Is the continuing decline in fuel card margins prompting you to reconsider their value to your business?
It's 'wash and grow' for Karcher's Peter Spencer
After 16 years in the car wash industry, Peter Spencer still lives and breathes the business - ever striving for success
A typical working day starts at around 5.30am, when I get up to get ready for my journey from Breedon on the Hill, where I live, to Banbury home of Kärcher's UK HQ. I normally arrive at the office at about 7.30am and plan my schedule and activities for the day before our staff start to arrive at about 8am.
If it's a Tuesday, we kick off with a business update meeting, where I, along with managers from our other business units, have a round-table discussion for an hour or so and review our trading position and anything else that may be relevant. Because we are such a diverse company, it's really useful to catch up with what other areas of our business are up to. With over 4,000 product lines, there is always something interesting to talk about and great opportunities for cross-selling to existing customers from other business units.
Then it's a sit down with our Shared Revenue department for an update on how we are faring with this important new concept.
This scheme allows petrol retailers to benefit from jet washes and rollovers without the up-front investment cost particularly relevant in these difficult times. We have a dedicated revenue share specialist, Nicola Bannister, who looks after this unit and in particular our relationship with Asda our first shared revenue partner.
I try to be at HQ at least three days a week. The other days I spend seeing customers and visiting ongoing installations. Having worked in the vehicle wash industry since 1994, I still like to keep abreast of all our projects and keep an eye on the quality of our work.
Project management is very important to our business, so I meet regularly with my project management team to review all ongoing and upcoming installations, to ensure that we are hitting schedules and controlling costs.
Although Kärcher may be the largest cleaning equipment manufacturer in the world, we are not normally associated with car wash equipment. It was only when Atlantis International was acquired in 2008 that they recognised the need for some focus in this market. Then, for the first time, they were able to participate in this sector directly rather than on a manufacture/distributor relationship as was the case before. Since the acquisition, Atlantis has been fully integrated into the Kärcher system, and has been re-branded as Kärcher Vehicle Wash. This business unit supports car wash, bus, coach and truck wash sales and, of course, service.
Car wash and jet wash chemicals are a vital part of any wash facility and key to our shared revenue offer. We have recently launched an on-line chemical store to make chemical purchasing easier and more user-friendly for site operators which I am keen to grow and diversify. This is managed by Emily Lyall who is now fondly known as Emchem so it's a quick review with her on all things chemical!
Every other week, I catch up with our marketing department to review our advertising and promotional activities. The forecourt sector is an important market for us, so there is always some advert to compile, mailshot to organise or exhibition to arrange.
Then I try and grab some 'me' time where I can work on the business as opposed to in it. Here I review our strategy to ensure we are maximising our chances of success in each of the markets in which we operate. Unlike our competitors in the car wash industry, the Kärcher brand is a household name so we have a lot to live up to in terms of quality and machine performance. We have trading relationships with most of the major UK supermarkets and DIY stores where we have seen customers buy our products in the store, wash their cars with one of our car or jet washes on the forecourt, before driving home to clean the patio or vac the carpets with one of our pressure washers or multi-purpose vacs.
I try to get home for 7.30pm, to spend a few hours with my new wife Sara, and to swap news from our working days before it all starts all over again!
Name: Peter Spencer
Job Title: Managing director Kärcher Vehicle Wash
Company: Kärcher UK
Career history: 1983-1994 Automobile Association. 1994-1999 Wilcomatic Ltd; 1999-2008 Atlantis International Ltd; 2008- present Kärcher UK Ltd
Greatest personal achievement: Becoming a father at 20 and a grandfather at 47!
Greatest business achievement: The integration of Atlantis International into Kärcher UK Ltd and working for Kärcher
Most likely to say: "Let's try it!"
Least likely to say: "I'd like to pay more tax"
Tips for business: Strive daily to improve yourself and be disciplined in your thinking and actions
Other interests: Cooking, fine dining, cycling, canoeing, chickens and Manchester City