DetailXPerts Franchise Owner Tony Coyne focus on getting his shop off the ground

Friday, April 28, 2017

VISTA Today speaks with Tony Coyne, franchise owner at DetailXPerts of Chester County about growing up in suburban Washington, D.C., and how his natural athletic and leadership abilities took him to Yale, then to the New York Mets organization to play baseball. After stints with Under Armor, Apple, and a real estate development company in Phoenix, Tony found his way to Chester County to focus on getting DetailXPerts, an on-site, steam-cleaning auto detailing business, off the ground.

Where did you grow up, Tony? I was born in Silver Spring, Md., and lived in College Park until I was eight years old. My father was a street vendor selling pots and pans, organizers, watches, flowers, etc. - off the back of his truck. My mother stayed at home raising three kids for several years. She eventually went back to work, first as a secretary and then as a grant writer/manager with a D.C.-based trade association.

What do you remember about growing up in College Park? Since we moved away when I was eight years old, I don't remember a whole lot about College Park. I do remember my parents saying that they wanted to get me, my older sister, and younger brother into a better school district.

Where did your parents move to?
 To Calvert County, about 35 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., to a town called Huntingtown, Md. When we moved there in 1987, there was one traffic light in the entire county. It's grown quite a bit, and is now considered a suburb of D.C.

What memories do you have of Huntingtown? I had a fun childhood. Growing up, I played a lot of sports, including baseball, football, and basketball. I had particularly large hands for a kid and could palm a basketball when I was nine years old! I wasn't very good at basketball though and ended up getting cut from my eighth-grade team, so I concentrated on football and baseball. In high school, I was the quarterback of the football team and the shortstop on the baseball team.

Aside from your big hands, what did your coach see in you? I've often been looked at as the go-to person, the leader, of most groups I've belonged to. It's not something I've ever really sought out because I'm naturally an introvert and also have a speech impediment, yet I've consistently found myself in leadership roles. I think it's because I treat people well, I earn people's respect quickly, and generally tend to be pretty even-keeled regardless of the circumstance.

Did you stick with football? I loved Friday nights and playing the games, but I wasn't a huge fan of practicing football during the week. On the other hand, I loved everything to do with baseball - practicing, play'ing games, watching on TV, reading about it - I couldn't get enough.

Were you a good student? I always thought as a kid that as long as I did my homework and didn't skip class I would probably earn good grades. I also inherited the ability to write pretty well from my mom. I ended up finishing 7th in my high school graduating class.

Did you have any jobs in high school? From the time I was 12 until my early 20s, my summers consisted of playing baseball and working with my father.

What lessons did you take from the experience? I took both good and bad lessons from working with him. On the positive side, I learned to value hard work and the rewards that can come with it. Also, I was exposed to a lot of interesting people and experiences that helped me realize that there are all kinds of walks of life out there, and regardless of whether you're homeless or you're extremely successful, all people deserve respect and dignity.

On the negative side, I wasn't a fan of selling some of the items that my Dad sold. It helped me learn that you need to believe in what you sell in order to be successful. I also didn't like the feeling of being perceived as a street hawker.

What kind of music were you listening to back in high school and college? My mom always had the car radio tuned to an oldies station and that kind of music stuck with me. To this day, I still love listening to oldies and Motown. My mom passed away several years ago, and it's a sweet reminder of her whenever I have a Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye station playing on Pandora.
Tony was captain of Yale's baseball team and was regarded by his coach "as the best player in the Ivy League." Where did you go to college? One of the first recruiting calls I received was from Yale, which wasn't on my radar at all. Once the baseball coaches convinced me that I had a good chance of getting in, I applied and was accepted in November of my senior year.

Did Yale end up being a good choice? I had a great experience at Yale! Every single day, I was surrounded by people who were smarter than me, had more worldly experience than me, etc. - so it really pushed me out of my comfort zone in a good way. It probably wasn't the best school for my baseball career, but I wouldn't trade that experience and my teammates that I'm still friends with today for anything.

Why wasn't Yale good for you, baseball-wise?
Yale isn't exactly known for its baseball program, and other schools may have given me a better chance to develop my ability. On the other hand, if I would have gone to a school with a nationally recognized baseball program, I may have not had the playing-time opportunities that I had at Yale.

I started as a freshman and sophomore, but then tore my ACL at the beginning of the season my junior year, which definitely had an impact on the rest of my college career, as well as my draft position. I ended up getting drafted in the 23rd round of the 2000 MLB draft by the New York Mets.

Where did the Mets ship you? I was sent to the Mets rookie league club in Kingsport, Tenn., first and then to Pittsfield, Mass. The next year, after extended spring training, I went to Brooklyn where I was part of the first professional baseball team since the Dodgers left in the late '50's. I was released in July of 2001 and went back to work with my Dad.

On September 11th, I was about a mile away and heard the explosion of the plane crashing into the Pentagon. While I wasn't impacted directly by 9/11, the experience caused me to reflect on my life and helped me decide to give baseball another try.

