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How I Did It: The Diversified Operation

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SHOP STATS: Triple Play Car Wash and Quick Lube   Location: Attleboro, Mass. 

Operator: Dave Ellard and Terrance Elder  Number of Bays: 9  Total Staff Size: 35  Shop Size: 16,000 sq. ft. 

If you think managing one quick lube is tough, think again. Adding on a convenience store or a car wash to your quick lube adds to the workload, but imagine having seven different entities to manage. Dave Ellard, co-owner of Triple Play Car Wash and Quick Lube in Attleboro, Mass., knows a thing or two when it comes to managing his time with seven different ones to oversee. He and co-owner Terrence Elder oversee a quick lube, gas station, car wash, detail shop, and a convenience store, complete with a Dunkin’ Donuts and Boston Pita inside that they operate, too. For most quick lubes, another profit center is added later on down the road, but this wasn’t the goal for Triple Play. From Ellard’s research, good performing quick lubes have another profitable business on the property. So, they added all of the operations at once, officially opening all of its doors back in May 2008.

“The idea was to have a different kind of place,” Ellard says. “Our strategy was to do something bigger and more inspiring in the industry.”

With their strategy and processes in place, Ellard says the business is working in the top 10th percentile in all of the businesses. If you’re thinking about adding on another business, look no further. Ellard gives his tips on how he and Elder have been able to manage all of these profit centers efficiently from the start.

Tip No. 1: Have a management structure.

With how big the entire operation is, there needs to be a strict management structure in place. In total, Triple Play has five managers on board to manage each entity: one at the quick lube, one at the car wash, one at the gas station, one at the convenience store, and one at the detail center. 

“When you have multiple profit centers, you still need to have managers that run the business independent from ownership,” Ellard says. “With a bigger site, it's more critical that you need management who can juggle all of these entities.”

And the managers don’t only oversee their profit center—they are actively working, too. Each manager performs as a working manager, working alongside normal team members, while also in charge of the day-to-day operations.

Tip No. 2: Be present as an owner.

Not all quick lube owners are present for the day-to-day operations, but that’s not the case for Triple Play. While the managers run their own profit center, Ellard and Elder work on site on a full-time basis between each center, focusing on the bigger picture. 

“We are here to coordinate, set the culture, and prioritize labor,” Ellard says. “In a site that is this busy, it’s good to have ownership here.”

The area they most frequent in is the detail center. Why? From the detail center’s waiting area, it’s the perfect place to see most of the business.

“If you get caught up in doing the day-to-day physical work, you aren’t focusing on the bigger picture,” Ellard says. “The coordination process is very important, and you need a management structure to do that.”

The nice thing is, there’s still some flexibility involved for ownership. With two owners, sometimes it isn’t necessary for both to be there. On busier days, both Ellard and Elder are on site. And to do this, there needs to be a lot of communication between the two. It’s like being on call; one owner goes in to assess how the day will play out and texts the other owner to see if it’s necessary to come in or not. And if a big rush comes in and help is needed, each owner is just a phone call away to come in and lend a helping hand.

Tip No. 3: Treat them as one.

When you have multiple businesses in one, it’s important to drive traffic to each. Ellard says a lot of people just have a car wash and market within the store, but Triple Play likes to cross market customers between their profit centers. 

“It’s difficult, in most cases, to attract business every day when it’s a single entity,” Ellard says. “If you try to treat it like a stand-alone quick lube, you’re going to have problems.”

Ellard says they get a lot of traffic because there are a lot of reasons for customers to be on the property, whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee, filling up on gas or getting a car wash. The goal is for Triple Play to be a customer’s one-stop shop, and they promote this through cross-promotions.

For example, when a customer comes in for an oil change, they’ll receive a free car wash. If you fill up on gas and buy two car washes, you get 30 cents off per gallon. When you buy a car wash, you’ll receive a coupon for $10 off an oil change. Ellard says Triple Play that car wash offers really help to boost quick lube business.

And with offering these coupons and discounts, a shop owner also has to make it convenient. Adjacent to the gas pumps, vacuums are there to use, free of charge. The shop also offers express detailing with no appointment required. Even while getting an oil change at the quick lube, customers can get express detailing in their car while they wait. It’s easier to sell the extra amenities when it’s right at a customer’s fingertips.

“We put a focus on convenience and customer service,” Ellard says.

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