015 – Stories From the Frontlines: 1st Week at Store #2

Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

In the first four episodes of this season, we discussed our plans for our new location, the day of nearly a hundred interviews, our pre-training process, and how we proceeded with live training. With our amazing new employees trained and ready to go, we did it! We opened Rising Tide’s second location!

In this episode, we’ll be talking about the process of opening the new location. Now that we’ve finished up the first week of operations with both stores running, we’re ready to talk about how things went! Instead of putting all the new employees in the new location, we knew it was vital to have a mix of experience levels. We moved about half of our experienced employees to the new location, so each of the two locations is now staffed by half experienced employees and half new employees.

This meant our existing employees really need to step up and take on more responsibility and leadership, and they’ve done such a great job. The new employees have been fantastic too, as they learn all of the other parts of working with us that weren’t specifically covered in the live training shifts.

Our approach involves three facets that we envision as being a pyramid. At the base is the process of cleaning the car. Once our employees understand this basic process, we move up the pyramid to the next layer: quality. We ensure that all of our employees understand just how clean a car needs to be. Finally, at the top of the pyramid is speed. This is the phase we’re currently in, as our employees learn to clean cars in 20 minutes or under.

Tune into this episode to hear much more about all of this! You’ll also learn about how we addressed some issues with some of our employees not understanding the need to be on time, why we see scripts as an important part of the business, and that some of our employees without autism have been more of a challenge than the ones with autism.


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In This Episode:

[00:21] – Tom S. reveals that the opening of the second location wasn’t completely smooth, partly thanks to Hurricane Irma.

[00:57] – How are the employees — old and new alike — acclimating to the situation with the new location?

[02:26] – Tom S. digs deeper into the differences between live training shifts and full shifts now that the second location is open. He also discusses how they’ve addressed tardiness among some of the new employees.

[04:52] – Tom D. explores one of the strategies they used to correct tardiness.

[05:18] – We hear about the three-pronged approach involving the basic process, quality, and speed. Tom D. explains this as being like a pyramid, with the basic process as the base and quality as the next step.

[08:25] – The peak of the pyramid is ramping up the speed. Tom D. talks about some strategies they use to encourage their employees to work quickly and ensure customers aren’t waiting around too long at the car wash.

[09:40] – If you’re interested in creating your own enterprise, Tom S. offers some tips on where to focus your attention.

[10:36] – Tom D. compares the process of opening and growing the first store with the experience of opening this one.

[11:37] – Their employees with autism have been the least of their problems, Tom S. points out. He explains that everybody who they brought into live training has worked out and shown an eagerness to be a valuable team member.

[12:37] – One of their employees has some behavioral issues involving outbursts. Tom D. talks about how they’ve handled this.

[15:02] – Tom S. talks about how important it is to be direct and make sure employees know exactly where they stand.

[16:15] – Tom D. talks about customer reactions. Overall, the customers are really happy. He also explains that they’ve put together scripts for their employees to address different subjects brought up by customers.

[18:04] – One thing that they recognized very early on as important was the scripting, Tom S. agrees. This is why their greeter has been one of their most important roles.

[19:49] – Tom D. gives a shout-out to the company’s CEO (and his dad), John D’Eri, who really understands how to handle objections and how important scripting is.

[20:30] – In addition to the scripts, Tom S. points out that understanding and looking out for customer feedback is a big point of emphasis.

[22:00] – Tom D. touches on one more thing, which will be addressed in more detail in the next episode: the hardest thing so far has been the part of their workforce that isn’t on the autism spectrum.

[24:01] – A big question that they get from other autism entrepreneurs is how you get good typical support staff.


Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Hurricane Irma

John D’Eri

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