PARKLAND, Fla - A ride through the Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland offers a view of what some of those on the autism spectrum can accomplish. Of its 43 employees, 35 have autism.
"I would never work with another group of people in a car wash, never employ another group, simply because they are the best," said Tom D'Eri, the co-founder of the family business that includes his brother, who is on the autism spectrum.
"People with autism can strive, really thrive, in any really structured process driven business," he said.
To improve the chances of their workers succeeding they developed a 46-step training procedure, with routines suited for those with autism.
As an example, he pointed out what they do with the hundreds of rags used in cleaning the cars.
"The green rags are for waxing and they go in the green bin so things like that are how we keep things as structured as possible," he said.
With advice from autism groups, they were able to develop their business model that D'Eri says can be used by other companies.
"If you create a strong structure, visual structure a concrete structure, that works very well for people with autism," he said.
The operation has been an eye-opening experience for customers and also for general manager Kevin Wolyniec, who was brought in from the hospitality field.
"I was a little nervous for sure. After being here and seeing them work first day on the job they were giving me direction," he said.
This business model has turned out to be formula for success. D'Eri says after opening last year it took six months to turn a profit and they've been making money since.
"The most important thing that we see is that many of our customers, when they come through, have no idea we employ people with autism."
He said they plan to use the same model to open more car washes, and in those cases most of the employees will be on the autism spectrum.