Car Wash Advisory founder, Harry Caruso, was featured on the latest episode of CarWash.com's Wash Talk podcast. Harry and the Car Wash Advisory team will be on Wash talk once a month to provide our thoughts and advice on the current standing of the overall car wash market. In this episode, Camile, host of Wash Talk, and Harry discuss Harry's background, the history of Car Wash Advisory, and what Car Wash Advisory does to help our clients sell their car washes.
Learn more or listen to the podcast episode here: https://www.carwash.com/wash-talk-134-meet-car-wash-advisory/
Camille Renner: Welcome back to Wash Talk, the car wash podcast. This is your host, Camille Renner. And today we are welcoming Harry Caruso, the founder of Car Wash Advisory to the show. Welcome to Wash Talk, Harry. Harry Caruso: Thank you, Camille. It's a pleasure to be here. Camille Renner: Yeah, of course. Really excited to have you. And I would like to let our listeners know that Car Wash Advisory will be joining us on the podcast once a month for the next couple of months. And so today, this is kind of just a get to know you episode with Car Wash Advisory.
So, our audience can get to know you before we dive into your company. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background and how you found yourself in the car wash space?
Harry Caruso: Certainly, it's a bit hard to follow, but I'll do my best to make it have some connectivity per se. I was an engineer by schooling. I did investment banking on Wall Street, after I graduated, for no other reason than not knowing what I wanted to do and people said to do it because you make money.
It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, and then since then I've traversed fintech startups that we brought from roughly 20 people to 800 and was raised, goodness, we raised 1.3 billion of external capital. For that, did direct investing at a hedge fund doing capital arbitrage and then machine learning and neural nets at a company we started and later sold. So, a bit all over the place; If you look at it quickly, but in reality, it's always been on the technology and finance and the intersection of the two.
So, car washing came about, and this is the God honest truth, I owed a favor to a friend who had a favor to a friend when I was selling the machine learning company. And what happened was,I went a couple years back, a few years back now, to the Nashville Car Wash Show.
And I used to be actually a car guy I used to build car motors and race cars like very specific type. And I used to be fun and whatnot. So I always had sort of a tendency to lean towards automotives, but I had zero experience in car washes and in fact, I didn't use car washes. I washed my own car. That was a car guy, and it was, you know, the way we did it. But so I go to this conference and quite frankly, the people is, what did it to me.
The owners ubiquitously homogeneously across the board were. Just very, almost startlingly earnest. Good scrape people that you'd wanna go grab a beer with that you wanna hang out with. Self-made, no ego. Wonderful at what they do.
And it was everybody. So I never experienced that normally. You know, you get more diversity of, quite frankly, jerks and nice people, but car wash owners were they blew me away. So that's how I got exposed to car washes and what happened from there was.
I kept digging in and long story short is to nobody's approval turned down an offer to go build out one of these express platforms and be part of that instead to do this, and I will tell you I am. I couldn't be happier. So that's the genesis, I suppose.
Camille Renner: Well, thank you for sharing that. It is so interesting in this industry there's pretty much split down the middle people like you and like I who kind of just stumbled into this industry. But then there's also people who were raised in the industry have been working their way up from a car washer to now a CEO, so I appreciate that perspective and I would love to know, are you all in on the express car washing now or do you still wash at home?
Harry Caruso: That's a loaded question. I feel Camille know. I try to go to as many as I can. I am definitely not washing at home, but I will say that although to your point, right, I didn't go from washing cars to the CEO of a company that's literally the exact reason why this industry rocks. So I I hope and I hope so much that industry keeps this caliber of people moving forward, even with the influx of institutional money, which is gonna be interesting to see.
The older generation knows a lot more than the younger in this industry… that’s what I’ll say. But uh, you’ll be greatly missed.
Camille Renner: Absolutely. But we wouldn't have been seen all this innovation without some some new thought leaders coming in from outside industries. So, I think right now the old way of doing things in the new way of doing things, it has blended very nicely. So, it's really exciting stuff.
