Husband and Wife Team Land New Detailing Contract with U.S. Tennis Association
Florida Couple Relies On Sound Business Practices, Training And Professionalism To Ace The Competition…
By Kimberly Ballard
Sometimes, even a well-established detailing business must jump through hoops for a prestigious contract, and B&W Mobile Detailing in Kissimmee, Fla., shows how it’s done.
Last summer, Wanda and Buster LaFauvre, owners of B&W Mobile Detailing, received an email through their website from the U.S. Tennis Association in nearby Lake Nona. The association was looking for a reliable detailing service that could come to their facility once a week and detail vehicles for the employees and visitors.
Neither Wanda nor Buster knew a tennis ball from a ping-pong ball, but armed with Buster’s “blue book” full of before-and-after pictures of their work, references and referrals, proof of insurance, and a copy of their business license, they showed up in matching B&W uniforms, 10 minutes early for their meeting with the association’s management team.
“It was like interviewing for a job, to be honest with you,” said Buster, who started B&W in 2005 after 25 years in the pest control business. “The first thing they asked us was whether we had an occupational license and insurance. I opened my blue book and showed them our business license, training certifications from two professional training centers, plus proof of $1,000,000 in liability insurance.”
The next questions were all about their set-up and operations. “They wanted to know whether we would need water hook-ups and electricity to operate. We own a mobile trailer designed and stocked by Right Look in San Diego, one of the places where we trained in 2006. In 2007, we won first place in the Best Mobile Vehicle contest at the Mobile Tech Expo, and we were featured on the cover of the July-August Detailers Digest that same year.
“So, we invited them out to look at our unit, so they could see not just how self-contained we are, but how neat and organized we are for efficiency. Everything from a stack of microfiber towels to a bottle of wax is within hand’s reach without having to ramble around in the back to look for it.”
Much like your typical job interview, he and Wanda, his wife of 47 years, left the meeting feeling good about their presentation, and the association seemed impressed with everything they saw and heard. They were informed, however, that the association was talking to several other detailers in the area as well. So after a couple of weeks went by with no word, the LaFauvres assumed they did not get the job.
B&W Mobile Detailing has found a lot of success with its approach to running a mobile detailing business over the past 12 years. They have a contract with the City of Kissimmee to clean and maintain all of the city’s commercial vehicles, including police cruisers, water department vehicles, and both the police and fire chiefs’ Explorers—everything but the firetrucks.
The LaFauvres are active members of the International Detailing Association (IDA), and they are ever present at IDA events, trade shows, training events and seminars. They have been to the Mobile Tech Expo every year as well as to DetailFest.
<B>A Lightbulb Went Off<P>
Prior to opening B&W in 2006, the LaFauvres had classic cars and showed them at a lot of classic car events. Wanda worked for the Osceola County School District, but they were both always seen at car shows keeping their own vehicles clean, and usually working on cars on either side of them as well, since in competition, presentation matters.
“Someone commented to me that we do such a good job, we should get paid for it,” said Buster. “In 2006, a lightbulb went off, and I started looking into this business of detailing. We had some extra money, so we invested it in learning how to do the job correctly and professionally.”
Buster first attended Detail King in Pittsburgh, Penn. He came back excited, hired a young kid to assist him, and with Wanda still working for the school system, he picked up a nice job cleaning some high-end vehicles at Disney World.
<B>Help, Help Me Wanda!<P>
“Providing a quality service is how you make money, how you build a reputation and gain referrals,” Buster said. “I really needed help, but I was struggling to teach my young assistant the same values.”
One morning, they were detailing a Jaguar that belonged to a CEO at Disney. It was a referral, and LaFauvre wanted to do an especially good job. “I was cleaning the exterior and my assistant was cleaning the interior. I was only half finished when I looked up and saw my assistant sitting in the truck,” Buster recalled. “He said he was finished. I continued working all the way up to closing, to the time the car owner was expected to pick up his car and pay us.
“I opened the door to do a quick quality-control check of the interior, and there on the hump behind the seats was a terrible coffee stain. I was angry and panicked. I managed to scrub it away just in time for the owner to arrive. Had the owner come back and seen that stain still there, he would not have paid us. I would have lost a lot of money!
“I didn’t fault (my assistant) for not knowing how to remove the stain, a process that is often difficult even for experienced detailers, but I was livid that he did not tell me about it or even try to remove it.”
Buster fired him on the spot, and the next day, Wanda retired from the school system after 20 years and joined him on the road.
“Wanda is 64 and I am 68,” he said. “Married 47 years, we are 24/7—that is, we are together 24/7 in life, work, and everything in between.”
She was even more driven than he was to learn the detailing business, as if that were possible. So together they decided they still didn’t know enough to build a sustainable business.
Their son was in the Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. They used the time visiting him to also attend weeklong training with Right Look in San Diego. One of the instructors was veteran detailer Prentice St. Clair, a founding member of the IDA. “Prentice showed us how to truly take care of a car, not just slap some wax on. He also got us involved with the IDA. Our business completely changed after that.”
Nearly three weeks after their interview at the U.S. Tennis Association, the LaFauvres got a phone call. “The association had contacted a couple of our references and were ready to hire us, but they were concerned that the location in the main building parking lot was exposed to the hot sun with no shade,” said Wanda. “No worries,” she added. “Buster explained that we never wax a vehicle in the hot sun. We carry two canopies with us everywhere we go, so we have shade. They were truly wowed by that and said we were just what they were looking for!”
In a typical week, they sign up clients by Tuesday and come out to the site on Thursday to service those requests. If someone shows up who forgot to sign up, they do their best to accommodate, as long as there’s enough water left in their mobile tank. It allows them to clean 10 to 12 vehicles at a sitting.
“We do not leave a mess or trash in the parking lot, just some wet spots from the pressure washer that dries up quickly,” noted Buster. “I think they liked that we are a mature husband-wife team, and we pride ourselves in setting expectations and taking the initiative to meet and even exceed those expectations.”
@CL: B&W owners Buster and Wanda LaFauvre, often displayed their vintage vehicles at car shows, where they were known for keeping the cars shiny and clean. A passerby’s casual comment inspired them to launch a detailing business.
@CL: The LaFauvres have cultivated a loyal clientele, including a contract with the City of Kissimmee, Fla., to maintain the city’s commercial vehicles.
@CL: A shining example of B&W’s attention to detail. The work truck in the background was named Best Mobile Vehicle at the 2007 Mobile Tech Expo.
@CL: Wanda LaFauvre, who quit her job with the local school system to team up with her husband, is shown here hand drying a Cobra.
@CL: Detailing luxury vehicles, like this blue Bentley, is all in a day’s work for Buster LaFauvre.
@CL: The interior of this Ford Taurus SHO gets the full detailing treatment from Wanda LaFauvre.