Talking with Operator and Manager Jeremy Goerts
Speedi is a bustling car wash, fueling station, and convenience store located in the heart of Flagstaff, Arizona. The business is owned by Ricky Prema and family, and they are fortunate to have Jeremy Goerts as one of their key employees running the business. The Kleen-Scene was able to sit down for a long discussion with Jeremy about what keeps him busy at Speedi, and the challenge of hiring, teaching, and leading employees into the next phase of Speedi Car Wash & Fuel.
Jeremy’s History at Speedi
Jeremy Goerts was formerly a civil servant for the housing authority of the city of Flagstaff. When funding was cut for his position, he found himself scrambling to find a new job during the 2008 recession. He noticed a “Help Wanted” sign at Speedi, and was hired as a cashier in the convenience store by the owners at the time – George and Patti Pugh. Not too long after, the Pughs sold the business to the Prema family.
Ricky Prema retained Jeremy as an employee after taking over Speedi. Not only that, he recognized that Jeremy had acquired skill and knowledge quickly and could be an asset in efforts to revitalize the business. Increasing his role and influence on the business worked out well for both sides, and Jeremy became an integral part of Speedi.
The relationship between Ricky and Jeremy is clearly one of mutual respect, where each take the other’s opinions and ideas seriously to make the best decisions.
About Ricky, Jeremy said, “I’m very happy that somebody (Ricky) actually wanted to take over the business and turn it around and listen to me. I’d been here four years and knew of the things that we’re going wrong. For Ricky and his family to step in, it pretty much saved my job and allowed me to learn from them too.”
He continued, “Ricky’s management style is not one of ‘do as I say, or else’ or ‘I’m the boss, just do it.’ He likes to have consensus and consult his managers. There are very few times he’ll tell me I have to do something exactly as he says, it’s very rare. Ricky allows me to do a lot of things without even consulting him. He is open-minded and gives me plenty of autonomy.”
The Busy Life of a Speedi Manager
Jeremy is constantly busy with car wash issues. For example, recently he was at one of his favorite seafood restaurants in Flagstaff – humorously named the Stinkin Crawfish – and was ready to treat himself to a seafood feast. The big paper sheet was laid out on the table (seafood can get messy) and Jeremy had decided what he wanted from the menu. Before he was able to order his food, he received a call from a new car wash employee that the conveyor was down on the tunnel and the employee couldn’t figure out the problem. After failing to diagnose the issue on the phone, Jeremy had to immediately cancel his meal and head to the wash. It ended up being a relatively simple fix, but was something only Jeremy’s experienced eye would notice.
Doing general maintenance and repairs is just a small part of what Jeremy does. In only an hour, we touched on an impressive list of responsibilities. Some of his regular tasks include, but are not limited to: buying replacement car wash parts, stocking chemicals, keeping gas pump tanks full, and dealing with employee administrative issues. Jeremy has undertaken special projects like converting bays to CryptoPay, coordinating fundraisers with local charitable organizations, and developing marketing promotions.
New Generation – New Challenges
One particular topic stood out in our conversation with Jeremy, and it’s one that many managers are currently experiencing in one form or another – hiring difficulties and passing on knowledge to a new generation. It’s no secret that the global pandemic has left plenty of businesses in precarious positions, and one of the issues is a severe lack of qualified and willing job candidates. Speedi is not immune to this, and Jeremy has had his own share of headaches because of it.
He deals with a lot of employees and candidates who are on the younger side, and he notes that many of them aren’t being taught some of the life skills that would help them be better employees.
“You have a new generation of workers… it really comes down to the education system. I was getting a second degree in education sixteen years ago, and I was told to get out because the state of Arizona was cutting down on career and technology training. I wanted to be a vocational education teacher; I felt that I could pass on the same knowledge that I learned in high school. My generation was lucky enough to learn electronics, computer information systems, woodworking, metalworking, and business classes.
“These kids don’t have that opportunity. They literally have to go to college or find a job to learn that kind of stuff, and that’s kind of sad. The government could do what they did back in the ‘30s and say ‘we need skilled workers, we need to start teaching this stuff all over again.’ When they came up with the industrial education programs, that created a whole generation of people… that had those skills. If you gave them a wrench and told them to go fix something, they would fix it. If I hand some of my younger employees a wrench, they might ask ‘what’s a wrench?’”
Adapting and Growing at Speedi
Jeremy adapted his approach to training materials when he recognized that younger employees learned much better visually. He added more pictures and videos to his training manuals rather than just text, and he started doing more hands-on, direct instruction with new employees. Being flexible and embracing opportunities to update normal protocol when it’s needed can turn a mediocre business into a great one.
Jeremy also realizes that he has a responsibility to teach younger folks some of the skills necessary to not just operate a car wash, but also be responsible, useful employees. George Pugh, one of the owners that hired Jeremy, served as a mentor for him and provided invaluable insight into the car wash world. Being guided by George set him on a path for success. Jeremy seems ready to take on that mentor role, even if it means going the extra mile to teach life skills too.
Part of taking on that role means improving his own skillset and taking responsibility for being the best manager and operator that he can be. He has already taken human resource courses and plans to take more to keep up with laws and new strategies for successfully dealing with employees. He also stays current with car wash, fuel, and tobacco trends by attending conventions, conferences, and classes offered within those industries. He noted that getting LEAD certified for car wash operation through the ICA has been one of the best things he’s done for his career.
We appreciate Jeremy giving us a peek into the mind of a busy operator and manager. It’s clear that he has a lot on his plate at Speedi. Hopefully he finds some time to get a little seafood on his plate too!
This article was originally published in Kleen-Scene 38 and written by Job T. Leach.