Ain’t no buffs about it – Brian Buttocovla’s passion for cars drives his entrepreneurial success
By Lucy Rosen
Brian Buttocovla, owner of Palmetto Buff, a mobile auto-detailing service, always considered himself a “car guy,” and it shows. Many people dream of driving a Ferrari or Porsche, but Buttocovla aspires to own a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz or a 1957 Chevy Elmorocco – mostly because only 27 to 35 of those vehicles were ever made. He still owns his first car, a collector’s model 1984 Mercury Capri RS 5.0.5, which he and his father drove from New Jersey to Florida in the mid-’80s to buy.
“There’s nothing like rolling down the windows, turning up the music and seeing how fast she can go,” Buttocovla said. Chasing this feeling was what drove him to build a career around his passion for cars.
Buttocovla began his career as a car salesman at Matt Blatt Mitsubishi dealership in Glassboro, New Jersey; then went to work for Penske Auto Mall in the nearby town of Turnersville. By the time he moved into a sales manager role at RK Chevy, Buttocovla had a few years of accounting and sales experience under his belt, and the revenue he brought in was high enough that the owner of RK Chevy offered Buttocovla a financing position at the new dealership he was building.
But then Covid hit, and like millions of others, Buttocovla watched his sales come to an abrupt halt. He and his family saw the pandemic as an opportunity to change their lifestyle, so they moved to Bluffton in 2020.
Buttocovla took a job at a local car dealership, but the unstable economy made for slow business. So once again he decided to do something new – and Palmetto Buff was born.
Buttocovla already had some experience cleaning cars as a teen in his father’s used-car dealership (and with cleaning his own cars “obsessively”), so after acquiring auto-detailing equipment and a trailer, he began brainstorming ways to promote his new business.
“One unique thing I did to promote myself on social media was to post a video of the vehicle that was just detailed with some classic rock music,” he said. “People reacted very positively to this, and it kind of became my ‘thing.’ I’ve had people request songs after they got their car done that they wanted to be added to their video.”
Along with posting regularly on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, Buttocovla partnered with other local businesses, such as Bluffton Builders and Joe’s Classic Cuts, to reciprocate shout-outs and referrals, online and off.
But Buttocovla credits much of his success to a skill he learned early in his career as a salesman: impeccable customer service.
Because of his attention to detail and personable attitude, Buttocovla has won a series of “Best of” Reader’s Choice Awards. These recognitions have helped bring in new clients, though running a business is never without its challenges.
“Along with booking issues, people forgetting their appointments and the difficulties that come with being mobile, the weather can cause major setbacks for us,” he said. “But I’m always willing to try new things when the going gets tough, and I think that may be my key to success.”
Buttocovla hopes to build on the success of Palmetto Buff to meet his next two goals.
The first is spending more time with his wife, Ashley, son, Lorenzo (age 7), and daughter, Isla (age 6). The second is reaching more auto-detailing clients across the Lowcountry.
“I believe there are five tenats of providing extraordinary service:” Buttocovla said. “Being personable, being genuine, having clear communication, increasing customer satisfaction and, maybe most importantly, taking pride in your work.”
1. Embrace change. The pandemic forced me to pivot my career and change my lifestyle, which ended up working out for the better. Sometimes what doesn’t work out for you actually works out for you.
2. Don’t be shy about posting on social media. I get a lot of questions about my “secret” to growing my business on social media, and the truth is, I don’t have some secret growth formula; I just wasn’t afraid to start posting. A lot of people never create a social media account for their business because they think it won’t gain any traction. But my advice would be to tap into what makes your business unique and share that on as many platforms as possible.
3. Lean on people you can trust. Your business might have been your idea, but getting it off the ground is definitely a team effort. Don’t be afraid to come to people for advice or ask for help when you need it. Take it from me – I learned that one the hard way.