Business Beyond Numbers  

Go wash your car

Recently I sat at a local gas station waiting to meet with someone who ended up being incredibly late - more than two hours. I had parked near the car wash area and was able to get a few things done while I waited. During this time, I could not help but notice the vehicles that were in line. There were at all times five to six vehicles in line for this entire two hour period. It was a nice sunny day and good to be outside and yet many people were sitting in their cars waiting for the chance to get their car washed.

The average wash was taking about five to six minutes. This meant that the car driver that entered the line with five vehicles ahead of them was willing to wait close to half an hour for a machine to wash their car. This went on the entire two hours that I waited. After thinking the car wash business is a good one to get into, I thought about the poor use of personal time. I had recently washed my own car in the driveway and it took me about 10 minutes in all. Sure this I not as good a job but I did get a bit of exercise and used less time and money.

Clearly many folks in Kelowna can afford this poor use of their precious time. Recently I read of a study that found small business start-ups fail at a rate of about 85% of the time within five years. This is a huge personal and social cost that we just do not hear that much about. Clearly this time and money being consumed and lost in ventures that fail that often is enormous. What if we could improve this rate of success? What would that mean to our country and its business people?

Interestingly researchers in the US recently published results of a study of Amish people entering into businesses at a very high rate in relation to their history as a group of people: making a variety of products for the general market place: furniture, cheese, and garage doors are examples.
This study found that the success rate of these businesses was 95%: success being defined as still in business and profitable after a number of years.

To better understand this wide range of difference, the study’s authors identified five keys to the success of the Amish:

  • An ethic of hard work. 
  • Use of apprenticeships to train young entrepreneurs. 
  • Small scale operations. 
  • Frugality and austerity, resulting in low overhead.
  • Product quality, uniqueness, and value.

    The funny thing is that these kind of business principles (hard work and low overhead) are often referred to, outside of the Amish community, as a path to business success, and now there is real evidence that they do work. It is hard to not find as a stunning contrast the people waiting in lines to wash their car and the sharper use of time and energy by the Amish people.
    While I will continue to use car wash services from time to time, I will also take time to wash my own car as well and have more time to apply to business interests. I hope you do too.

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    About the Author

    Bruce Ryan is both a professional accountant and entrepreneur. He has started, acquired, led, sold and sourced financing for numerous businesses over a 20+ year business life. Here he shares practical insights on how to get many real things done in business - in Business Beyond Numbers.

    Contact e-mail address: [email protected]

    The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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