Push to Start: How Did You Get Yours?

The paint protection film (PPF) segment wasn’t quite a behemoth for the automotive aftermarket in 1996. Window tint applicators like Greg Powell, owner of Protective Film Solution in Cumming, Ga., didn’t see the value in it. But an encounter with a 1996 Lexus LS 400 shifted his outlook.

“What is the Technique?”

“It was very challenging back then,” says Powell, who protected the Lexus’s hood, fender and mirrors with PPF. “Learning solutions, how to tack and how to stretch. At that time, it was all hand-cutting. There was no software—you were just making it happen.”

Greg Powell, owner of Protective Film Solution in Cumming, Ga., works on a Lamborghini Huracán.

Based in Roswell, Ga., at the time, Powell’s team was tinting 10 cars each day when a Lexus dealership requested the PPF installation. The product caught his attention.

“I had to slow down and learn,” Powell says. “What is the technique? What is the solution? I had to play with it. What squeegees would I use? I more or less slowed down. I tried to be above the competition then—trying to show the customer how good that product was for their vehicle.”

The following years included many moments of learning by trial-and-error, but Powell broke through a barrier after a meticulous customer delivered a yellow 2002 Ferrari 360 Modena for protection.

“Once I got the seal of approval from that guy, I knew I was onto something,” Powell says. “I knew I could go further with this and make a career out of it. I didn’t look back. That’s when I knew. It took a long time.”

“I’m Up For Any Challenge.”

“I started tinting windows in 2013,” says Tyler Jenkinson, CEO of Tint Wrap Protection Plus (TWP Plus) in Evans, Ga. “My previous boss was doing PPF, and I saw how difficult it could be. He got aggravated with it. I was like, ‘This is something I want to do.’ Working with PPF and understanding it and how it works is like a big puzzle.”

Tyler Jenkinson, CEO of Tint Wrap Protection Plus (TWP Plus) in Evans, Ga., first took on PPF in 2015.

Jenkinson picked up PPF in 2015, taking on a towering 2015 GMC Yukon Denali for his first installation. His takeaway? “You can mess up a lot of money real quick if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“We did the hood and the bumper,” he adds. “We’re all human, but I look back, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I could have done this differently. I could have had less contamination in this panel.’ It was a panel we had to rip off and re-do.”

Though Jenkinson’s PPF journey started in 2015, it wasn’t until a November 2019 Avery Dennison Supreme Wrapping Film Training session that the product fully clicked.

“The wrapping helped me learn how to PPF better,” Jenkinson says. “Learning how to bulk install versus doing a pre-cut kit. It’s more like a puzzle piece. With a bulk install, you’re just going at it.”

Perfectionism and PPF align, and it’s a good thing, too. Jenkinson takes pride in overcoming obstacles in the application bay.

“The challenge is to make sure the job is as perfect as humanly possible,” he says of his greatest pleasure in the PPF industry. “I’m up for any challenge.”

“You’ve Got to Follow the Film.”

“My full-time gig is law enforcement, and I’m finishing up my career,” says Rob LaBuff, owner of Buff Works Ceramic Coating, PPF and Detailing in Freehold, N.Y. “Throughout that time, though, I’ve always been passionate about cars and customizing vehicles.”

Rob LaBuff, owner of Buff Works Ceramic Coating, PPF and Detailing in Freehold, N.Y., opened his business in 2022.

LaBuff is used to working with his hands, having studied the art of auto body repair at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., in the early ‘90s. He founded his company in April 2022.

“It was a BMW 3 Series,” he says of his first PPF project. “It was a good neutral color—silver. That one didn’t rattle me much at all. A couple of things I’ve learned since is that temperature and humidity are huge.”

LaBuff and his team completed a 32-hour PPF training course in June 2022, knocking out 12 PPF installations over the next four months. The company began 2023 with four booked appointments. His wife, a beautician since 18 with more than 30 years of experience, joined her husband in the new adventure.

“One of the things I learned in the course was that it’s like an even flow,” LaBuff reflected on his trajectory in the business while ceramic coating a vehicle. “You’ve got to follow the film. You can’t force the film to go places it doesn’t want to go. It’s got to be like a relationship you develop—it’s more than just slapping film on a car.”

Nearly a year into business ownership, LaBuff reflects on pursuing a dream he first had as a teenager.

“It was scary coming into this and taking that big leap into PPF,” he says. “I’m proud to be where I am—and I’m not here alone.”

With the launch of the Focus on PPF/CC newsletter comes a new platform for storytelling. Please reach out to editor Chris Collier at ccollier@glass.com for potential coverage and advertising opportunities.

One Million Reasons Not to Reinvent the Wheel

My name is Gabe Fletcher.

Follow these ten core ideas and find yourself on the road to success.

As the owner of Ceramic Pro Pottstown and Detailing Growth in Pottstown, Pa., I know that success in the automotive detailing industry is about more than just offering professional services with certified products. Our business did more than $1 million in paint protection film (PPF), ceramic coatings and window tint sales in 2022. We do this by following ten core ideas—and without reinventing the wheel.

1. Offer Professional-Only Products – This should make sense, right? You want to offer a certified professional product that consumers can’t purchase. This can increase the perceived value of your services as well.

2. Boast Yourself as Insured – There are plenty of fly-by-night detail services. If you can prove that you are insured, this will provide a sense of legitimacy and trust.

Showcase current projects on social media to boost engagement.

3. Showcase Your Facility – Your clients want to know that you are a professional business. Take photos of your finished projects in an area of the shop that is always clean and well-lit. This helps to nail home that you are offering more than just $150 wash-and-wax detailings.

4. Create Content – You must become an educator in your market. If you aren’t creating video and educational content, you will lose to the competitor creating that content. It would help if you were syndicating that content on all of your social media, reels, TikToks, Google listings, YouTube and embedding it into your website. Our “What’s in the shop?” posts are often some of the most popular.

5. Offer Vehicle Pick-up – This is often how I can charge 35% more than everyone else. I offer to go and pick up the vehicle from the client at their home. Having the correct insurance allows me to offer this. The most significant value for clients looking to spend $5,000 or more with you is their time. If you save them time, they will find more reasons to work with you.

6. Offer an Immediate Follow-up Appointment – We offer our clients a two-week follow-up appointment where we will look over the vehicle and ensure everything is doing what it is supposed to be doing, such as sticking PPF edges. This lets the client know that we care about their vehicle and want to ensure they have a great experience.

7. Always Tout That Quality is Your Most Important Core Value – I often remind my clients that I will ask for more time if I am unhappy with how something came out or was done. They can always appreciate that I am willing to redo something and take my time versus shipping out lousy work.

8. Have a VIP or Referral Program – I am open with my clients in telling them that we will pay big bounties in cash for certain vehicles sent to our shop. This usually consists of big jobs on McLarens, Ferraris and other supercars. People are happy to spread the word when they know they are getting paid.

9. Simplify Your Packages – If you are trying to sell a bunch of different detail packages on your website, it isn’t very clear. Simplify the packages and make them easier to understand. The easier you can make it for your client, the easier it will be to make a choice and get them to book with you and get them on the schedule.

10. Always be Willing to Help the Client Solve Problems – This is one of the most important things you can do as a business. Focus your services on solving problems rather than pushing them into services they don’t want or need. This is the best way to build client loyalty.

If you embrace these ideas, you’ll be on your way to growing your business and doing it better and faster than your competitors.

I look forward to sharing more.