Dan Pittman Talks DRB's Future on Car Wash Magazine Live

October 22, 2021

On this episode of Car Wash Magazine, DRB President Dan Pittman spoke to Car Wash Magazine Editor-in-Chief Matt DeWolf about DRB's new platform, Patheon®, the power of data insights to drive car wash growth and what DRB will be working on going forward.


Matt DeWolf: Joining us on the show is Dan Pittman. Dan, welcome!

Dan Pittman: Hey, great to be here, Matt. Thanks for having me.

Matt: Hey, it was a great video. We're going to dive into some of that in just a minute here. I appreciate the acronym. I'm a sucker for a good acronym, you know. Keep It Simple Stupid, all those kinds of things. The DRB acronym is great we're going to get into that, and we're going to talk more about behind the DRB brand in just a moment, but before we go there, Dan, can you just kind of give us your 30-second version of how you got here, what got you into car washing?

Dan: Well, i'm very blessed. I had a great journey getting here and really enjoying it why i'm here. You know I'm from this area originally, so this was kind of a homecoming for me here in Akron, OH. When I started out with the college in southern Tennessee, and then I was in the agriculture industry for just a few years, and that was an unbelievable experience working with America's farmers and agriculture cooperative. An incredible leadership crucible, if you will, some really interesting stress under harvest seasons, things like that. It was a great experience. From there I was in the steel industry for 10 years. I kind of grew up in steel, and then into technology. So 10 years at Diebold, I ran their global service operations, planning for their field service organization globally. And then i started working with some PE companies on some turnaround opportunities. And then this amazing opportunity came up. Just like a lot of people who get in the industry, you hear an opportunity car wash, you wonder what it is, and I'm really thankful I took that call. I've been here for, you know, six and a half years, it's the most fun that I've ever had. I've always said I'd love to retire from the car wash industry because the industry itself is great because it's growing, but the people are absolutely fantastic. So just happy to be here. It's been a great journey here at DRB.

Matt: Well, it's not a bad time to be in this industry that's for sure, and you all have have done some pretty amazing things at DRB over the course of that that six- or seven-year period here. Let's talk a little bit about how this landscape is changing and what DRB is kind of doing with that, right? So right now, competition is hot, people are kind of going all over the place and trying to figure out how are they going to differentiate, and part of that and how we do that is going to come back to data, and let's talk a little bit about why and set the stage here. Why is kind of getting yourself ready to be data driven important right now, like what does that do for us?

Dan: Look, we make a lot of decisions every day on how we're going to spend money, so it really becomes a matter of the best investment you can make. You know, our purpose statement here at DRB is we sweat your assets. Our goal is to really to get as much out of your site as we can possibly get. So we think the best way to do that is to be data-driven. Let me give you a little history. We started, you know, years ago really driving recurring membership plans, so we've been working with 25 million consumers. Twenty-five million, that's how many FastPass® tags are out there, and so we've been building this data set. So we really think it makes sense for for us to leverage that and then partner with the car wash operator with some of their information, and we can bring incredible insights to drive traffic because having a great car wash is very, very important, but everybody wants to drive traffic. We can prove that data, a lot of it, our data pools are growing, data lakes are growing, a lot of it can actually predictively drive traffic, so you're investing in consumer flow, if you will. So we have spent the last three years investing a lot in our customers' customer, which we call the consumer, and we've leveraged that you know 20 years of data along with what we're getting now with Suds, what we have in SiteWatch®, what we have in Patheon, and that's the reason I think it makes sense to be data driven because it's the best way to get maybe not guarantee but predict your ability to draw consumers to your site and at the right time I can give examples of how we do that.

Matt: Well, okay, so it's one thing to have the data, it's another thing to like figure out what to do with it, right? So for those of us who don't have a data analyst anywhere near us, how does that like, how do you figure out what to do with it? Like what do you do with all those numbers?

