From worker to manager

Sometimes a job is just a way to pay the bills, but sometimes it’s a turning point in a person’s life. When Ray Rook joined Mark VII in 1995, he had no idea how much this entry-level job would shape his future.

“I was interested in machines and I knew that my friend Travis liked to work [at Mark VII,]said Rook, who was well versed in car washing by washing his neighbor’s vehicles as a child to earn money.

Rook’s friend passed his name on to Bob Ulrich, a Mark VII manager. “Bob told me he would give me a chance, just because Travis recommended me,” Rook said. “Bob added that if I failed, he should fire us both. I took that as a challenge. »

Rook landed a job in Mark VII’s metal shop. He was a “button pusher”, working the second shift from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. During his first six months on the job, he was promoted to the machine shop, where he began to learn how to program the CNC machine. “I would bring information home at night and study it to learn more about the machine,” Rook recalls. “It was fascinating for me to see this big machine follow the code I had written.”

Rook’s career continued to evolve at Mark VII until 2008, when a weak global economy triggered layoffs. “It was a tough time to find a job,” said Rook, who took a huge pay cut in the first three months of his layoff when he started working for one of the installers. Mark VII. Rook then became a process engineer for a workshop.

Less than a year after the layoff, Bob Ulrich had the opportunity to hire Rook again. “I came back to Mark VII with a humble approach and a new role,” Rook said.

Prior to the layoff, Rook had been assembly manager with many people reporting to him. When he was rehired at Mark VII, his work focused on equipment reverse engineering and problem solving. “It’s still a big part of what I do today,” Rook explained.

Reflecting on his success in the industry, Rook shared the following five business lessons he learned throughout his long career at Mark VII.

  1. Start low and grow. Don’t think that an entry-level job at a company like Mark VII can’t lead to great opportunities. The key is to work hard, learn all you can, and be ready to take on more responsibility. “It’s definitely possible to grow in this business,” said Rook, whose role has evolved from a laborer to a product manager in purchasing and then to a vice president of supply chain. “I have managers in my team who started their careers the same way I did.”
  2. Give more than you receive. When Rook was early in his career at Mark VII, one of his jobs was deburring to remove sharp edges from metal parts. Rook’s goal was to do the job as accurately and efficiently as possible. “I would set the timers myself. Even though no one else knew I was doing this, I wanted to keep improving…going the extra mile is rewarded at Mark VII,” added Rook. “When you give more than you get, you get opportunities you weren’t even looking for.”
  3. Adapt to changing weather. Technology in the car wash industry has changed dramatically over Rook’s career. Where 1990s equipment relied on switches to turn machines on or off and open or close valves, computer sensors guide modern car wash equipment. Emphasis is also placed on energy efficiency and environmentally friendly solutions.1 “This industry has become more competitive today than when I started in the business,” Rook said. “You have to adapt and find new solutions to provide clean and shiny vehicles to customers.”
  4. Understand that feedback is a gift. Rook was midway through his career when his work expanded into business strategy. After the company went global in 2006, this opened up new avenues for Rook to help Mark VII expand internationally. He credits current and former colleagues like Bob Ulrich for mentoring him. “There are a lot of characteristics that make a person successful,” Rook said. “A lot of these skills can be learned. As you develop your skills, remember that feedback is a gift.
  5. Keep learning and sharing. Working in a variety of Mark VII departments over the years has helped Rook learn a lot about the car wash industry. “We often learn more from our failures than our successes,” Rook noted. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn the trade from great people. I also want to help others learn.

This is important as Mark VII expands its tunnel car wash division.2 Mark VII’s culture of recruiting and retaining top talent supports this growth, according to Rook, who added that a number of fathers, sons, husbands and wives work at Mark VII. It’s not uncommon for strong friendships to flourish within the company as well. “This place is like family,” said Rook, who cooks a barbecue lunch once a month throughout the summer for his team. “We are building on a solid foundation as we grow for the future.”




Ray Rook started working at Mark VII Equipment in 1995 as a “button pusher”, and has since accelerated his career to become Vice President of Supply Chain, a role in which he manages over 50 employees.

Michael A. Bynum