry due to the bending and stretching involved. A lot of lower back problems stem from what is referred to as your “posterior chain”. This is all of the musculature that runs from your heels to the back of your head and help you to stand up straight. Maintaining strength and flexibility in these areas will help you perform your work more comfortably and it will also feel less tiring.
Without turning this into a fitness post, take a look at flexibility or posture work online. One thing that really helped me is regular stretching of my hamstrings and glutes because tightness in these muscles led to a build up of tension in my lower back. As someone of average height (all you lot over 5ft8 are freakish giants, by the way) I find myself having to over-reach on a regular basis, particularly on larger vehicles, so sourcing a variety of steps and hop-up platforms also helps me to manage this.
Getting to the point where you need to take tablets just to be able to do your job is no fun, trust me!
We think it is absolutely fantastic how the stigma attached to mental health issues is becoming less and less. Speaking personally as someone who “went mental” back in the early 00’s and really struggled with stress and anxiety for a number of years, I feel that this is perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of our trade and mental health related problems are, sadly, quite common in our industry.
Recognising the signs is one thing, but managing prevention measures is better. Working with other people and bouncing off each other is perhaps one of the best things I can recommend, but not everyone is in a position to do so – locked away on their own in their little dark caves, the echoes can become deafening…
Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for a blog post on this specifically.
Hopefully you can see that there is much more to a detailing business than just washing cars. As a dedicated training organisation, we have a wide range of experience that comes together to provide you with the best methods to build and grow your own sustainable business.