Editor’s Note: Thought leader Grace Ueng is CEO of Savvy Growth, leadership coaching and management consultancy, celebrating its 20th anniversary.  Grace writes a regular column on Happiness & Leadership for us. Grace’s core offerings are conducting strategic reviews for companies at a critical juncture and one-on-one coaching for CEOs and their leadership teams. She and her partner, Rich Chleboski, will be facilitating Savvy’s Leadership Mastermind Group starting this fall. 

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Scot Wingo is to the Triangle tech community what Bob Ingram was to the Triangle life science community.  He is beloved by us not for his record of growing larger and larger successes, but for giving back generously of his entrepreneurial wisdom and for being uniquely, authentically Scot.

I had the fun opportunity to interview him last week as part of Harvard’s CEO Leadership Series.

[Watch the interview: Grace Ueng, Savvy Growth, interviews Scot Wingo, Founder/CEO Spiffy]

Marketing with a Twist

My first encounter with Scot was nearly 25 years ago.  I was the vice president of marketing at OpenSite Technologies and Scot was CEO of Auction Rover.  We both competed in the online auction space.

Scot’s father had a big influence on shaping his entrepreneurial spirit. He started working with his dad on his COBOL programming and consulting business early in his teenage years.

His dad gave Scot a guerilla marketing book which permeated the creativity in all the companies he started.

I recalled how his company placed “Are you Roving?” signs in our yard at OpenSite just to rib us.  We found it amusingly annoying!  You can see the signs in WRAL’s past coverage (NC State Grad Creates Auction Web Site that Fetches)

Turns out having an animal as a mascot was helpful for customers to remember Scot’s companies…

Grace Ueng, left, with Scot Wingo. (Photo courtesy of Grace Ueng)

Can we change this industry?

Years ago, Scot bought a land based carwash as a diversification strategy. He then observed how the car care industry was poorly run. The net promoter scores in the industry were very low, even negative.  Jiffy Lube was known to prey on female customers – often adding high margin services unnecessarily. Traditional detailers had bad reputations, were often uninsured and left chemical spills.

An early Tesla owner, who was also exposed to Uber early, Scot started to think about applying digital services to car care.  One of his favorite books is the late Clay Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. He realized the car care industry was the ultimate innovator’s dilemma.

He decided to launch an experiment out of his land based car wash…and the rest is history (in the making).

On-the-spot service from Get Spiffy. (Photo courtesy of Grace Ueng)

Happy Dance

In preparation for interviewing Scot, I scheduled my Spiffy service a month earlier to experience just what this all meant. WOW! Shelvonta showed up at my house right on time.  I ran outside to introduce myself and ask him what he was going to do.  He professionally explained the steps he would take and what the equipment enabled. I thanked him and went back inside to my home office to work.

He worked nonstop for nearly an hour and a half.  When he was done, I was so excited to see the results, that I ran out and took pictures, including one of him with my now whiter than white Tesla.

I beamed with happiness from my Spiffy experience that entire day and for the rest of the week, each time I got near my car. I took lots of pictures – including my tires, which were shiny, like when they were brand new!  One friend told me that I was happier and more excited than he was when his first child was born!

The a-ha moment in my interview with Scot Wingo was finding out that what I experienced was exactly what they set, from the very start, as their goal and resourced everything around this vision –  that each customer would do a “happy dance” upon completion of their service and they, like me, would tell all their friends that their car looked like the way it did the day they purchased it and drove it off the lot.

Own the customer experience.  And take care of your people.

Scot’s fanaticism on delighting the customer AND with treating his team right has created a culture that is a winner.

Scot has learned from the good aspects of Amazon – to create the perfect customer experience – and to set up operations to achieve this time and time again. Spiffy developed specialized equipment that would make my car look like the day I bought it. The Spiffy team brings water with them, invented a  wash mat with lip that captures all the runoff, uses green chemicals, reclaims the water, and leaves the customers’ home without a trace. They have successfully mobilized what you get at a physical car wash. Only better.

Spiffy’s relentless focus on the customer across all ranks of employees, levels the playing field across the company, creating a common ground for all conversations.  No matter where you are in the org chart, if you have something to say about how to make the customer experience a good one, people will listen.

Scot is a fan of Starbucks’ management philosophy. He cites how the company has branded the hourly worker as a barista and gives every new hire the option of two career tracks, management and individual contributor.

Spiffy technicians, in turn,  are employees, not independent contractors.  Spiffy trains their technicians…100 hours worth. Spiffy technicians are also given the opportunity to move up. Half of managers in their 45 markets started as a technician.

Spiffy rate gates technicians.  They don’t charge until the customer rates the technician.  They give 48 hours to receive a rating, until running the customer’s credit card.  As a result, 80% of the services are rated.  The result is a rich database which helps in providing feedback to the technicians. Spiffy believes in their people, paying to have them ASE (Automotive Service Excellence)  certified.  Providing the Spiffy experience is a hard job, and technicians, in turn,  are given a career path.

Move over Rover….Spiffy’s Penguin

The Rover suit has  been replaced with the penguin suit. Armed with a towel, the concierge penguin is at your service. It’s proven to be a good brand builder.

Next week:

Part II of A Conversation with Scot Wingo: Culture, Giving Back, and more.

About Grace Ueng

Grace is CEO of Savvy Growth, a leadership coaching and management consultancy founded in 2003. Her great passion to help leaders and the companies they run achieve their fullest potential combined with her empathy and ability to help leaders figure out their “why” are what clients value most.  A specialty is conducting 360s in order to help leaders become more self aware and uncover their blind spots.

Companies hire her firm for leadership coaching and strategy consulting as well as to  facilitate HappinessWorks™ programs, infusing the happiness advantage into corporate culture, leading to higher productivity and results.  A marketing strategist, Grace held leadership roles at five high growth technology ventures that successfully exited through acquisition or IPO. She started her career at Bain & Company and then worked in brand management at Clorox and General Mills. She earned her undergraduate degree from MIT and MBA from Harvard Business School.

Grace and her partner, Rich Chleboski, accomplished cleantech veteran, develop and implement strategies to support the growth of impact-focused companies and then coach their leaders in carrying out their strategic plans. Their expertise spans all phases of the business from evaluation through growth and liquidity. Rich and Grace will be facilitating Savvy’s Leadership Mastermind Group starting this fall.

Applications will be available later this month.