"Exceptionalism in all that we do, in a manner that develops trust at every level."
Welcome to the history of Auto Fetish Detail. Told by myself, your sometimes humble, sometimes cynical, often frustrated moderator, Darren Priest. I have condensed this so as to bore you as little as possible and do so with a certain level of sarcasm, irreverence, and levity.
Follow along with me on this roller coaster of a ride I call my life with regards to:
Start Date: Circa 1988
Of course this depends on what a person wants to qualify as a starting date of any business. If I wanted to embellish (but that is what résumés are for) I could go as far back as 1981 during which time I was first introduced to the concept of auto detailing by my auto shop class teacher. (Of course this was back in the day when high-schools actually had shop classes and taught students skills that actually exist in this 3 dimensional world in which we live, and one in which is becoming ever-increasingly insignificant due to technology; now most youth couldn't tell you the right end of a screw driver let alone actually know what to do with it!)
Since my auto shop teacher was far more brilliant than myself and rather "industrious", he was more than generous in providing me with an endless canvass known as his personal El Camino in which to refine my skills of washing and waxing...
All in exchange for a better grade in the class! Of course being the giver that my shop teacher was, he also threw me a bone in the form of a can of soda from the vending machine; I usually chose orange as my cavity inducing liquid sugar. (Thanks Bob! Hope that 50 cents didn't set you too far back!)
...did I mention cynicism at the beginning.
(for the sake brevity, I will bullet point the history minus the actual bullet points.)
Let's Rewind for a Moment
With the attempt to lay a bit of ground work prior to my start date, I add the following:
At the ripe old age of 22, I went looking in newspaper (this was well before the Internet we know today).
Found help wanted ad for auto detailing with a company called Tropic Shield who is still operating business from Irvine, CA under a different name. (I am sure this has nothing to do with their less than ethical ways of business)
Ad said "no experience necessary". Didn't have any anyways so this was a good start (didn't really consider my days as an indentured servant to my auto shop teacher much in the way of experience anyways)
Traveled 80 miles one way to job interview in Chatsworth. Yes, there is a reason you have never heard of Chatsworth; whether this be selective memory loss or not...sorry Chatsworth residents. I am sure the city is much nicer today than it was 20+ years ago (Oh no, sarcasm!)
I Got the Job
Of course they gave everyone a job since this was part of a bigger strategy on their part. This was more of a bait and switch plan of marketing than any real ad for employment. Since no experience is required, this meant that everyone could qualify and would likely respond to their ad. And as likely was the case for most of the guys who applied, we all thought that we could learn the business then branch out on our own.
Bought My Own Tropic Shield Business.
Did absolutely nothing with it. . .Oh, except spend hours of my time detailing and applying the infamous “Teflon Polishing Systems” on two of my friend’s cars for free; all within a two year period of time.
Time to Sell
Sold one said “Tropic Shield” franchise to another guy who thought he could make it in the business (despite my warnings); netted a total loss of about $1500.00 -Successfully completing yet another course at the “School of Hard Knocks”.
Went back to college to waste more of my time and those around me, while trying to figure out what I would do when I finally grew up. (which never really sounded particularly appealing)
Enrolled at Fullerton College. (was close and they pretty much accepted anyone;good for me once again)
Enrolled in an art class as this was one of the few classes I could get into being the lowest man on the totem-pole as far as seniority goes.
One day during art class, cute Asian girl mentioned she needed her car detailed.
Opportunity Came Knocking
Being the quick thinker that I am ( not really, I just happen to accidentally be quick at this random time) I thought to myself that surely I could count myself as qualified since I had gone through the ever-so comprehensive training at Tropic Shield some years earlier.
Secured my very first official detailing appointment for that following Saturday morning at cute Asian girls house. Coincidentally she lived very close to where I did which made the proposition even sweeter.
Time to "Fake it till I can make it"
Realized I needed to put together a plan pretty quickly as to how I was going to show up to her house and detail her car. No equipment, no products, and not much experience; kept telling myself not to sweat the small stuff.
I found the nearest Pep Boys Automotive store and went and stocked up on all my “driveway detailing” gear.
Drove up in my 1976 Datsun 280Z for my very first detail appointment, armed with my garden hose and extension cord; this was my interpretation of “fully equipped, mobile contained unit”
Made me an extra $40.00 that morning detailing a white Toyota corolla (make and model changed to protect the innocent)
Perhaps Opportunity Exists
Mostly enjoyed the experience and decided that maybe I could do this detailing thing for "realsies". The "cute Asian girl" thing could have possibly been the final catalyst in the decision making process.
Invoked the powers of my creativity and drew up some art for business cards.