Dan: Yeah, so we've hired people like you just mentioned, so we've got data scientists and the behavioral economists, and so we've invested in those pieces of our organization because most car washers can't. We also have the largest pool of information and knowledge, but we also, Matt, we also buy quite a bit of data. So when you think about psychographic data or demographic data, we buy that when we're playing in certain places with our consumers, and we mix, we mix that data to get insights.So now you've got billions of data points. And so now if you want to predict who within six and a half minutes of your car wash has the most high likelihood, we can give you great predictability who the best consumer is for you to have come and be a monthly plan member. We will find them, and that's all through the data, and that's through dozens of different demographic points that we can use combined with how we define in our data lakes what a perfect customer is or what an ideal customer is. We can bring back a prediction to say, "Hey, this is how many ideal customers you have and if we run these three campaigns, we'll have take rates of this much." And then now you can get into the world of geofencing, or maybe it's an older population and you want to mail mailers to those folks, we can use the data to determine actually how we go after those ideal consumers, as well. We do that with a lot of predictability.

Matt: Yeah, I think the key, the key thing there that you mentioned is that we're not just leveraging data that is in our little car wash bubble, look, right? Like we're pulling purchase history kind of information, all these kinds of online behavior and interactions, and what's going on to create a really comprehensive profile of that consumer, right? I mean, and that's the power

Dan: Yeah, and that consumer can be looked at as aggregate or as an individual. I think a lot of our competitors spend a lot of time looking at traffic patterns, just traffic patterns going back and forth. We're actually looking at individual humans or phones and where they begin their day and where they end their day and where they're at at work during the day and where the traffic is getting to, what side of the road they are in, what time of day, types of things like that. Now you can really begin to leverage predictability. Just to put it in a nutshell, ou know, we find Mrs. Smith who owns two cars and owns her house, she's six minutes from her car wash, and she's, maybe she's open to subscription type things. She's on Facebook we're going to tell her when we geofence, and we're going to get her  a free car washe. When she comes in, we know why we want her. So that POS system through this whole ecosystem got that code to her, and when she comes in, we know what she's there for, we know we're going to sell her, and additionally, if she leaves, we know if she's a member or she's not, and we have a plan for her either way. So those types of things when you have enriched data allows you to do that.

Matt: Yeah it's super powerful stuff and, it's, I mean, I think that if we're, if you as an owner or operator are not ready for this you need to, you need to be ready, like, I don't know, a year ago because it's coming, and it's coming fast, and it really is going to be a thing that can set you apart or leave you in the dust when it comes to how you compete with with other other washers in the area. Well

Dan: And the beauty, Matt, is the beauty is we know that through data, yeah, we know that car washers create demand. That's why you see oftentimes there'll be some within close proximity, and they're both doing really well even though they're competing. Yeah, so you know, we can even take into effect from a data perspective, you know how to compete in your environment and be specific to your traffic, what time of day people are there and everything else. So again, we help folks really understand the spot they're in and how to best thrive in that location and what's going on around them.

Matt: That's awesome, that's awesome. Well, okay, so that leads to the next obvious thing, right? Like it's one thing to have the data, it's another thing to analyze the data, but then you like you need a platform like you have to execute on it, and it's it really stinks if like the only way you can do anything with that is like importing somethinng from over here and pushing that over here and then having to import it here. Patheon is the thing, right? That's your all's newest kind of child. Tell us a little bit more about Patheon.

