25 Sep Tom Mangas of International Car Wash Group Sets Sights On Top Of Global Car Wash Market (As Ran in Car Wash Magazine)
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INTERNATIONAL CAR WASH Group Chief Executive Officer Tom Mangas has spent his entire career in a global consumer business. From his earliest days at Procter & Gamble, he was supporting global brands that were helping customers with cleaning and helping make an impact on customers’ daily lives.
But the path into the car wash industry wasn’t the most direct route. It’s kind of like that challenging ingress situation going on at your wash — eventually he was bound to get there.
Mangas spent 20 years with Procter & Gamble and spent time in Istanbul working with a global fabric business where he developed a deep love for global businesses. From there he moved to another global company running the flooring side of residential and commercial building materials company Armstrong World Industries.
Then, Mangas found his way to Starwood Hotels and Resorts serving first as CFO and moved into the CEO role after Starwood merged with Marriott.
After a brief stint working on a technology startup, Mangas found an opportunity that, in a round-a-bout way, all of his experiences had been building toward.
“ICWG came calling with this opportunity,” he said. “It had all the elements I loved. It was a global business, consumer focused, and in an industry that was very interesting to me. There are tremendous growth opportunities both at ICWG and in the industry abroad. And it had great economics, which really appealed to my finance background.”
Even his tech startup efforts contributed to making him a strong candidate to join the car wash industry.
No doubt it was an interesting time to come on board at ICWG. Surprisingly, with 900 global car wash locations, the car wash giant wasn’t even on the U.S. market radar just four years ago. “From 2015 to 2018, ICWG was on a tear,” Mangas said. “ICWG had zero locations in the U.S. and now is in the top three, where in the top three just depends on the day and what has been announced.”
It’s no secret that ICWG aspires to be the leader in the U.S. market. As of April 2019, the company had 140 washes with 10 in construction. Globally, ICWG has more than three times the locations as the next global competitor.
So how has that company created that kind of accelerated growth? According to Mangas, the answer is in a combination of both greenfield activity and acquisition. “Our goal is to really build a great global business with a dramatic emphasis on the U.S. market,” he said. “We love our international footprint, but as I think about where the opportunity lies and where to deploy capital and human resource, it’s in the U.S. It’s a great time to be in car wash.”
ICWG is aggressively acquiring and building locations but at the end of the day, the focus is still on delivering a quality product and a great customer experience. “I think there’s a lot of buzz about acquisition and private equity, but it starts with delivering a great customer experience,” Magas said. “If they have a problem, you solve it quickly. It’s about being engaged in the consumer experience from before they drive up, the journey through, and when they leave and after to make sure they are getting what they want. That laser focus has to be first and foremost for us. Everything else doesn’t matter if we don’t get that right: only as good as your last wash delivered.”
That focus on customer experience comes directly from the hospitality industry. Interestingly enough, so does Mangas’ view on the future of consolidation in the car wash industry. “I think this industry will evolve similarly to how hotels have evolved,” he said. “If you look at hotels over the past 30 years, it was very fragmented; many brands were independently run, there were a lot of independent owners and operators. Marriott, Hyatts, Hiltons and the big brands now have between them a 50% share of U.S. market. There’s still going to be a long tail of independents out there.”
In fact, Mangas sees great value in the give and take that comes in a consolidating market. “I think the independent operator will be there for a long time,” he said. “There are always entrepreneurs who create a better mousetrap and that brings innovation.”
That said, Mangas doesn’t mince words when it comes to ICWG’s desire to be a buyer of choice. “I think consolidation provides a great way for successful folks to exit the business. If they simply want to do something else with their life, or don’t have a succession plan,” he said. “Every deal for us is bespoke because every owner wants something different as an outcome. Maybe they want a role with us, or a favorite employee, or a development that they aren’t finished with yet. We start with a blank sheet of paper.”
And the team is proud of the progress it has made and the team that it has built. “We have great people at ICWG in Europe and in the U.S.,” Mangas said. “They’re really passionate professionals that know the business, love the consumer engagement, service, and are wanting to deliver a great service. I didn’t expect the level of professionalism [when I started] and I think it speaks great for the industry and the ICA for the work it’s done to drive that through.”