Proto-Vest: Cultivating a Growth Mindset
By Meline Beach
Things are same, same but different at Proto-Vest. It’s the same great, market-leading company with trusted products, now under new ownership. Effective January 1, 2022, Proto-Vest Inc. was acquired by Jeff Reichard, who has been the company’s president since June 2019. The company, now operating under the name Proto-Vest Dryers, LLC, will be a seamless transition for customers, suppliers and employees.
“Life is all about attitude,” says Reichard. “We’ve made a significant change in our mindset over the last two years, and that is to view and treat our customers as partners. Our moto is one + one = three and we both share the extra one.”
Reichard, and the leadership team, have implemented a variety of quality improvements, process changes, a Kanban lean manufacturing system, and a “partnering approach” with customers – remaining focused on improving the customer interface in providing world-class service.
“Our customers are true partners and we share in each other’s success,” says Reichard. “If they’re happy, we’re happy.”
Reichard acknowledges that he’s leading the charge of a 50-year-old company with deep family roots. A milestone like that comes with plenty of highs and lows and a culture of determination led by a founding member of the McElroy family.
“I would like to thank the McElroy family for their leadership since the conception of Proto-Vest, Inc. in 1969,” says Reichard. “Mac McElroy was creative, highly visible and opinionated, making him one of the great legends in our industry.”
These characteristics remain important as Reichard strives to take the company to the next level of success and reach more milestone anniversaries. Leadership development and recent additions to the team raises Proto-Vest’s bar in purchasing, customer service, finance and CAD/CAM technical skills.
“While we’re investing in our people, our products remain unmatched in the industry,” says Reichard. “Our bag technology continues to give us the edge on operating costs, noise levels, and ultimately, delivering a dry car at the end of the tunnel. Since I joined, we have made several enhancements to our dryers. These enhancements were designed to improve our customers’ experience not to cut costs and those are the types of enhancements we will continue to focus on.”
Reichard believes industry engagement and visibility are critical to Proto-Vest Dryers’ success. The company is committed to not only be present but actively participate at all the major carwash trade shows and seminars, with a more open approach to better listen to customers’ needs.
“For some time, the domestic marketplace has been the backbone of our company, with great customers like Toyota, Tesla and Lexus, along with several large to small range carwash companies,” says Reichard, who is repositioning the mindset of the company from simply getting orders to increasing capacity with customers across the global marketplace. “We have already passed trial installments with several large European car wash groups and are beginning to ship orders ‘across the pond.’”
Surviving the pandemic
Like many companies, Proto-Vest Dryers was hit hard by the global pandemic. Supply chain issues and several employees down with the virus were thoughtfully navigated without any disruption to service. Open communication with all internal and external stakeholders was a critical factor in keeping everyone informed and managing expectations.
“There is no other way to put it but to say the pandemic was a brutal experience with some employees, including myself, being sick or losing loved ones,” says Reichard. “The first months were particularly tough, but we made it through without any layoffs and preserved the knowledge base we had worked to build.”
Staying on course with a growth mindset, Reichard guides his leadership team to focus through the pandemic and beyond on the things they can control rather than worrying about things they can’t control. While many customers continued to buy parts and bags, the pandemic served as an opportunity to look inward for improvements, one of which was implementing a world class Kanban system.
Reichard says: “With our Kanban system in place, we’ve reduced the order-to-delivery timeframe from two to three months to only one to two weeks on our six stock machines. Not only is this a major improvement in the buying experience for our customers but it also improves their cashflow. With a one to two week order-to-delivery timeframe, our customers’ cash deposits are only tied up for a couple of weeks rather than several months, which frees up cash for other projects and needs.”
Reichard is looking to build off the McElroy legacy and strengthen the company’s reputation for not only great products but excellent customer service as well in order to achieve greater growth. His sights are set high and his goals are powerful, including: improving, growing and fortifying their domestic and international distributor network; exploring and developing artificial intelligence in improving operational performance and mitigating risk; and practicing active listening skills, listening to understand without any distraction.
“What I am most excited about is that the marketplace gave Proto-Vest Dryers another chance,” says Reichard. “Prior to my arrival, the company could be quite difficult to do business with and could have been more proactive in resolving issues. Since implementing our new philosophy and attitude of partnering with our clients, business has grown substantially. We will continue our mantra of earning the respect our partners deserve while growing together.”
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at