 What did you do? I took what savings I had and moved to Fort Lauderdale where I hooked up with a couple of ex-big leaguers who taught me how to hit with a wooden bat. I eventually caught on with an independent league team who played outside of St. Louis.Tony with his sister Angie.

People in St. Louis LOVE baseball and our attendance reflected that. We played in a really cool, 3,500-seat park that was very fan friendly. We were sold out pretty much every night!
Did you do well? No, not at all at first! I was about to get released when, one game before the all-star break, I came up to bat in the top of the 10th inning with two men on base and no outs. I quickly fouled off two bunts to get to a 0-2 count. The third-base coach threw up his arms in frustration with me and told me to swing away. I hit a three-run home run and we won the game! That was the catalyst to help rebuild my confidence. I played well the rest of that season and then the next year my team won the league championship.

How did you get from playing baseball in St Louis to Chester County? After I was finished playing ball in 2004, I got an internship doing video work along with a little bit of advanced scouting and analytics for the Kansas City Royals. That didn't turn into a full-time opportunity in K.C., so I moved back to the D.C. area.

While coaching a youth league team, I met a parent of one of my players who was an executive with Under Armour. That connection ultimately resulted in a job offer in one of their retail stores. I became involved very quickly with recruiting and new store openings and eventually was promoted to district manager, overseeing several stores.

I had a colleague suggest that if I ever wanted to make real money that I would need to leave Under Armour. For some reason, my 29-year-old, naive self took his advice and started looking for another job. I interviewed and was offered jobs at both Apple and Target. I took the offer from Apple and started working at their Ardmore location.

After marrying my wife Karen, who is a Conestoga grad, and moving out to Phoenix, Ariz., while still with Apple in 2011, I was contacted by two former Yale baseball teammates who had started a real estate investment company based in Los Angeles. I joined them in 2012 and helped them grow their real estate/property management company from 200 properties to over 8,000 at their peak.

  I absolutely loved the work, and my wife and I both really enjoyed life in Southern California. Unfortunately, we ended up losing our largest client which forced us to decide to take the company in a different direction. As a result, my position was eliminated.

My wife and I then decided to move back to this area. Largely due to the experience of losing a great job with little to no control over the reasons behind it, I knew that I wanted to start my own business and be in more control of my destiny.

Through the process of figuring out what kind of business I wanted to start, I was introduced to Bob Koch from The Entrepreneur's Source, who did a great job of identifying what kinds of franchise businesses would appeal to me. DetailXPerts was one of the companies that he presented to me as a potential fit.

What was it about DetailXPerts that caught your interest? There were several things that caught my interest. DetailXPerts has a relatively low cost of entry and the opportunity to be profitable more quickly than any other business I evaluated. The services are provided on-site, which is the ultimate in convenience for customers.

The steam-cleaning process uses an extremely small amount of water compared to typical car washes, so the environmentally friendly aspect appealed to me.

Finally, the two founders of the company are really good people who genuinely want to help and support their franchisees. It was a great fit all around.

Looking into the rest of the year, what challenges and opportunities do you see? Like most small business owners, I'm concerned about cashflow. I'm balancing spending money to help create awareness as to who we are versus trying to spend less and rely on word of mouth and social media. I'm also spending a lot of money on payroll, but I think it is the right thing to do right now because I want to ensure that all of my employees are fully trained and do a great job on every vehicle we work on.

My driving force is helping the people who work for me to achieve their goals, whatever they may be. If I have four employees or 400, I want to help people get to where they want to go. If I do that, then I'll be successful. All I expect is that my people have a good attitude, great work ethic, and the willingness to learn and continually improve.Tony, wife Karen, and their two children, Tommy and Marcie.

You weren't the biggest fan of Philadelphia when you first met your wife. Has your perception changed? My former perception of Philadelphia had everything to do with growing up in the D.C. area and being a Washington sports fan. I thought that if they throw batteries at Santa Claus (or whatever that old story was), this can't be a great place! Having lived here for a while, I've met so many folks who share the same values as me, genuinely good people who are family oriented and who look out for each other. It's a great community. I look forward to being a bigger part of the community as DetailXPerts grows.

Finally, Tony, what is the best piece of advice you ever received? I really enjoyed my time at Under Armour and was fortunate to be able to spend a little bit of time with Kevin Plank, their founder and CEO. One thing specifically sticks out that Kevin always said. "The only thing tha'll get you fired at Under Armour is saying this is the way we've always done it" as an excuse for not making necessary changes/improvements.

Of course, that was a bit tongue-in-cheek as things like stealing or being violent would get you fired, but everyone got exactly what he meant. Continuous improvement. Always look for ways to get better, faster, more efficient, etc. - Those words made sense then, and they make even more sense now as I'm starting a business. How can we be better? More customer focused? What can I do to make my employees' jobs easier, more efficient, more enjoyable? I try to always think that way.

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Detroit, MI

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