Dan: Well first of all, it's a platform that was born really a few years ago at the same time we decided we were going to really become the steward of the consumer for the space that we play in and we're going to be thought leaders in the data space. We also knew at the same time we needed to take a technological leap. DRB's been a technology leader for a couple decades, and we really aren't just, you know, re-platforming uh the last platform. We're really creating a user experience from the ground up, and what's interesting in our industry, that platform isn't just a, it's not just a user interface for our customers the car wash operator, it's a consumer interface, too, because that example with Mrs. Smith I just gave you. So what we've really done with Patheon is really encompass the whole ecosystem. So now if you have the information, you have the data, thinking of the future and the flexibility to know that it's Mrs. Smith that actually showed up at the car wash and what you're going to do, you want flexibility. You want the ability to change your workflow for Mrs. Smith, to change the screenflow for Mrs. Smith. So now the platform of the future, which by the way, we've got it out there plentifully at sites doing very, very well, the ability to manage workflows to manage prices, to have dynamic prices, to interact with consumers in different ways. To the data that we're talking about that today, we're manually or through brute force getting to actually collect data from the consumer, interact in a way that's building a data set for the next experience. So Mrs. Smith comes back the second time. Mrs. Smith,it's been two months since you've been here, you know, we want to give you a free tire shine. That type of experience is how Patheon was built to do the same thing, not just from a point-of-sale but from a workflow and the ability to do that. And you said that now you have the data, that you have the analysis, now you have to execute, if you will. You need the platform, and we have tools out there today that even in our SiteWatch platform, we have the abilit, we'll be showing you at the Car Wash Show, actually the ability for operation excellence. It's actually just unbelievable the ability to execute what, you know, the scripts that you have to use, how you talk to people, are you running, so now you've got Mrs. Smith coming in, you've got a busy Saturday. Is your belt running at the right speed, are you tracking the right things, are people paying attention to the right thing? So the ability for every employee potentially have, you know, not just a checklist but a KPI for how things are going, what they need to pay attention to. So those of our customers that are familiar with StatWatch®, this is really the operational excellence version of that to really help them have insights and what's the right number of people, what's the right speed for the belt, when is it going to get busy today most likely based on statistics. Those types of things, the interaction of the consumer data all the way down through, you know,NoPilesups™ optimizing it. So again, we're trying to create an ecosystem that Patheon becomes the really the parent that, you know, they're our new child, but the parent platform where all those things begin to integrate more, but also they're powerful tools today, but Patheon brings it together.

Matt: Well, and like, I mean, it's what we talk about all the time in the marketing space is like you have to have that customer journey and that you have to go through that life cycle, and you have to keep in contact with them and messaging to them both before they get to the site, while they're at the site, but most importantly when they leave the site, when they're off and they're not thinking about you.

Dan: So imagine, Matt, if you would a data lake that's got an AI engine on top of it that once somebody, let's say it's Mrs. Smith, becomes the consumer, and she's a member, imagine if we had 20 or 25 data points among the millions that we're watching, and when when 12 or 13 of them check, check, check from Mrs.Smith, she crosses the line statistically to be more likely to churn, and we have the ability to stream her messages through that AI tool. Okay, now imagine if it's actually here because we'll be showing it to you at the Car Wash Show. It's really amazing technology we've got. Again, it's those those data folks have really just continued to leverage about how can we use the data, how can we use the data. One of the things we can do is predict churn, and if we can predict it, why wouldn't we do something and start sending text messages, things like that? So that's, that's really, you know, the stewardship of the consumer. Once you have them, you want to keep them.

Matt: Well, okay, so it's out in the wild, we can see it if we're at The Car Wash Show in Las Vegas, so that's super exciting. I'm going, I'll stop by for sure because I've been there, I've been thinking about this kind of stuff for a long time, so I'm excited to, I'm excited to see this kind of coming into the industry because, you know, we've been we've been a little behind for a while, but that's okay, we're growing, everything's growing, we're progressing everywhere. The data, though, with you all and what you guys do at DRB, operational components to this, too, right? And and that's helped driving some of this operational excellence initiative for you. Can you talk a little bit more about that for me?