Choosing a Business Name
Wanted a business name that was unique and memorable; Auto Fetish Detail seemed to be the winning combination: memorable, while being ambiguously and overtly sexual all at once...sounds like a winning combination to me.
The inspiration came from a record store in L.A. called Vinyl Fetish I use to hear about on what is known as the "World famous KROQ". (can anyone say 80's aloud with me?)
Welcome to the birth of Auto Fetish Detail click here to see the auto detail logo history of Auto Fetish Detail
First Things First
Got some business cards printed up with my first logo.
Went to Brea Mall and left cards on the nicer cars parked in the parking lot.
Quickly got escorted off mall premises by Mall Security for soliciting business and illegal canvassing.
Was able to score one detailing job from a lady in Hacienda Heights, Ca. Sherri with a white BMW 630i. (name and specifics have been altered once again to protect innocent)
Did nice enough job to get referral for father’s car, mother’s car, and neighbor’s car.
One thing led to another and found myself doing various detail jobs around town.
Going the Next Level
Upgraded from my Datsun 280Z to working out of a Suzuki Samurai by this time. (yes I know.... not too many things scream "gay" louder than a guy sporting a bandana around his head to keep my overly blonde hair out of my eyes as I drove around with the top off.)
Maintain this while holding down full time and part time jobs:
Can Anyone Say College?
Yes, believe it or not, managed to work in a college class while juggling all of the above. Attended Mt. San Antonio at this point of my crazy life.
Realized I was not built to work for “the Man” and “Corporate America”. Constantly questioning my boss (owner of company; who also happened to be my father-in-law at the time), managers, and colleagues. Continued to realize that most people, businesses, and organizations are not particularly fond of change...of any kind. Regardless of how much merit or logic was coming with that change.
Once I realized and fully embraced this, found I couldn't exit the world of the "wage slave" fast enough.
Time to Configure an Exit Strategy
Started looking for a detailing business to buy that included a true “self contained mobile unit”.
Found a guy selling a unit with a mobile wash route within the city of Santa Ana, CA.
Sounded like the perfect opportunity. (thank you Brian Tostada if you are reading this)
Let's Incur Some Debt
Borrowed money from my Father in law; thanks Bob! (and by borrowed I mean he was willing to co-sign a loan with me)
Bought me a mobile wash route that included
wait for it.....
all of 3 solid, weekly customers.
Paid $7500 for these customers along with an old Ford Ranger truck with hard top shell. All equipment to do mobile washing/detailing. All products, and a few "tools" of the trade.
Business also came with a certain undocumented worker name Rafino, my flaky Latino friend.
Rafino finally flew completely off the radar and I was left to my own after only 2 months with my Latino worker-bee.
Back to Being the Lone Wolf
Worked like hell to build the route up.
Solicited my services to all the businesses in the area. This meant I literally walked into ever door of this business park and introduced myself while leaving my business card behind.
Learned that the harder I worked, the luckier I seemed to get. (seems to be the underlying theme in life)
Kept working like crazy and grew the business little by little. (emphasis on "little")
Liked the idea of a weekly wash route that brought in consistent money. Didn't make as much as actual detailing, but was consistent and kept a little money coming through the door each week)
Time to Expand
Built the business to the point where I was busy 6 days a week and killing myself to keep up. Time to hire my first full-time, legal employee.
Found that I was killing myself a little less each week by having an employee. (this was a good thing)
Introduced to the world of payroll taxes, workman's comp., etc., etc. (just one of many rude awakenings in a long stream of them)
Also introduced to the harsh reality of paying self employment taxes to an incredibly wasteful and inefficient government.
Kept Chugging Along
Kept working the business and bought a second truck to send my dedicated employee off to make the two of us some money.
Needed to hire yet another full timer to help me on my route.
Needed to hire another full timer to help with the other route.
Time to add yet another truck to the business and develop another route.
Did this multiple times for a total of 4 trucks/vans with one to two guys per each truck/van.
Opportunity Exists Everywhere...if you are looking!
While working my route in an area of Santa Ana, CA, noticed a retail dealership called Phillips Auto, who had set up a car sales lot location within this business park.
Same Phillip’s Auto that is now on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach, CA
Noticed how “shabby” the showroom cars at Phillips Auto looked.
Offered to perform the expert "Auto Fetish touch" on a certain 1991 MBZ 300CE.
Car had been sitting in showroom for many months. Car was sold second day following the Auto Fetish touch by the expert. (that would be Me)
Everything is Negotiable
Negotiated a relationship to take over the detail bay for Phillips Auto dealership to include the following: two full time employees, detail all cars for showroom, detail wholesale cars for auction, maintain all showroom cars.
