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Glen Bootay, owner of Eastern Mobile Wash, talks about how dropping some customers helped strengthen the company.

Washing trucks was the bread-and-butter business for Eastern Mobile Wash.

But several years ago, the Elizabethtown company realized it had an unusual problem: It had too many trucks to wash.

With its mobile units driving up to two hours away to wash trucks, the profit margin was getting smaller for every mile driven.

Plus, the company was passing up a chance for different, more lucrative jobs closer to home.

“The margins just weren’t high enough in the truck washing category,” said Glen Bootay, owner and manager of the business he bought in 2005 with Justin Frick.

“We knew we had to reduce the amount of truck washing we did and increase residential, commercial, and our waste hauler support services,” he said.

To maximize profits, the company dropped some old customers and added new customers while continuing to expand on its niche services to waste management companies.

In 2007, revenue from truck washing comprised 65 percent of the business, but so far this year it accounts for only 19 percent.

In that same period, revenue from waste hauler services has jumped from 14 to 28 percent while revenue from washing residential and commercial buildings grew from 21 percent to 53 percent.

And, from a high of 24 employees, the company today has 14, yet is more profitable while generating just under $1 million in annual sales.

“It’s easy to make more revenue. That’s a no-brainer,” Bootay said. “The challenge has been to make the profit more.”

To help overhaul its business, Eastern Mobile Wash worked with the Lancaster-Lebanon chapter of SCORE, a small business mentorship organization that named the company one of its 2016 Small Business Award recipients.

How did you get started in the first place?

We were really looking to buy something. We didn’t want to go in the restaurant business or anything with food service. We wanted to be in a service business that was recession-proof, something that somebody always needs and wasn’t saturated in the market.

What were some decisions that helped the business to grow?

Ever since the very beginning, we have always been a company very fortunate to have a lot of customers. But we realized early on that this can also be a problem for a business. Just because you are working seven days a week, 12-16 hours per day, doesn’t mean you have a good company.

We would rationalize it by saying one crew would go out and they would do 50 trucks, but still when you break it down, that crew could have stayed here and washed four houses that day and made a lot more money.

What are some things you did that really worked to grow the business?

SCORE was very instrumental in forcing us to take the time to look at every nut and bolt, every minute of the day, in our entire operation to determine what could be improved.

Just like if you go on a diet and count every calorie and write down all your food, that’s what we did for months.

This was a painstaking process, but after analyzing all the data, we realized that numbers don’t lie. So we put a plan in place to gradually reduce the number of truck wash accounts we were servicing.

Currently, we only take on new truck washing accounts if they fit our current business mix and scheduling constraints. At the same time, we were advertising heavily in print, radio and television to increase our residential and commercial customer base to make up for the lost revenue.

How did you get into working with trash haulers?

It just started by “Hey, can you help us out?” Because we were washing their trucks, it just grew from there. We paint their containers. We haul containers for them. We do everything but dump trash.

What were some setbacks you had?

After buying the company, we were presented with an opportunity in Lancaster to lease a building that already had a truck wash facility in it.

At the time, it seemed like a real good idea. We spent a lot of money, resources and time for about a year trying to make that location a top-notch truck wash. In the end, we were able to keep very busy for two shifts, but the business model demanded a 24/7 operation. We were never able to get permits for selling fuel and a restaurant pad, which was critical for continued operations.

It was one of those deals where we thought it was a no-brainer, but it turned out to be a mistake.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the company?

Finding employees. The work is very hard, but it also takes a lot of skill. There is no easy place for us to find qualified candidates. They don’t teach residential or commercial pressure washing in any schools.

When we get a guy that’s good, we take care of ’em so they don’t leave. But also we have to recognize that this is pressure washing; this isn’t a career for some people.

What’s next for the company?

What I would like to do is find another business that is comparable to ours that makes sense to buy. There are those types of business around here that we would like to buy. That’s our next step.

We are always looking for another business that we can purchase that could help smooth out the cyclical nature of our business.

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