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The Future of Franchises

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Rissy Sutherland Column_0917

As a female shop owner, franchisee and franchisor it is amazing to connect to other females and power players in the automotive industry. I love hearing about their unique experiences and more importantly, their take on our industry now and into the future!
Recently I sat down with Barbara Moran to learn more about her automotive brands and who she is as a business owner in the automotive industry. Barbara has over 19 years of experience within the franchising and automotive industry. This includes owning and operating a transmission repair franchise. 
Today, Barbara is the CEO of Moran Industries Family of Brands. These family of brands range from Mr. Transmission, Multistate Transmission, Dr. Nick’s Transmission, Milex Complete Auto Care, Alta Mere Toys for Your Cars and Smartview Window Solutions, with over 130 locations in 26 states. Barb has served on the board of directors of the IFA, chair to the Franchise Relations Committee for the IFA and member of the Women’s Franchise Committee (WFC). 
It was so great to sit down with Barb (as she’s called by almost everyone who knows her) and hear her perspective on the transmission, general repair and automotive industry as a whole. The other great thing was seeing and hearing her perspective on how franchising plays a large role in pushing the industry forward in the future. I really look forward to seeing Barb and spending more time with her at the Ratchet+Wrench Conference!


How is having a transmission/general automotive combo business a better strategy for shop owners today?

I believe that combining general repair with transmission repair is a better strategy because vehicles have become significantly more complicated and difficult to diagnose the root cause for a problem. Many times there is not just one problem occurring with the vehicle and this allows a shop owner to service the most complicated portion of the vehicle to the general maintenance portion. Consumers’ expectation today is to have a one-stop shopping ability without a hassle. By operating a repair center that has capabilities from general repair and maintenance to major rebuilding of components, we are giving our customers what they need and want. 

Finally, lead generation is much broader in a co-branded shop, allowing you to increase reach and frequency to those who need your services. This creates marketing economies of scale for combining general and transmission repair.

Do you think it's easier to be a transmission-knowledgeable shop that adds general repair? 

Those who have worked as technicians in the transmission industry have higher levels of diagnostics ability due to their capabilities with rebuilding transmissions, understanding hydraulics, power flow, sensors, computer systems, vehicle wiring and how all of these areas can affect not just engine performance but the drivetrain, as well.


How do you feel that the combination of transmission and general repair complement each other?

They complement each other by offering the customers ease of service. Besides the one-stop service needs being met, consumers also need to have trust in the facility’s abilities and the repairs that are completed on their vehicle. By offering both general maintenance/repair and transmission repair under one roof, you are offering the opportunity for your customers to get to know who you are through having minor repairs and maintenance done. Then if you have any major repair needs, you will know who you can turn to for help.

With having one of the oldest automotive franchises in the country, what changes are you currently making to keep your franchisees and systems on top?

For at least the past 10-plus years, I have been looking at and thinking about this statement: “Standing still is the fastest way of moving backward in a rapidly changing world.” I ask myself and our team, “Are we standing still or are we making changes and moving forward?” Our world is changing rapidly; yesterday we were repairing cars that had no electrical or computer systems and today we are looking at not just those things but also autonomy and electric operating vehicles. We need to remain relevant in the industry and that means we all have to be willing to not just change with the times but also to embrace those changes. There are many changes we have made over the past several years from how we communicate with our franchisees to how we communicate with our customers. R&D is significant in our system, as well as the technology we have available for our franchisees from our online Moran University to breaking down and rebuilding a hybrid to see how it operates and then educating our franchisees on what we have found.


What do you think makes a successful shop owner? 

I think there are several aspects to a successful franchisee/shop owner. Over the years, we have had our top franchisees participate in assessment testing to find out if there was a specific personality trait to successful people. What we have found so far is that they have a significant amount of drive, they do not accept failure, have a strong personal accountability trait and will do whatever it takes to solve issues. Another personality trait is commitment to their community, their customers and the franchise system. Finally, their leadership skills have a huge impact on their business success; are they communicating their strategy, vision and values to their teams and showing it to their customers through their actions? 

Why do you think franchising is more successful that independent shop ownership? 

Franchising is more successful overall because you are not in business by yourself. You have a support network at your fingertips that you don’t have as an independent shop. Not to say that someone cannot become successful as an independent; it is just more often not the norm.  There are processes that need to be put in play in a business and knowing what they are makes a difference. A franchise system offers those processes as part of the onboarding and training.  The franchise has flushed out what is working and what is not, all the way from lead generation to production, bay management to customer communications.  The independent shop owner, more often than not, has to learn this on his or her own and juggle making many mistakes along the way. 

What can companies and franchisees expect to see in the future from Moran? 

I think they will see that we haven’t stood still and we continued to adapt to change. We are looking to grow smart with our franchisees through delivering on customer engagement, positive customer experiences and providing our franchisees a support systems that allows them the opportunity to achieve success within their local business. 


Female to female: How has being a female CEO of an automotive franchise been a pro and a con?  

I think one of the pros to being a women in this industry is our ability to look at the business from a different perspective. Also, having a more sympathetic understanding of what a customer may be feeling and how to communicate those feelings and needs to team members. I think, in the beginning, there we more cons than there are now being a woman in this business. One the biggest cons is the stereotyping that people have done, namely assuming your capabilities based on your gender and therefore not giving you a chance to show them how you can be of help. Dismissing someone based on their gender, race, religion and/or sexual identity limits a person’s access to understanding different viewpoints and knowledge that could have been of help.      


What do you feel that unique perspective has really done from the positive standpoint for your career and for other women watching you? 

I think that it helped me understand how to find solutions to the challenges we can have in life.  Also, I hope I have a positive impact on showing men and women that women belong in this industry, have just as much, if not more, success in automotive and are a significant part of changing for the future. Earlier, you asked about what makes a successful shop owner. After thinking about how I ended up here and looking at our most successful franchisees, I realize there has been two additional traits I left off that are key to not giving up: tenacity and perseverance. 

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