Dan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, first of all, you know there is some rubber meets the road here. A lot of our customers, they perform the best in these areas when they have somebody manning a kiosk and things like that, so you want scripts, and you want those, so, you know, we can provide the scripts that again statistically now will be very, very successful. But you want employees to be doing certain things. I mean it comes down to the very basic things, right? You know, time how much of the time are they actually spending at the kiosk talking to people. But it's also really important a lot of times they're not running their conveyor speed at the right speed. Would it be great if you had a flag to say "Hey, you're really busy. You might want to speed up your conveyor." A manager that's not there on the Saturday, the busy day he isn't going to know that. Imagine if there's five or six things that you need to make sure get checked every day before you open your site. Imagine having both those things and along with the main KPIs for consumer performance on whoever you want it's phone to where something's out of whack, something needs alerted, you know, who actually completed the checklist, are we in a good place to start today. So really what we found is there's basic walking and tackling that need to happen at the car wash that also needs to happen to give them a clean, dry car, and so those are the types of things that we're all trying to put in one place that like this is the place where you take care of the consumer you make, money with your consumer you know how, you're doing with the consumer, you're getting through as many consumers as you can. So again, part of the ecosystem is a feedback channel now for the car wash operator, for the manager and maybe even down to the loader and the greeter and those types of things, have a couple tools where they know they're off to a good start, they're doing these things, they can track throughout the day in a really simple way. So we'll have some cool demos on this.

Matt: Yeah, I mean the fewer systems you have to you have to log into and navvigate on a given day the better.

Dan: And visibility. So data is never valuable without insight. So this tool we think is an operator's insight into the health of how the day is going for both his employees but also for his consumers

Matt: You get, well, we could talk about what data does for us all day long, but I'm going to let you get back to it here in just a couple, I've got a couple more questions I want to make sure i ask you. I lied, I have three more questions. I've got to ask you about site selection, right, because that's one of the hardest things to figure out. You've got to get a good location if you're going to get into this industry and do it right. Data helps.You guys have a lot of data, and you're helping people find the right sites. How does that work

Dan: Yeah, talk to us about SiteSeer. It's a tool that we have, so I mentioned earlier, Matt. this discussion about it's not about traffic volume to some extent but it's about what big box stores are nearby which ones people stop at and stay at, which days of the week they stay at, where they drive from home, where they drive to work, start point end point, so we've gotten enormously more detailed. It's not really traffic, it's really consumer consumer patterns that we're looking at very, very deeply. So we have a tool that we've developed. Again you'll be able to see it at the the show or talk to folks about it, but we actually do an analysis of a lot of those demographics that we talked about, a lot of the traffic, and then we can give you some predictors for what's going on out there, and we've got some customers that have really began to use it as the gold standard to say, "Hey, this is a really good site," because you can pick a really high traffic, but if it's at the wrong time of the road at the wrong time of the day or you're at the you're at the the end point, you're too close they want to get home, they're going to work and you're in the middle those types of things are very important. So what we do is we give confidence intervals and look if we give you a certain rating we will sign up for a certain number ofconsumers when you get rolling, so, you know, we put our money where our mouth is, but it's really, it's really a great, a great tool for understanding the site property. You know, with real estate in the last two years, it's just skyrocketed especially in the last year. You know, those decisions are are very, very important. The push and ingress and egress and how to make the flow, those decisions are really important well. So we think that we, you know, there's still more to learn, but imagine, I've been talking to you about the thousands of data points, of data. We we actually have a tool that we've cloned just to focus on the site and the site health, and so we're happy to have those discussions with folks to make them feel and also, you know, understand what kind of volume could be going through their tunnel one day. So, you know, maybe you want to you want to increase the investment a little bit more because we make you even more confident about your investment just based on data. We won't tell you stories about the data, but we'll show you what the data portrays or portraits.

Matt: Oh, man, that's fascinating that's really awesome. All right, so a lot of advancement in the last several years. You all obviously, you just launched a new platform, you've been doing a lot of development, a lot of new things. In general, what do you, like, what's next? Where's DRB going.? What does the future look like?

