Business scholars and students throughout recent periods have studied the fascinating business model of franchising. In the most history of commerce under a common currency from Amsterdam forward to the Global Power House of the United States of America we have seen franchises lead the way. The first franchise was said to be that of the Singer Sewing Machine. Yet if one were to carefully study the Catholic Church or even colonialism itself you can see that franchising or at least its structure is all over mankind’s creations. This is on of the reasons we study franchising and franchised companies. From Ray Kroc at McDonalds to the modern day automaker dealerships, we see franchising’s mark all over our civilization.
However rarely do we study the makings and grass roots humble beginnings of niche franchise companies. This article is about the history of just such a company. It is intriguing to read how franchises occur naturally in free market systems. Below is the story of how the Aircraft Wash Guys wash founded and how they got started in the Aircraft Washing Business. Although there is tremendous data and written articles to back it up, the story is written from a fictional point of view and opinion, so we do not intend to try to prove anything to anyone, nor do we want to get the founders in any trouble for the fun of the past. We claim freedom of speech, of the press in its entirety since a good part of it is opinion based. This of course should be familiar to any of those who have read the history of McDonalds in Ray Kroc’s “Grinding it Out” or Subway Sandwich Story; “Start Small, finish Big.”
The Aircraft Guys was not always called the Aircraft Wash Guys. The founder Mr. Lance Winslow’s original company at age 12 was Speedy Waxers. He stared with partners. Andrew Rice and Mark Daily, who father both owned aircraft too. In Lance’s family they had a Piper Colt, two-seater, which Lance had some 80 flying hours in. Andrew’s dad bought a Cessna 150 and Mark’s dad had Bellanca Decathlon and a Beech Bonanza. It was in the business of aircraft washing and waxing. Mark Daily became a businessman, Andrew Rice joined the Air Force. All three were in the Civil Air Patrol at the time. Andrew and Lance were also in the Boy Scout Aviation Explorers. Lance eventually came to own the business by himself and later sold this business to a friend, Glen Tierney, who was in the Junior ROTC. This was in 1979 at Camarillo Airport (CMA) in California near the Coast above Los Angeles. After selling Speedy Waxers, Lance went to work for a local McDonald’s as an employee, for Clay Passion, Franchisee, who owned a Beechcraft Debonair that Lance use to wash on a weekly basis. Clay was a long time customer and his office staff were Car Washing customers for at least a decade in Lance’s other company the Car Wash Guys; http://www.carwashguys.com . Clay promised Lance a quick advancement due to his previous business experience and aircraft washing loyalty. Lance was waiting for a turn to go into training to be an assistant manager. Meanwhile he read Ray Kroc’s book and studied every single manual and videotape in the place and how every single detail was accounted for. WOW, he thought, this is how you really do it, this is when Lance decided he would emulate Ray Kroc whenever he could. Glen Tierney later joined the Air Force five months later and left the business.Lance recontacted all the customers and went back into business under the name Aero Wash, and then set up more units at Santa Paula Airport, Van Nuys, Oxnard Airport and even got accounts in Santa Barbara. Back then we washed 135 aircraft per week at approximately $10.00 each. (Can you imagine those prices today?)
Back then Lance thought he would try aircraft sales, however he was young and naive and nobody would give me a chance. He knew he would do well, he happen to know just about everyone at five different airports, contacts for sales would be a no-brainer. Not only was he young, but he was small for his age. It was hard enough to get people to let him wash their planes at age 12 let alone sell planes at age 15. So at 15 he formed an aircraft finders fee business and asked a commission for referring buyers. This was when the ITC-Investment tax credit was taken away, America was still in the energy crisis with high fuel prices and luxury tax law went into affect the next year and killed General Aviation. We still had the aircraft washing business, but Lance now armed with a driver’s license at sixteen knew no limits. He started washing fleets for utility companies, California Highway Patrol, Post Office Jeeps, anything. At the time we had several Independent contractors we called “franchisees.” Of course at the time Lance didn’t really understand the total extent of what franchising was, he understood McDonald’s and attention to details, but was only starting to grasp what he would some day become. Lance was winning in the market in the middle of the recession, he said we do not participate in recessions. We are good at the down times too, we have been there and we won and we understand the market and the sectors we are in. Here are some articles in the beginning.
Lance started a company he called Speedy Aircraft Finders. As part of this business he started the first Aircraft Multi-Listing Service, which was online. Although the Internet was not really being used yet and TRS 80’s were just hitting the market. He used dumb terminals and watts lines to send aircraft brokers updated listings. He sold approximately 40 or so aircraft back then and assisted other brokers in doing the same. He took on two partners and later they were able to squeeze lance out of the pattern. Two years later one of the gentleman later went to prison for embezzlement when he sold the same aircraft to three people, the other reprimanded on another deal and eventually lost everything.
Lance after being forced to sell his third of the business went to work for Air Camarillo and started the Aircraft Sales Department determined to out-sell those gentlemen. He did and everyone else too. Although he really did not like to do sales, he loved to fly the aircraft for sale. Sometimes he would insist that every buyer fly every single aircraft on the line for sale and many that Lance had brokered agreements, before they were allowed to make and offer, sign a conditional sales contract or buy an airplane. Thus Lance got more flying time in lots of cool aircraft and he doubts he ever had an unhappy customer, they always gave referrals and always came back. It was through this high volume of sales that Mira Slovak, a famous Russian Defector during the Cold War, came to Lance with a proposition to help him sell Partnavias. An Italian Built Aircraft, which Mira had the North American rights to sell. Lance became a dealer for that brand too.
One day Mira shows up in an Italian Bi-Plane and asks Lance if he wants to go for a ride. Lance says sure. Lance and Mira Slovak inventor of the aircraft maneuver the Lumshovak, fly to 300 AGL and do the inverted snap roll entry cartwheel and tumble through the sky. Lance was then hooked on aerobatics. There was a time when if Lance could not cage the gyros and in a plane so he could do a spin or a barrel roll or in aerobatic aircraft do a loop or tail slide he just wouldn’t fly. He got over that quick enough, sometimes it gives you a real head ache.
End Part I