What “Washing Cars” Taught Me About Great Company Operations

By: Grace Gurley 

Operations, in a nutshell, is managing the internal workings of a company. It’s building and optimizing systems to solve problems and create value. Taking problems off of others’ plates and solving them quickly and efficiently. This role is the glue that keeps the company and its teams together. 

What Does Operations Do?

Responsibilities include:

  • Human resource management – The employees of a company either create goods or services or provide support to those who do. Managing those individuals and optimizing their workflow are key to company success. 
  • Asset management – A company’s buildings, facilities, equipment, and stock are directly involved in, or support, the operations function. Finding which assets are swaying your company’s growth (positive or negative) before, or while, it happens will benefit your company.
  • Cost management – Most of the costs of producing goods or services are related to the costs of acquiring resources, transforming them, or delivering them to customers. Finding the highest quality/most cost-effective sources for your goods is pivotal in operations
  • Decision making – Making decisions about designs, management changes, and company improvement is part of the job. Optimizing work in all categories of the company. You will make or suggest the data-driven next steps for your company 

My Experience with Operations

At the car wash, each position is in charge of solving problems and optimizing services. When working at the sales booth, customers constantly presented me with tech, payment, and wash issues. Most of the tech and payment issues related back to unlimited auto-pay plans. My boss encouraged me to write down the customer’s information and apologize to them. The recorded issues would get passed on to someone else in the company.

I wanted to take some initiative, so I asked for access to our giant customer database. I learned how to locate issues, experiment, and figure out solutions. Correcting credit card issues allowed me to find recurring problems with specific card carriers. I created notes on how to sign up for future accounts with that same carrier and cut out the issue before it was ever created.

Another common issue I discovered was wash passes failing to scan. Passes were placed on the windshield and scanned as cars drove by for a fast customer experience. However, Lincolns never scanned. I had to manually look them up and send them through. This was a hassle for the customer and it created a long line for the wash. 

Through experimenting, my co-worker and I discovered that tags would auto scan if placed under the side-view mirror. Moving forward, we placed all tags on Lincolns under the mirror and cut down on customer complaints. These were some small-scale examples of large-scale operations.

Operating the heavy equipment in the wash, I had to look for, and stop, problems before they happened. Loose items in a truck bed or large trailer hitches can cause damage to a customer’s vehicle or other vehicles. Preventing dangerous items from entering the wash saved us accident insurance money, customer service rep time, and headaches for management. Problem prevention is a skill from operations I will take with me to all future jobs. 


I don’t need an operations title to solve problems. No matter what roles I take on over my career, operations will be a prominent part of them. Preventing problems will optimize my career success and personal life.

Wanna learn more about operations? Here are some sources I found helpful!

One thought on “What “Washing Cars” Taught Me About Great Company Operations

  1. Excellent article, I just add that I think that all this is not only applicable to companies, it is perfectly applicable for several or for almost all types of organizations


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