As recently as a decade ago the presence of women in leadership positions in the carwash industry was negligible. Today, 20 per cent of the leaders in the carwash industry are women. This conference is an opportunity to learn how this change has impacted today’s industry and to promote continuing growth for the future.
Everyone loves to read inspirational stories about people who are driven, have vision and follow their dreams. This is one of those, and as women around the world are celebrated for their accomplishments in various industries, we felt it was time to let you meet some accomplished women in the car wash industry and hear their amazing stories.
Read on — and you might find yourself surprised at how quickly these dynamic women have accelerated their careers, maintained their car washes and even achieved technical expertise on carwash systems. They are students, mothers, wives, grandmothers who have a unique way of connecting with customers and their staff — join us in celebrating them as Convenience & Carwash Canada bring you this, our new feature every issue, Women in Carwash.
My name is Elizabeth Gubrud-Howe. I live and work in Green Bay, WI, where I run a car wash equipment manufacturing company. I am originally from Portland, OR, where I was raised and went to college, earning a business degree from Portland State University. I love being outdoors and spending time with my family and friends.
I’ve had a versatile career – I started in service at Starbucks. Eleven years ago, I moved into industrial manufacturing and have never looked back. Prior to PDQ, I was the national sales manager for Midland Manufacturing based in Skokie, IL, which specializes in equipment for the rail industry. However, starting my career in the service industry is proving to be very helpful as the car wash market is a very customer-focused industry.
I have worked for Dover Corporation for 11 years in different roles, and when I got the opportunity to lead the charge at PDQ Manufacturing, I was ecstatic. I knew that PDQ was a great company with a well-established brand.
If I had to advise other women entering the carwashing industry I would tell them that “you must have confidence in your underlying skill set and intuition; if you have these things, you can accomplish anything. A business is a business, no matter the industry, and if you have experience running a service business or manufacturing business, you can succeed in the car wash industry. Also, I think that listening to your customer is a very important trait. The car wash industry is one that everyone can easily relate to since we all have used one in the past. Asking your customers for input on their experience is an important way to improve how you serve them in the future.”
My biggest challenge working in this industry is that it is much more sophisticated than most people realize; there is a lot more to it than washing cars. As an example, our car wash has sophisticated software and various components running simultaneously during a wash. The car is being measured with software, as is the car wash equipment, while the most efficient amount of chemical is being dispensed. Luckily, we have an amazing team of engineers and developers at PDQ, along with great customer service and channel partners. We try to tackle these challenges as a team at PDQ. To be a leader in the industry, you need to approach each challenge with that team mentality.
Looking to the future, I am committed to PDQ, and definitely see myself running this company in five years. But I also see PDQ growing and becoming better and different. I anticipate PDQ will exceed industry growth expectations and we will be leading the way in creating a better experience for the customer. And, as I said previously, being surrounded by the best team in the business, I think that is well within our reach.
My name is Jaclyn Kennedy-Dossantos and I live in Cambridge, Ontario. I enjoy watching and playing baseball. I’m a clean freak— hence why I work in the car wash industry. I have taken immense pride in my vehicles since the day I got my license and was a young customer at Valet Car Wash years before I started my career there 14 years ago.
My background Includes working in the customer service industry from the age of 15, starting out at the fast food restaurant McDonald’s for 10 years and working with them until I completed college. I worked my way up the ladder from being a crew team member, trainer, swing manager to assistant manager. I credit McDonald’s for giving me the opportunity to learn great leadership & management skills.
I was approached by a former co-worker to see if I would be interested in working at the Valet Car Wash, which was an entirely different field for me and they were in a dire need of some management team members. I was hired in April 2004 as an assistant manager and was later promoted to store manager. In 2012, I was named Area manager/operations manager, responsible for two sites. I made the switch from the fast food industry to the car wash industry to try something new and learn new skills.
My best moment in the car wash industry occurred when I was recently recognized for the Cambridge WOW Exceptional Customer Service Award for December 2017. I was nominated alongside another team member, my mom Melanie Kennedy, for displaying excellent customer service, always smiling, showing upbeat enthusiasm and being recognized for being the face of the company. Although we were not chosen as the overall winner for 2017, it was a great honor to know that customers recognize the dedication we put into delivering a great car wash experience.
My advice to other woman working in the car wash industry is to be confident in knowing what you know. My biggest challenge working in the car wash industry is overcoming the stigma that woman may not know cars as well as men. Fully understanding how a car wash functions helps me feel confident in dealing with any situation.
Over the next few years, I would like to move into the operations or administrative side of the business. As the Valet Car Wash brand continues to grow, and with more locations being added, I would like to help oversee new sites and utlize my experience and skills to help other store managers succeed in the car wash industry.
My name is Nancy Schmautz. I am a management consultant specializing in business plans for emerging businesses, feasibility plans and business planning in Western Canada.