Dan: That's what that's a lot of fun to talk about. Well, first of all, the future is good. The car park, or the amount of cars in the, you know, out there are growing growing dramatically. EVs or or electric vehicles will need to be cleaned as well. You know I think there's a tremendous future for us around, for instance, you know, there's a massive infrastructure. I'm going to, I'm going to go like 10 years out and I'll come back, okay? All right, so 10 years out, one of the biggest infrastructure issues that i think is going to happen in the coming years is charging and things like that. Well, you know car washes have a lot of power,they have a lot of electricity, so I think there's some interesting,interesting things in the future when we have self-driving cars, which I think we'll get here but I think it's way further out than we think. But when we do get there, just like you put your kids, you give them a bath and you put them down to rest, I think your cars will need a bath, fully charged, and so we're we're actually investing in some really cool thinking as far as how that goes and how to take care, again, how to take care of that consumer as best as we can. It's really exciting. What we'll call the non-dreamer or the nearer future, I think what's going to be fascinating is the optimization of the car wash and the ability to get every car out of every roller spot. We've invested a lot of that in NoPileups, and now the technology I've talked to you about is starting to link together so the ability to optimize every piece or every spot on the conveyor, I think that that's going to be, again, increase, increase and get better. I think the consumer experience is going to be very, very powerful in how we interact with them and how we interact with other retailers that exist in the ecosystem And then I think, you know, most importantly the seamlessness of it. We've got patents on some really cool technology around identifying cars and knowing who they are, not just with the phone, and making it seamless and identifying, pulling them into the car wash. You know, look, there's no reason that really in the not too distant future, a couple years, you know, you know, imagine your system is plugged into the weather and the specials at your car wash changed because of the weather automatically. So understand, Patheon is built for dynamic pricing to take inputs from other places, so we're building that now. Those are just some of the things that I think from the consumer experience, seamless, but also a little more seamless from the system's perspective for the car wash operator, too.

Matt: I love that, I love that. Well, before i let you get back to the business of, well, washing cars, finding data, building data lakes, bridging all those lakes, I want to know, what's one thing that I could do today to be better tomorrow?

Dan: Well, let's link it to our conversation. Let's think of the conversation to keep a general theme and then let's have a little fun. You know, the first thing I would be is don't be afraid of data when you see the output. A lot of folks are are concerned that they don't want to talk to the guy on the phone with the data scientists. What our data scientists do is they tell you what's going on in your business and what it could be. It's actually really, really basic when it comes down to it, that look, if these things are happening, would you agree that if we do these things, these things could happen,and then let's try it for a while, let's measure it.Those those are the conversations we've had some people that are like, you know what, I can what i've been doing for a long time, and if it's working for you, great, but don't be afraid of it. It doesn't require anything but a conversation with one of our team members to kind of understand some of the data and what it's screaming at us because we can combine it with some other data. So the first thing would be jump in, you know, we mentioned data lake. Jump into the data, jump in,go for it. And the most, probably the most important thing would be that you could do today to get better tomorrow is find somebody to show a lot of compassion, to care for them, and then if, you know, and then just communicate with people and be open and honest with people. I think that in this rushed environment we're in as this industry is growing so fast, we kind of forget to care about people. Find somebody to care about, especially on your team, at your car wash, you know, walk around and you can change somebody's week, month, year, and maybe life depending what the conversation's about by just showing some compassion on folks.

Matt: That my favorite. That's my favorite, Dan. I mean seriously, we like, as much as we talk about data, we are still humans, and we do live and breathe. and we do need to care for one another.

Dan: Our job is to get data to make our customers, the team members here, our customers and their team and their consumers better and have a great experience. That's what it's all about, man.

Matt: Yep, absolutely, absolutely. Well, hey, Dan thanks for being on the show today. We're going to see you in less than a month at this point in Las Vegas i'm super super excited for that.

Dan: Yeah, likewise looking forward to it, get the car wash band back together in a big, big way. Looking forward to it. Thanks so much for your time today as well, Matt.

Translucent arrow decoration

Don't Miss a Post

Subscribe to our monthly Soapbox newsletter that includes all of our latest blog articles, plus events, news and more.

Air bubbles in blue water