Moved most of my business operations to this location to now run the shop and four other mobile wash/detail routes.
Nice to have an actual business location to run my Auto Fetish empire from, rather than from my home garage.
Continued to grow the business and assumed more of the management duties as the business grew.
Things started going “south” with my partnership at Phillips Auto.
Found out what my contract really meant, despite what was written. Also learned that cliche's exist for a reason. (you can insert your favorite cliche'/stereotype here...lawyer, used car salesman, etc., etc.)
Decided to end our arrangement and go separate ways.
Back to My Beginnings
Left Phillips Auto along with everything else attached to the "relationship". Back to running the business from my home garage.
Also secured a deal to set up a wash/detail center in the Val Mesa Medical Building parking structure in Fullerton, CA.
Thought this was a real coup on my part till I learned that doctors and nurses tend be pretty “cheap”. (just my opinion of course...doesn't help with the compelling evidence that I could count on a single hand, all the doctors I have detailed for in the 25 years of doing business. If you are a doctor and happen to be reading this, I am sure you exist as the exception to the rule...wink, wink.)
Continued to train new detailers for the different routes; helped numerous of my employees go off on their own to start their own detailing businesses.
I keep getting older despite my futile attempts to stay younger.
The Mind is Willing; But the Flesh is Weak
Get worn into the ground from the duties of detailing, managing the business, and being the boss. Decide to scale way back.
Still not getting any younger; still need to support myself as well as three children and a wife. (Did I mention I got married and had 3 children along the way; Wow, where does the time go!)
There Must Be a Better Way
Considered another course of action. Time for a major career change despite my love for detailing cars. But detailing was my only source of income at this point of my life.
Decide to explore other means of income streams. (My thought and plan was to find something I could do while still detailing cars, but transition out of detailing and eventually replace my income with another career choice)
Welcome to the World of Paintless Dent Removal
Buy paintless dent removal business called West Coast Dent and Ding. Paid $5,000 for all the tools and 3 dealer accounts.
Go through training and throw myself to the lions. Now I am juggling my full time detailing business, and the attempt to build my newly purchased paintless dent removal business. (also referred to as PDR)
Realize just how unprepared I was and how much this is truly an art and skill that is not easily mastered. Also decide that ethically, I am not wired to work for the typical car dealership that requires a unique sort of moral flexibility.
Introduced to terms like “kick back”.
Lost all three dealership accounts that came with the business. (found out first hand that "good enough", really isn't when it comes to paintless dent removal)
Decide to buy a Print and Promotions franchise called Proforma. A company that outsources anything to do with printing and promotional collateral for businesses. click here to see Proforma.com.
I think once again this will be a means to the end for me as far as a career alternative to detailing; easier on the aging body. Start pounding the pavement; cold calling and trying to make “the sale” with all things pertaining to print and promotions.
Realize that print and promotions are often thrown into what is often referred to as "commodity hell"; where what you are selling is often reduced down to a cold number.
Find Myself Missing the Grind of Detailing
Once again, I come to the conclusion that I really just love detailing cars and the independence of being a business owner. I also prefer where I am judged on workmanship and performance, not just reduced to a number.
Keep moving forward.
Friend at gym hits me up for a business partnership in a completely unrelated industry called concrete.
Decide to invest in a cement pumping business with this friend who has plenty of experience but no money. I have some money but no experience; seemed like a good fit. This relationship lasts about six months until the friend is able to buy me out due to lack of interest on my part.
The Quest Continues
Started researching the topic of Internet and online marketing.
Spend lots of money buying online marketing courses; but don’t know how to make a living doing it yet. ( I am pretty confident that is the ultimate goal for these Internet marketers; continue to sell you one course after another without any real path to making money yourself, but puts plenty of money in their pocket)
Decide to really go out on a limb and decide that being a hairstylist might be the winning combination for me as a lasting career choice: A creative outlet for myself, the ability to make good money, possibility of salon ownership, etc., etc. (Seemed like a logical fit and perhaps a winning combination for me personally)
Learned I needed to sign up for beauty school.
Spend the next 13 months in beauty school hell with a bunch of ignorant, naive, and stupid girls, a few "gays" that are more “girls” then girls themselves, and a handful of used up, never have been, bitter old teachers that wax endlessly about their days past as hairstylists, who now drink themselves into oblivion every night just so they can cope with these same ignorant, naive, and stupid girls who really don't have an actual life plan so default to beauty school.
I do this day after day for thirty hours a week, for the next 13 months so I can take the most outdated, archaic form of testing known to the free world...the "State Board test" as it is infamously referred.
Just short of going completely "postal", I complete the required hours of outdated and meaningless instruction that our wonderful state of California requires.
