After finishing high school, Bob Phillips didn’t know what he was going to do, so it felt natural to work for his father for a while. Little did he know that he would carve out a career for himself in the detailing industry. Today, he’s the president of P&S Professional Detailing Products, which he runs with his brother. Here, Bob shares what it’s like managing a family business and maintaining his father’s legacy.
The Phillips Family Legacy
Some might say that detailing is in Bob’s blood. His father sold detailing chemicals throughout his childhood and started the business Bob now runs with his brother. For his many years dedicated to the industry, Bob’s father was recently inducted into the International Detailing Hall of Fame. Bob’s first experience with detailing was washing cars in the neighborhood as a teenager.
When he finished up with school, his father hired him and taught him how to manage the business. Bob has now been working there for 30 years.
“I really admired my dad, so going to work with him was an honor,” Bob says. “As a family, we love working together. He created a great culture and had good employees. We’ve carried on that same tradition. It’s still something we value today.”
His father has since passed, but his influence lives on in the family business.
Making P&S a Great Business
Taking Ownership of P&S
After Bob and his brother took over the company from their late father, they knew they had some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, their father had taught them well and they’d both inherited his people skills.
“We were working hard and we were a successful manufacturer. We made good product. There was really nothing wrong with our company,” Bob says.
It wasn’t until Bob was speaking with a professional detailer – who didn’t know their business – that he realized they had more work to do. He felt he was letting his father down and he wanted to do something about it. He knew that he had to step up to the plate.
“I was doing my job but I needed to start using the tools that I had available to me and growing the business,” he explains.
Building the P&S Brand
Bob’s experience set in motion a drive for change at P&S. He began to engage with experts within the detailing community and invited them inside the business to recommend ways they could improve.
One of Bob’s closest friends is detailing industry leader Renny Doyle. Renny is now a spokesperson for their business. Together, they came up with a new brand vision called Double Black, aimed at detailing enthusiasts they refer to as “prosumers”. Prosumers are amateurs or hobbyists who buy and use equipment that has the quality of something a professional could use.
“We’re a legacy company. We manufacture over 130 different products, but you don’t need 130 products to detail a car, so we had to create a sexy brand.”
Bob says they’re just getting started with Double Black, but they’ve already seen huge success. In fact, over the past three years the company has experienced its biggest growth phase ever.
Embracing Change to Grow P&S
Bob admits that he and his brother had become a little complacent when it came to growing their business. But once they recognized that they could make changes for the better, they committed to it.
“You have to be tenacious. You have to persevere. And you have to believe in what you’re doing,” Bob says.
Change is never easy, but once you have everyone in your team on board, it becomes less of a challenge. For Bob, realizing that he had buy-in from his employees was a good indication that their plan was succeeding. That’s when he knew it was time to push the boundary even further.
“Once you get buy-in from your team, that’s the time when you step on the throttle again, ramp it up, and keep going,” he says.
Bob Phillips’ 4 Tips for Professional Detailers
1. Know Your Customer
Bob recognizes that the foundation of his business are the detailing professionals. But he’s found that there’s a customer niche called “prosumers” that he’s interested in as well. These prosumers have a couple of nice cars in their garage and are willing to spend money on detailing products to keep them maintained.
When you know your customer, you can better serve their needs in every area of your business. So that means looking at everything from your marketing approach to your distribution channels, so you can offer the best customer service.
2. Align with the Right People
Bob has taken advantage of the detailing community to help promote his products. The industry is unique in that detailers have a certain pride in their work and will even share the products that get them to the end result.
“[If] you engage those people and treat them with the respect that they deserve, they’re your best advertisers,” Bob says.
3. Find Your Passion
Bob loves what he does and that’s helped him manage a successful business for more than 30 years.
“We had a passion for delivering a clean car. For me, it’s really about that customer experience. If you’re a detailer, you better love detailing, because it’s work.”
Bob emphasized that detailing takes a lot of work. Despite being a relatively low-cost industry to enter, it takes perseverance and hard work to start a successful and enduring business. He’s proud that P&S is about to celebrate 60 years!
4. Set Your Sights High
Bob praises the industry for the improved level of education now available. There are a huge number of resources to help detailing professionals get started or upgrade their business. But when it comes to business education like financing, marketing, sales, and pricing, there is a bit more work to be done. He advises those starting out not to be afraid of pricing themselves appropriately.
“Typically, the detailer enters in the market underpriced. He doesn’t value his time enough. When you’re running a detailing business, your goal should be $100 an hour.”
His best advice is to seek out your own education by talking to people with experience.
“Take advice from others that have been successful,” Bob says. “Surround yourself with people that have similar values and get a mentor to help guide you in your business.”
An Exciting Future for Professional Detailers
Unlike many other industries, professional detailers have created a community that fosters information sharing. And the stronger that community becomes, the better it is for the industry as a whole.
“Detailers have learned that not everybody’s a competitor,” Bob says. “There are a lot of cars out there. There are a lot of cars to clean. They’ve learned that sharing information helps them become a lot more professional.”
And Bob has high hopes for the future of detailing.
“I’m most excited about the fresh perspective that everybody has on the industry,” he says. “The excitement from detailers – the engagement, the connection, and the opportunity to be profitable in the industry.”
This is one feature of Prescribing Growth – a series of interviews with auto recon industry leaders. In this series, we share the experts’ stories and they get to talk about their tips and tricks of running a successful business.