Harry Caruso: Absolutely. Yeah. Camille Renner: So, moving on to your business, I would love to hear about. You kind of already gave us the history of car wash advisory, but if there's any other historical context, do you want us to hear about and then I would also love to hear about your mission and the goals of car wash advisory. Harry Caruso: Yeah. So, without sounding too, you know, rigid and formal with all of this. So, here's what my mission was. And it was simple. And again, I didn't have a single person who thought I was saying to do what I did. You mean when you have an offer to go build out and be backed by a large fund to build out you know 10s of express car washes and you turn it down to make a national M&A advisor and investment bank that only does car washes… You don't really get anything but people tilting their heads and saying you're a moron. So, there was a lot of that.
Part is the mission was very simple. The mission was, is I found all these people to be absolutely lovely and my goal was to be able to provide a level of service that was equal to what I thought of, that which was, you know, nothing but exceptional. I like to believe we're successful at that and goodness knows we're learning and we're improving. But that was the mission is to bring awesome service to awesome people.
By way of goals, Camille goals my only goal with this company was Camille, and this is not car wash specific, but I am not a high pressure person. I don't believe in it. I don't like it. I can't do it so and I was in investment banking again on Wall Street so that it was terrible. My goal with this company was really to for the company to be successful without having to default back to these stereotypical horrific boiler room, high pressure jerks type environment. I wanted people I wanted to be able to do it with a team that was caring, supportive. It didn't have to be as hard as you know everybody in this industry wants to make it in terms of advisory and that quite frankly is what I'm definitely most proud of at the company by a long shot we did it.
Camille Renner: Well, congratulations. That definitely is something to be proud of.
Harry Caruso: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.
Camille Renner: And I'm sure it with all the changes in the industry and obviously your team is helping out some smaller operators that might feel a little overwhelmed with all the changes in the in the industry and maybe even a little intimidated I'm sure.
Cultivating that that very positive, friendly culture, it was probably very helpful to your clients.
Harry Caruso: We like to think so, and we're also this wasn't by design, but I'm not.
I think I think I'm very old, but I'm not very old in reality, right? So the companies are relatively young company and we.
We really, really don't care if anybody transacts, sells, buys or anything. Right now, our goal is to provide the correct advice and I'm sure we'll talk about this, but we're not going anywhere. I could care less if you sell in 20 years, we'll be here. So having that sort of longevity and mindset makes it so.
I don't know. Fulfilling. We never have a conflict of interest.
Uh, so it is. It is rewarding to deal with smaller operators for sure.
Camille Renner: I bet. So could you go into a little bit more specifically in the ways that you help interested buyers or sellers of car washes?
Harry Caruso: So on the seller side, the best way to explain what we actually do is we provide comprehensive advice and execution on transactions. Meaning if you're thinking of selling, getting investor raising capital.
Let's call those transactions. We provide everything in anything from advice all the way through the actual doing of the transaction.
The biggest thing is why I mentioned it, you know, unintentionally in the last sort of question here is that the big thing people have to ask themselves is whether or not they should be salaried. And I know this market is crazy. And I know these numbers are very high. But I'll tell you the truth. These industry rocks, and if you have a business or multiple sites, right, that are creating generational wealth for your family, it's not really that simple and.
I'm going off, you know, into a rabbit hole right now, but one very, very specific example.
Is ah and this happens more frequently than you would think if people that are thinking of selling and retiring.
I won't let a client who's thinking of doing this. I won't let them sell through us. I'll, unless they're willing to go get a financial advisor and be sure that that's enough to retire on.
Soon as you Cook fell for, you know what I mean? You can get yourself in trouble. So the the the, I would say 50% of our time is spent evaluating whether or not it makes true sense from an individualistic basis as to whether or not somebody should transact. And the same is true of raising capital and expanding. The other is the execution side, which is, if it does make sense systematically, professionally and in a structured manner, carrying out either a sale process.
Or a capital raise.
