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2021 Emerging Leaders Scholarship Winners

2021 Emerging Leaders Scholarship Winners

8 minute Read

By Lilly Chapa

International Car Wash Association recognizes the 2022 Emerging Leader Scholarship winners, a group of up-and-coming car wash industry leaders under the age of 45. Each year, ICA honors individuals chosen based on their leadership, dedication and commitment to their organizations and the industry.

JasonRISING THROUGH THE RANKS

Jason Thomas, District Manager

Mike’s Carwash - Loveland, Ohio

Jason Thomas oversees three car washes as a district manager for Mike’s Car Wash – mentoring, coaching and training team members at each location every day while ensuring the stores are maximizing profitability and ensuring operational excellence. Thomas has come a long way since he joined the car wash industry eight years ago, where he started as a part-time clean up member at Mike’s.

Since then, he applied to be a fast-track manager and was placed into a training program that ultimately allowed him to work as a shift manager for several months before being promoted to assistant manager. In that role, Thomas said he was able to learn how to run his own location and was then promoted to general manager. After three years as a GM, Thomas now works as a district manager.

“Jason has grown through the ranks at Mike’s…and has a passion for the carwash and the team,” said Ericka Vaughn, director of human resources at Mike’s Car Wash. “As a leader he is always willing to jump in and cover a shift, empty trash or direct a vehicle in the wash. He continues to contribute new and inventive ideas to improve wash quality, customer satisfaction and, most importantly, team member satisfaction.”

Vaughn said that one of Thomas’ wash locations has one of their toughest customer bases, but he really made a difference at the store.

“Our customers in this area know what they want and how they want it,” Thomas said. “They require a ton of extra services for the customer before entering the wash. I prepared my team to first understand that our customers are from different demographics in this area and we must value that and understand that the dollar means more to them. It’s important to make sure customers feel like they’re getting a great value and service.”

Thomas said he values the family atmosphere the company fosters and is looking forward to seeing more innovation in the car wash industry.

“Over the years, car washing has evolved tremendously with great technology and state-of-the-art equipment,” Thomas said. “I look forward to helping take car washing to the next level, creating an awesome experience for the customer.”

DestinyGROWING THROUGH CHANGE

Destiny Baker, Corporate Training Manager

Mammoth Holdings – Hopkinsville, Ky.

When Destiny Baker first joined the car wash industry, she was drawn in by the combination of management skills and a fast-paced environment that involved both indoor and outdoor activity.

“To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started or that I thought this would be a lifelong career, but once my foot was in the door, I caught the bug and this is where I will continue my growth,” Baker said.

This approach to her career began with an assistant manager position at Fast Line Car Wash and grew over the next three years as she worked up the ladder as a site manager and district manager. She was building out the company’s Unlimited Wash Club program when her team learned that Fast Line was being acquired by Mammoth Holdings. Baker had grown her career at the organization and said the moment was bittersweet.

“We were really happy for the owners and the excitement this meant, but at the same time it was nerve-wracking in a sense,” Baker said. “This hit me more as I knew this would affect my role pretty heavily compared to some of the site managers.”

Positive meetings with Mammoth’s leadership, as well as guidance from the previous owner, helped the team navigate the transition, and Baker said becoming part of Mammoth has been an amazing opportunity and journey. She continued to train team members on the Unlimited Wash Club at each location, and under Mammoth she trained one person in each region to train their own washes on the program. Baker traveled to Alabama, Georgia, Utah and the Gulf Coast to help establish the Unlimited Wash Club Manager in each of those regions. That role evolved into an integrations manager position to train newly acquired sites.

“She has great team working skills and can relate to all levels of the team, from upper management to even the team members in the field,” said Morgan Harris, training and recruitment manager at Mammoth Holdings. “No matter which location she may be working from, she always holds up the brand and teaches this in her day-to-day work. This can range from a classroom setting training other managers to training maintenance in the trenches with the team members.”

Baker said each day is a little different when she works with acquired sites – and that’s why she loves her job as much as she does.

“At any point if anyone needs help in any area of our company, I can be reached out to and help on the spot,” Baker said. “This can range from a spreadsheet not working to training questions and systems that we use.”

Each problem is a chance to change something for the better, which makes this pivotal point in the car wash industry more important than ever, Baker said.

“COVID-19 really ripped open a bunch of opportunities we wouldn’t have thought of until we were put in that position,” Baker said. “There is more technology in consumers’ hands to enhance their experience and get them into our membership programs and really ramp up the industry as a whole. On the people side of things, this becomes a really fun opportunity to get more people on board to join our industry and pull back that curtain and really see what we are doing, which is much more than just washing cars.”

