Case Study: Espresso Carwash Cafe

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Canterbury businessman Craig Freeman rewards his staff with a pat on the back or a pizza shout.

But it wasn’t always like that, he acknowledges.

Espresso Carwash Cafe director Craig Freeman says he grew up in a time when it was ok to work hard and receive little to no thanks or reward in return.

It was a mantra that influenced his early years as a carwash business owner.

“I was a bit of a taskmaster, I guess, but then after having two sons of my own, I look at these lads now in a different light.”

“They’re only a few years older than my own boys, who are 14 and 16, and to get the best out of them, rather than ranting and raving and being a tyrant, I’m a little bit more understanding and think ‘how would I like my sons treated in the workplace’.”

“And these guys most definitely respond better to positive reinforcement, rather than be told off constantly.”

On a busy day on his Lincoln Road site, all manner of cars are crammed into the site to be cleaned or being cleaned.

Freeman has been running the Lincoln Rd carwash for the last twelve years and recently added to his business by taking on a new site at The Crossing.

On the forecourt, his staff are busy wiping windows, waterblasting and vacuuming, while inside the cafe, the barista whips up a latte to the fitting tune of Christina Aguilera's Car Wash.

For Freeman, honing in on workplace wellbeing is now done by way of “common sense stuff”.

“Broadly speaking, we just try and create a happy, safe and friendly work environment,” says Freeman.

“A lot of the staff here are friends out of work, as well as at work.”

“After a busy day, sometimes we’ll get some drinks and have pizza on the deck, just to have a yarn and appreciate the boys working hard and digging deep for us. We like to have other functions but they’ve developed [the culture] themselves by becoming friends.”

Staff retention is high, a notion that goes “against the grain for this type of business”, says Freeman.

“If you’re turning staff over, obviously you’re having to constantly train them. Out of the 28 staff I’ve got, a good 14 to 16 of them have been with me in excess of five years.”

Freeman says the positive culture within his business “has grown by itself”.

When he took on the business, having been a sales rep, his business mentor at the time advised Freeman that building camaraderie within his staff and surrounding himself with good people, would lead him to success.

“I can honestly say I was a little tougher with the crew that I was first handling, to what we’ve got today.”

He now listened to his staff, and acknowledged that each individual responded differently to various situations and management.

“There is a line between being a friend and being a boss, and I think I’ve got the mix pretty right at the moment.”

“I lead by example. I don’t expect them to do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“I think they like seeing that I’m working hard, so they should too.”

If Freeman has a happy workplace, then he has loyal, reliable and positive staff and business thrives.

“They essentially help me to run a tight business and I appreciate that. That’s what it’s all about,” he says.

“As long as they’re doing their job, we’ve got customers coming back and everybody is happy.”
Freeman’s Workplace Wellbeing Advice:

  • Try to create a happy, safe environment where you’re staff enjoy coming to work.
  • Be tolerant but know when to draw the line.
  • Get along with your staff. Ensure there is a common respect and mutual respect.