By Meagan Kusek
When you’re watching a Western, how do you differentiate the town sheriff from the rest of the spur-clinking, gun-toting, cowboy-hat-wearing citizens? What makes him stand out? You can probably picture it in your mind: that moment when the camera focuses on the silver star pinned to his breast.
That iconic silver star was the initial inspiration for the Silverstar Car Wash name when the wash was built in 2006, although the company retired the badge (though not the star) from its logo after co-owner Bryan Slama bought the wash in 2010. However, the wash has yet to hang up its hat on its quest: to provide the people of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Sioux City, Iowa, with a state-of-the-art, quality carwash experience and its team members with the motivation and training to provide that experience.
The last few years have seen a boom in construction, mergers and acquisitions for the carwash industry, and Silverstar Car Wash has been no exception. What started out as one site in Sioux Falls in 2010 has become 12 today. In fact, its newest location just opened in February, with another opening in March.
According to Slama, while Silverstar plans to continue building in its existing markets over the next two years, during 2021 it’s also going to look at other Midwest markets that the company believes would benefit from the Silverstar brand.
Slama works with the design team to ensure each site has the look and feel of the familiar Silverstar brand. The company’s recognizable oval entrance and exit coupled with the bold red and gray exterior makes the sites stand out as uniquely Silverstar. “We get feedback from customers in the community from the time walls start going up, asking if a Silverstar is being built,” Slama shares.
Of course, the best-laid plans can still go awry, especially during a pandemic. For instance, Silverstar purchased one site in Sioux Falls that was previously a Mercedes-Benz dealership and was scheduled to begin construction this past fall. However, a hospital organization approached the company and asked if it could forego its construction plans to let the hospital use the existing facility for an indoor COVID-19 testing site.
“We were proud to help with the mission to slow the spread in our area. We had demolition crews in the building when they reached out to us, but once we heard of the hospital’s intended use, we felt we had to make it work,” Slama explains.
KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN ’ROUND THESE PARTS
Just as Silverstar’s sites are an important part of brand recognition, the carwash also aims to equate a professional, high-quality wash with its brand. The company’s mission statement is “to provide customers the Silverstar advantage by offering a quick, clean, convenient, quality carwash,” and the company’s vision is “to be the customer’s first choice in our market, providing a consistent experience and bettering employees and the community.” That experience includes everything from team members’ uniforms and professional demeanors to the state-of-the-art equipment Silverstar utilizes across its sites.
“About three years ago, one of our customers shared that their visit to the carwash made them feel great beyond just having a clean car, and that conversation led to the creation of our motto: ‘A Better Wash, A Great Feeling,’” Slama explains. “We strive to provide a better quality wash by utilizing the best equipment available; working with the highest-quality vendor partners; and providing valuable extras, like our free vacuums, free microfiber towels and our new compressed air detail tools.”
Silverstar has long been at the forefront of offering its customers the latest technology and trends. For instance, in 2011, when the company was looking at new marketing techniques, it was the first carwash in its area to offer monthly memberships. Even now, Silverstar evaluates new technology — whether it be equipment, chemicals or customer experience-enhancing elements, such as new lighting — all the time for its tunnels to determine if it would be the right fit for the company.
At the end of the day, Silverstar simply wants to deliver a great feeling to customers from the moment they drive onto the lot to the moment they drive off.
“We want our customers to leave our facility feeling like their day has improved because of their visit — and not just because their car is clean. We put a lot of focus on keeping a clean property inside and outside of the carwash tunnel. We also put an emphasis on how our staff looks and acts, from the uniforms we provide to the way they guide in and prep the car with a smile on their face. Our goal is to be that ‘bright spot’ in a customer’s day,” Slama states.
With that kind of motivation, it’s no wonder that Silverstar’s Facebook page has 16,000 followers. The social media platform thus serves as Silverstar’s biggest marketing channel, where it shares its updates, videos and giveaways. “There’s no easier or more cost-effective way to create connections with your customers than social media,” Slama advises.
TRAINING THE DEPUTIES
Aside from perfecting the customer experience, Silverstar also seeks to cultivate its team members as well.
“We can only grow if we have a talented team behind us that is clear on our company culture,” Slama explains. “We make a significant investment of time and resources to ensure we are hiring, training and developing the right team members that fit our core values.” These core values include safety, customer service, quality, teamwork, accountability and fun.
For instance, in the second half of 2020, Silverstar focused on employee training/development and creating defined career paths so that new hires could see exactly what it would take to go from entry-level to management. The career paths are also trackable online, allowing management at all Silverstar locations to see other sites’ training progress and compare it with their own.
Andrea Vetos, regional manager for Silverstar, says, “Our basic career path takes a new employee through our entry-level positions and prepares them up to the point of assistant manager. From there, one of the best things about being a part of a growing company is that our team members can really make their own path.”
Silverstar has several team members who joined the company as wash attendants or cashiers, found out that they enjoyed the industry and then worked their way up through assistant manager and into site manager roles, Vetos shares.
However, the company understands that before employees can advance … they have to want to stay. To that end, Silverstar implemented a program wherein it gives new hires monthly raises for their first year (in addition to any training-, performance- or promotion-based raises). These raises are tied to monthly “grade sheets” that each team member completes as well as a certification program for higher-level learning.
“These grade sheets cover the basics of the job,” Vetos explains. “For our cashiers, they cover their knowledge and ability to inform the customers of our offerings and to solve any problems they might have. For our wash attendants, they cover properly loading customers in the wash and prepping the seasonal trouble areas.”
The certification program covers more advanced topics, such as chemical tracking and ordering as well as general usage and maintenance for equipment and the point-of-sale system.
However, Silverstar doesn’t just focus on retaining its entry-level employees. The company knows that its managers have very hands-on roles in the wash, so it focuses on giving them the education they need for the various functions they must fill.
“We need site managers that are comfortable getting hands-on in every aspect of the business: from hiring employees and customer resolution to scooping mud and repairing a motor. Many of the great people that are a part of our team are naturally strong in one or two areas, but there’s so much more to the job,” Vetos notes.
Therefore, another of Silverstar’s initiatives last year was creating a “manager’s handbook” that provided an in-depth focus on key aspects of management, such as customer service, employee discipline and fixing mechanical problems. This investment in employee training, Vetos states, gives team members the confidence to do their jobs properly.
Continuing to refine these training programs and processes is something else that Silverstar looks forward to in 2021. “By focusing on developing our team members, we ensure that they can serve our customers well if they continue to work with Silverstar,” Vetos concludes. “And if they choose to leave, we hope they take some things with them that prepare them for their future, whatever that may be.”