NickBUILDING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

Nick LaPosta, Site Manager

Hoffman Car Wash – Colonie, N.Y.

When Nick LaPosta was 16, he started working part-time at a full-service Hoffman Car Wash location for the same reason many teenagers do almost anything: because his friends were doing it, too. Almost 14 years later, LaPosta’s career in the car wash industry has transformed from where it began in high school, but that initial experience of working with friends has stuck with him over the years.

“It was absolutely a lot of fun working closely with my friends and others, and it left such an impression on me that I wanted to learn more and more and advance to where I am today,” LaPosta said.

These days, as a site manager, LaPosta oversees the operations of the facility by working with employees and customers alike as well as troubleshooting maintenance issues and striving for success. He works closely with the management team and line attendants to encourage them to continue their advancement within the company, and also enjoys interacting with the customers. And just like it was 14 years ago, LaPosta’s favorite part of the job is working with other employees.

“I really enjoy being a small part of their lives, and hopefully I can impact them in a lasting way that helps them in anything they do in their careers, whether that’s with us or in a different industry,” LaPosta said. “We have a growing company and I love seeing employees that start out as line attendants and get promoted along the way and can advance to where I am today. A lot of our employees are young, and I think what they are learning with us is more than just car washing – they learn to be hard working, responsible members of the workforce, and I love being a part of their development.”

Peter Panagedes has been LaPosta’s direct manager for several months and said he has seen him consistently make good decisions and strengthen his bond with the employees.

“Nick has a level head, is organized, motivates his team, holds them accountable, challenges them daily and really has a great balance of what is best for our customers, employees and the organization,” Panagedes said. “He has tough conversations when needed and is flexible when he can be. The staff loves working with him because of this.”

LaPosta is excited about the growth of the industry and wants to be a part of the success Hoffman has experienced. He said he hopes to continue advancing with the company and help as many employees and customers as he can along the way.

“The sky's the limit for Nick and it is sincerely a pleasure to work with him every day,” Panagedes said. “In the last several years is where I’ve really seen Nick grow into the manager and the person that he is today. I appreciate his dedication, outlook on things and his willingness to take criticism to get better. We are a better team because of Nick LaPosta.”

AugustusTHRIVING IN VARIETY

Augustus Brown, Facilities Manager

Alaska Car Wash Maintenance & Distribution – Eagle River, Alaska

Augustus Brown didn’t know anything about car washes when he got a job as a customer service attendant at Sudzy Salmon’s flagship Eagle River, Ala. location – there were no express exterior car washes where he grew up in Utah. Brown said when he started his mindset was that he wouldn’t know how to work at a wash, but soon realized that he might have more relevant experience than he thought. Growing up on a farm, Brown said he has always been inclined to work with his hands and was quickly drawn to the maintenance side of the car wash industry.

“I get a lot of weird looks when I say that I manage car washes, but as I’ve learned and progressed, there are a million different ways to succeed in this industry,” Brown said. “If you’re into the maintenance side of it, you can have your own maintenance company, or you can be a chemist for one of the chemical companies. There’s the distributors, manufacturers – so many routes and opportunities that a lot of people don’t understand.”

From a customer service attendant, Brown was promoted to a shift captain and then site manager with Sudzy Salmon before becoming a facilities manager for all locations and a maintenance technician manager for Alaska Car Wash Maintenance and Distribution. Brown balances both management and maintenance in a way that has strengthened his organization.

“Gus has been with our company since the beginning, when we did not have great training and systems,” said Jason Woodward, Sudzy Salmon’s owner/operator. “He is a self-starter and motivated with an uncanny ability to just figure it out. This past year he has helped our company implement ICA’s Leadership Management System, completed the talent management certification, and is headed to EMI.”

Brown is passionate about showing others the variety of opportunities within the industry and enjoys training new managers.

“It’s a lot of fun, because we hire a lot of young adults fresh out of high school or in their early 20s—that’s where I started,” Brown said. “When you see these folks open their eyes to what they can do, you can teach them how the equipment works, and it’s gratifying to see people learn how to fix an issue themselves without having to outsource because they understand the equipment.”

Brown also sees a lot of opportunity for himself and his organization in Alaska, where he said the sky is the limit.

“I hope to continue with the company I’m with, to expand into Alaska as much as we can and hopefully into the Lower 48,” Brown said. “I’m along for the ride and am willing to do what I need to to help my company grow and succeed.”


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