A year and a half after “every bank in town” rejected his bid for a loan, David Banks has built a profitable car-detailing business that he plans to expand this spring.
The 35-year-old Arkansas native opened Banks Detailing Services, at 1812 Dogwood Lane in Columbia, in May 2004. He moved to 600 Fay St. in April of this year. Banks used about $5,000 he had saved to open the business and watched expenses closely in the first months, each month assessing what new equipment he could afford to buy and how much he could afford to pay his two employees. Now that he attracts a steady stream of customers, he is researching the market in Jefferson City and planning to open a second shop there.
“It’s a mind thing,” Banks said about his decision to start the business. “If you can’t get a loan from the bank and want to open a business, you can do it if you want to. Go to people you know are going to buy from you and put together contracts before you get started.”
Banks said he spoke to his clients regularly and asked them how he could improve his service.
Steve Wesselman, a used-car manager at Dodge City Motors, said that from the first time they met, Banks struck him as an honest businessman trying to make a living. Banks asked Wesselman for the opportunity to clean one car. If Wesselman didn’t like the work, the service would be free of charge. Wesselman, satisfied with the work, paid Banks and has continued to do business with him.
“He’s pretty meticulous,” Wesselman said. “And he asks, ‘Do you see anything on here you don’t like?’ If anything is not up to standard, he takes it back and fixes it.”
Detailing is a more thorough cleaning service than what’s offered by a typical car wash. Banks cleans and waxes the car’s exterior; shampoos the carpet; and cleans the dashboard, the door wells and the engine compartment. Most of his customers are used-car dealers who want their cars spotless before they’re put on the lot, but individuals also come in from time to time, Banks said.
For at least six months after opening his doors, Banks said he tried to get a loan to buy equipment and pay for insurance, rent and payroll, as he built a customer base. He was denied because he had spotty credit and was opening a business for the first time, he said.
The first months after he opened his doors, most of his profit went toward buying individual pieces of cleaning equipment he would have liked to buy all at once. He wasn’t always able to pay his one full-time employee and one part-time employee on time or as much as he would have liked.
“A payday might’ve come by where I didn’t get as much as I expected,” said Shacarin Steward, who does detailing work and helps Banks manage the shop. “I understood that it would be a little slow at the beginning, but I knew it would pay off if we stuck around. I had a position. Plus, I knew him. I knew he wouldn’t mess me around.”
Banks learned bookkeeping skills and to develop a “third eye” for details by working at his father’s car-detailing shop in Bearden, Ark. He moved to Columbia, where his sister lived, in September 1999, because he wanted to get out of Arkansas. After brief jobs at a Break Time service station and driving an 18-wheel semi truck, he decided he wanted to be his own boss and put together a business plan, hoping to offer his services at a lower price than the other car detailers in town.
Michael Key, a customer who had his red Ford Tempo detailed at Banks Detailing Services, used to sell cars and has worked with many detailers. He explained Banks’ success in basic terms.
“He does real good work,” Key said. “He’s just a good honest worker.”