If the execution part and that takes you all the way through closing, so our job is to provide advice in the beginning and then to actually execute and guide through the end.
Camille Renner: Gotcha. And it sounds like you don't do any as you said financial advising or wealth management services, but are there any other services that you offer such as helping
Buyers secure a loan or something like that?
Harry Caruso: If buyers need financing and ad hoc and non paid basis, we are happy to point you in the direction of people. I'm this is gonna sound crazy. I'm very uncomfortable accepting money for not doing any work and that's sort of the shared philosophy over here on officially. Sure if you need financing, we can absolutely point you in the right direction. For goodness sakes. We end up. I'm intentionally arranging the financing for probably 90% of transactions that we do where the buyer is an individual, again we're not there or client, it's just more common courtesy other than seller services. We actually really don't do anything and that includes capital raises and sellers. And the reason Camille is I don't.
I'm just, I don't know, maybe I'm just not that smart or complex, but I can't get over, you know, if you have wealth management, if you have representing buyers, sellers, this, that there's too many opportunities that a conflict of interest. And I never wanna be faced with a question of that. So we've just stay on that one path.
Camille Renner: Well, I think that's very admirable. I think in today's culture there's a desire to kind of do everything and we feel that even on the editorial side, like, oh, we need to be on tick tock, we need to have a podcast. But.
Sticking to what you're strongest at is very admirable, I think.
Harry Caruso: It's hard, Camille, and I'm sure you've experienced it. You've it. It's so difficult to stay disciplined, but it's so the correct thing to do and it's proper for all of your clientele or end users. It really so yeah, 100%.
Camille Renner: Well, thank you so much for sharing that on our end. Again, we recently have been reporting a lot about new hires for your organization. It seems like you guys are on a really good steady growth path. Can you tell me more about why you added your recent additions to your team and if you see your company growing more?
Harry Caruso: Yeah. So this one, we're definitely gonna have to make sure you limit me on because I will keep talking. The team is everything over here. The team is what We'll transcend industries myself. Different situations. I I have been and I still look back on it and I do it quite frequently and try to understand why the heck these people who are so fantastic work with me or how I got them and I just got lucky I suppose to be quite honest in terms of the people and why we hired the recent hires and we've hired some very. And everybody, everybody's just outstanding individuals is because we found the right people.
So we've quite frankly, you know, I I refuse to and I everybody over here, we refuse to hire anybody if even if we need them. If they're not the right fit, I would rather stay up extra hours and avoid bringing somebody on. That isn't the right fit for the company and the culture and our clients.
So we've been very fortunate and the other thing that's going on, Camille is we, we.
We've reached a point where.
It's not so much that everybody has to do everything anymore.
And what's cool about that? And it's literally as I was looking at this the other day because I was creating a a thing for a new industry expert program that we're launching and looking at the R team stuff. And it was just, I know I could see it every day, but it was it's it's eye opening. But if you look at it chronologically, the most recent hires have all been experts in a specific discipline or function, whereas prior thereto.
Generalize. So we finally reached the point where we're hiring the people who are best at what they do to do what they do best at. And it's I don't again, I've been beyond lucky and fortunate.
Camille Renner: That is really, really cool feeling to have true experts on your team and we're really excited to see how your team continues to keep growing. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with our audience today, whether that's about your business, about your team, anything.
Harry Caruso: and the one thing I will say is that you have to briefly about continuing to grow. Are we gonna continue to grow as a company? The answer is yes.
And not for the reason of growth or empire building, but our entire thesis back to you know, sort of the mission statement. The goal was, can you take what is this industry that's notoriously known for profit today rather than long term correct decision and survive and build an economic model that works without having that pressure of needing sales today and getting fantastic people and have?
So now that we've hit that or, you know, jumped over that hurdle.
It's sort of game on I so we're as excited as ever.
Camille Renner: Great. Yeah. We're really excited for you too. I and I really appreciate your time today. Joining me on wash talk, Harry.
Harry Caruso: Of course, it's my pleasure.