Growing a Franchise

April 1, 2018
An inside look at franchises.

Many of you know me from the automotive world as a technician, owner, industry lover and the dreaded “franchisor” word. I recently got to spend some time with John Adams, former president of Big O Tires,  and one of his franchisees to really learn about who they are, where they are today and where they are going. As soon as I sat down with him, I felt a true passion for others and their businesses.

John has been in the automotive industry for years; in fact he “retired” as the president of Big O Tires in 2008. However, the industry wouldn’t let go of him and today he’s not slowing down—he’s speeding up. The Full Speed Automotive group has had recent acquisitions with Grease Monkey, SpeeDee Oil Change, Havoline Express Lube, Lube Pros and Monkey Shine.

I asked John in all of the brands how do each figure out their niche in the market. He said they always start with a think tank process. They do an internal audit of all team members and an external review from consumer research to come out with a complete strategy map that defines their concept, culture, brand and differentiator. What they found for Grease Monkey was their pit crew guarantee. This branding goes through their customers, team and technicians. Technicians go through a certified pit crew program that is modeled after a racing team pit crew. Teams must provide speed and quality in each visit. They even have a technician competition at the local, regional and national franchise convention where the top technicians compete for the fastest pit oil change.

In their marketing and sales presentation, the pit crew guarantee tells all customers that they will commit to a time for their service or their visit is free. When the customers car starts into the system, they will see a time clock in the lobby designated for them and the technicians have that customers same giant stop watch in the shop. If the time doesn’t hit the oil change is free.

With this in mind, the only way I could validate it was to speak to the other side of the equation and that is the franchise partners. I was able to sit down with Robert and Amy Rodriguez, the owners of the Grease Monkey/Monkey Shine franchise in Laredo, Texas. Robert was a business major who transitioned into working for the government as a diplomat. This job took him all over the world and was where he met Amy, who worked with homeland security. As Robert got older, he wanted to stop traveling, put down roots for his family and focus on his passion for cars. At first the last thing he wanted was a franchise but he found that financing as a first time owner with a franchise backer was almost impossible. So at his banks request he started down road of finding the right partner in Grease Monkey. Today, Robert says he’s so happy the bank was smart enough to tell him he needed a franchise partner because he says he would have made many mistakes without them. Of course, in the opening phase of picking software, equipment, buying power, hiring, training, marketing and more, the franchise is crucial. However, he says today that ongoing support and buying power is just as important as today.

The other difference you will see at Robert’s shop is his team’s age. The majority of his team is less than 25 years old! Most of them are recruited from the local high school automotive program and community college. They come to him with the basic automotive skills and he requires them to start in the car wash. If they show the right attitude and aptitude, they will convert into the Grease Monkey pit crew team. He says the recruiting has been very successful. The recruits love that they he take them to trade shows, has local car shows (the last one had over 140 cars in the lot, and that he emphasizes working hard, playing fair and having fun at the end of the day!

Of course, the other win for Robert has been the Monkey Shine Car Wash that draws just as many customers as his Grease Monkey and most customers who come in will want both. So you get two forms of revenue: lead generation and repeat customers.

At the end of the day, after talking to Robert and John, it’s hard not to get excited about where this brand is going and not to mention having lasting friends to go along for the ride with.

Robert and Amy Rodriguez

3 lube bays

Lube shop: $930,000

Car Wash: $700,000

About the Author

Rissy Sutherland

Rissy Sutherland is an auto care industry lifer, having grown up in her family’s automotive franchise business and later implementing the training and operational systems for all 300 auto repair franchise locations for Moran Industries—the automotive giant that purchased her family’s shops. She has opened more than 400 shops in her career as the executive for nearly a dozen automotive brands. She is one of the industry’s foremost experts in shop operations.

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