I live outside Calgary with my husband; enjoy travel, acrylic and watercolor painting, motorcycling and our family time.
My career started with Nova Corporation as a surface landman, negotiating pipeline easements and landowner relations. I was the first licensed female landman in Alberta. That morphed into creating and managing our own company, TD Industries for 30 years. TD was an equipment manufacture and service based company specializing in the carwash industry. Starting in the carwash industry was an opportunity back in the 80’s that presented itself to us. The growth of our company to 30 employees and five field offices across western Canada and acquiring top shelf chemical and carwash equipment manufactures was a journey that was rewarding and challenging.
There were many proud moments along the way, President of the Western Chapter of the Canadian Carwash Association, Director on the CCA Board, Finalist in Entrepreneur of the Year – Prairies, Top Distributor of the Year – Turtle Wax, Ted Snyder Award, 2005, CCA Association and many more highs. The top moments were our high growth, doubling revenues each year, gaining corporate accounts, engineering improvement in our manufacturing process and building a new shop for our business.
There are lots of opportunities for women in this industry. Whether it is in management, sales or operations, nothing is beyond your reach. There are education opportunities or learning by mentoring and immersion. It is a knowledge based industry based on strong relationships. Your knowledge is fully transferable to other companies and remember; that you own it. My reputation was one of the most important strengths that I had along the way. Along my journey, I created the Western Chapter of the CCA, sat on the CCA board of directors, sat on dozens of think tank sessions with companies and went back to university at 40 years old. You have to create the opportunities, then business and people attract to you.
I encourage all women, at whatever age to consider the carwash suppliers, the chemical companies, the major retail oil companies, or start your own wash. It’s all within your reach.
My name is Patty Willett and I am a mother of four and grandmother of 11. Family is everything to me–this includes the work family and customers I have come to know over the three years that I have been in the car wash business.
I have worked at many different jobs throughout my lifetime, none of which were any where near as satisfying and fun as working with Valet Car Wash. When I started, I never really thought about being in the car wash industry until my current general manager emailed me about the position. Fortunately, he saw something in me that I didn’t and I thank him immensely for the opportunity that he has given me. Valet Car Wash is an amazing company to work for, there is so much support from all the other managers.
My best moments in my role is working with my amazing staff and great customers. It is nice to hear my customers give positive comments about the wash and the friendly helpful staff that I have. I would advise other women who are considering working in the car wash industry that this is a great business. Especially if they enjoy the customer interaction as well as all there is to learn about the equipment and what it takes to run this business; we are learning something everyday.
I would not change a thing about my time in the industry other than maybe knowing a bit more about all the equipment and how it works, but I am learning about each piece of equipment all the time.
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered is that I had to overcome my fear of the carwash, something that stems from my childhood. When I started I did not like going through the wash. However, over time, I have overcome that fear and help customers with their fear of going through by assuring them that it is safe. Other challenges include knowing what to do when something is not working as it should and what needs to be done to get it fixed in a timely manner as well as keeping customers happy.
In the future, I see myself right where I am with hopes of expanding the site I am at now. I love everything about my job even on the stressful days.
My name is Paula Shave. I'm 35, married and a mother of three. I work as hard as my body will let me each day and I normally push beyond that. People see 5ft and think, "there is no way she's gonna fix that." It's not about proving them wrong— its proving to myself that I can.
I grew up in a small town with a hard-working farm family. Nothing is ever given to you, you must work for everything you have. I am the second of four kids. My folks are still married after 45 years. I’ve worked many cleaning jobs, household and vehicle detailing and I take pride in a clean vehicle.
I lost my job at a local dealership where I had been a detailer for four years. I applied at Grime Fighters because they were just building and getting in on the ground floor seemed like an incredible challenge to learn. I was hired just as an attendant but have been managing for the last 2.5 years.
Every day has something special going on. Whether it’s running into a customer on site or off, hearing them say how they love to come into the wash, or having your bosses rave about the fact that they feel the wash is in good hands and they know that they don’t have to pop in all the time is a good feeling.
For me it is not about "I am women hear me roar” it’s, hey I’m calling please answer the phone. This is a career and if you love what you’re doing coming to work every day is a good feeling and your happiness will pass onto those that come through your business.
Reflecting on my career, I would have loved to have been more involved with the building of my wash. Watching and seeing how things were put together and routed is interesting. I’m a hands-on learner and feel that if I could have been here while they were building this site, I might be able to troubleshoot small issues that come up. I'm not sure if this is a career that I would have ever sought out, but I am enjoying the challenges that this job comes with them.
One of the greatest challenges I face is — actually men. Things go wrong and break and it’s something that you've had to fix before but, yet they seem to question why you think that’s what’s broken and come and have a look before ordering you the part.
The future is bright and in the next few years I see myself building or running another carwash. For now, I enjoy managing this store and making it the best experience for customers.