Chris Michael is the CEO and co-founder of Express Carwash Equipment, a carwash retail distribution and systems design company. When Chris and his partner Scott Besch began laying the groundwork for their business, they both already owned their own carwashes (Chris having bought his first from the bank during the Recession and grown it the old-fashioned way). In fact, Chris shares, his very first job as a high schooler was washing cars—“And here I still am,” he laughs. Chris’s family was in the car business in the 1940s, selling Studebakers and Datsun. Today, Chris and Scott have grown their business from its original one-employee into a nationwide enterprise.
“The word ‘carwash’ maybe doesn’t hold a ton of glamor when you compare it to industries like finance or tech…But there’s dopamine involved in this business because it brings so much joy to individuals. Some people head to the carwash to take a break from life, you know? We’re giving all these people that quick and concrete jolt of happiness by servicing so many cars every day. It’s really unique.”
A unique path
“I knew early on I wasn’t going to create an app or be a doctor or a lawyer,” says Chris. He feels blessed to have found a business that both serves his talents and supports his family well. “This is one thing I can nurture until it grows into something bigger than myself that can have a unique, lasting impact on society.”
Chris has suffered some unusual family losses throughout his life, an experience he points to as a formative one. “It’s really changed my perception of life,” he affirms. “My faith got me through, and it set my eyes on the fact that we really only have so many years to do what we can do. It’s given me a bit of a different relationship with fear—with Jesus Christ in my life, and if the math of a decision makes sense, there’s no reason to fear anything. There’s stuff you can control and stuff you can’t. If there’s no values-based reason not to do something, I figure, let’s do it!”
Chris feels blessed to lead the individuals on his teams, respecting their personal lives and affirming their value in the professional sphere. “A lot of our team members go on to higher education above high school,” he explains, “and I love having the opportunity to help them develop a really incredible and useful skillset.”
Chris functions from a place of fearlessness in his personal life as well, striving to take advantage of every opportunity that’s offered to him. His wife, Nicole, is a third-grade teacher— “Her heart is ten sizes bigger than mine,” he smiles. He loves spending time with his 3-year-old and newborn son and has what he describes as an “unhealthy obsession” with the outdoors; the family owns 5,000 acres of land, mostly leased out for farming with a section reserved for recreational use and hosting.
Chris is grateful for his experience with Acumen and its impact on his personal growth, faith, and business knowledge. “I was talking with a friend, Steve Mott, about wanting to find a group of faith-and-business-minded people to challenge us to be better,” he shares. “Steve heard about Acumen, looped me in, and it’s been a great source for growth ever since.” The key piece for Chris has been the brainstorming—hearing from different people in different industries dealing with the same issues and counseling one another in community. That impact, he affirms, has been irreplaceable.
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October 19, 2023