Take state board test and pass first time. (no way in hell I was going to subject myself to another inane State Board Test)
Solicit myself to a well know hairstylist named Pon Saradeth to work as his assistant.
Take up mentorship with Pon at Pon International Hair design in Anaheim Hills, CA, and start my new career as hairstylist.click here to go to Pon International
Below is a picture of my business card when I was the Hairstyling Maven
Thought I knew what stress was until I found out how emotionally attached women are to their hair.
Now I get to juggle Hairstyling, Print/Promotions, and detailing. (does the adage "too many irons in the fire come to mind anyone?)
Anyone Up for More Stress?
Apparently I didn't think I had enough stress in my life yet.
Realize that four walls, too much internal drama of a hair salon, and a more rigid schedule were a fast ticket to claustrophobia and nausea. Decide hairstyling is not going to work for me after all.
Detailing: The One Constant in My Ever Evolving Life
Decide to really downsize my detailing business and put it up for sale.
Neighbor informs me that he has always wanted to be in business for himself and wants to buy my business, as he is naturally neurotic about keeping his cars clean, and thinks he and detailing would be a good fit. (most guys do until they find out it actually requires lots and lots of disciplined work)
Neighbor secures financing and buys most of my equipment, my route, and comes up with his own business name. (The name "Auto Fetish" has never been for sale)
"For Sale"... But Not "All" For Sale
I decide as part of the deal I would keep a select few of my detailing accounts that consist of mostly weekend work; all maintenance detailing. (This allowed me to still keep the cash coming in from weekend detailing, while still juggling the few print and promotions customers I had developed since purchasing the Proforma franchise)
Liked the idea of doing maintenance detailing and none of the weekly washing.
Interesting Things Happen When You Connect Dots Differently
Start seeing the detailing business with a “new set of eyes” and create a niche for myself; detailing and maintenance detailing only.
Implement maintenance detail schedules for my customers.
Now I get to enjoy all the best parts of detailing for myself, while taking my passion out on cars and getting paid well for it.
Realize that what I have learned and know would benefit others in the car care world.
Decide to take my past experiences and combine with my study of marketing and the Internet, and create an income stream for myself.
Create ways to market all my years of experience and expertise from the detailing world.
Create and develop websites to market all the many areas of detailing. (see footer below to create your very own website and income stream)
Now my world consists of, but certainly not limited to:
Has been eventful year and a half...
Received big smack-down from Google with their many algorithm updates. Website traffic drops by 40% on both sites.
Spend the next year and half trying to refine and over-deliver more than ever with the attempt to recover lost traffic.
Finally seeing the numbers inch back up to pre-smack down numbers!
Time is a Relentless Foe
In the meantime, my body continues to age despite appearances. The myriad aches and pains escalate and propagate. As the aches and pains mount, my will and desire to find yet another avenue out of the world of physical detailing increase and drive me to desperation.
Once again, as a result of getting older, I went in search of another means of producing income substantial enough to support a family other than the physically demands of detailing.
Perhaps I Can Find a Real Job
Got job as an outside sales rep for retrofit home energy solutions company: replacement windows, HVAC, insulation, roofing, Tex-cote exterior wall coatings, etc.
Took a 6 month hiatus from the world of physical detailing, to enter into this thing I have been told most of my life is a "real job". (the very first time I actually removed myself completely from the physical world of detailing)
The job essentially requires you to not only sell your soul, but completely give up any semblance of this thing called "a life". Working 80 to 100 hours a week is par for the course. But hey...you can make 150K a year with very little training so long as you don't want a life, and have the moral flexibility of a contortionist.
Still maintaining daily duties of writing/developing websites on detailing during my off-times of being in outside sales. One of the cool things about the Internet; access from virtually anywhere.
Traded in most of my sanity for the far less physically demanding job of detailing, for the high stress, roller coaster ride of outside sales.
Found the company I was working for had a marketing strategy completely propped-up on gross misrepresentation. In case you are wondering, it is called Clearview.
Once again, found out that I am not well suited to work for dysfunctional, ineffective, inefficient companies. Never mind a company that is essentially morally bankrupt.
Pushing back onto management gets me nowhere. My days are numbered...
A whole 5 months to be exact.
All the objections from me and my big mouth get me nowhere; other than "lip service" from the powers that be within this morally bankrupt company.
Give my resignation and happily enter back into a relationship with my true love: auto detailing! A love affair that is both filled with love and hate. A world in which I can develop a business that delivers a level of service that I rarely get to enjoy or experience myself.
The "Auto Fetish Detail" empire....well, "empire" might be a bit of hyperbole.
Stay tuned....more to follow.