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Automotive Franchise Industry Insight and Strategy with Express Oil Change and Service Centers

Don LaRose, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development at the Express Oil Change and Service Centers franchise, spoke with FranchiseHelp about the automotive franchise, the company's business model, and the impact of oil prices and car ownership trends on the state of the business.

This leading oil change franchise is headquartered in Alabama, and is currently expanding nationwide in all directions. Find more information on Express Oil Change and other automotive franchise opportunities on FranchiseHelp.

FranchiseHelp: What sets Express Oil Change apart from local and national car service center peers? 

Don LaRose: There are several key business strategies that set Express Oil Change and Service Centers apart from our competition in the marketplace. First off, we do both quick oil change and auto repair, and very few of our competitors do that. Most of the quick oil change brands, which all have a pit for a quick drive-through experience, do not have any certified mechanics on staff who do general auto repair, which we do. On the other hand, most of the auto repair brands out there, such as the tire business, do not have pits to do quick oil change, and so we are able to capture both needs of the customer, which is more convenient for them.

Secondly, our model uses a small staff of full-time workers, instead of a larger number of part-time workers. We believe that leads to longer-term employees who are better trained and able to provide a better overall experience to the customer.

And a third distinction to add is Express Oil Change stores build our business by focusing on growing customer car counts through speed and treating the customer in a way that builds trust and makes them want to come back, versus focusing on growing the average sales ticket by selling customers additional items like air filters. Our oil change only takes ten minutes, while the customer waits in their car. In that time, we also perform a 20-item safety checklist including checking all other fluids, etc.

FH: What skills, knowledge, or characteristics make for a successful Express Oil franchisee? 

DL: Previous automotive repair know-how is not needed to become an Express Oil Change franchisee because we provide extensive training across all elements of operating a store. Important attributes of successful franchisees would be goal orientation towards growing the business, strong people skills to interact with customers and employees, high energy to keep the store crew on their toes, and a desire to provide the customer with a superior retail experience.

FH: What kind of background do most Express Oil franchisees have? 

DL: Most Express Oil Change franchisees were former white collar professionals from a wide variety of areas such as banking, teaching, general business, and even airline pilots.

FH: Describe your initial and ongoing training and support initiatives for franchisees. 

DL: New Express Oil Change franchisees go through a comprehensive eight-week franchise training program, conducted in classroom and at a number of our 75 company stores. Franchisees are not taught how to be a mechanic, but are taught how to operate a successful store. In addition, once the franchisee's store crew is hired, we provide the crew and franchisee with an additional two weeks of training. Express Oil Change provides extensive support to new franchisees on every step on the process, including real estate selection, store design, the entire construction process, equipment ordering and setup, and provides trainers on site during and after the store opening.

FH: What are some of the challenges you face as a franchisor? What are the challenges of franchisees? 

DL: World events that drive up the cost of oil present a challenge on the cost of goods used by the business, similarly to the cost of food for restaurant brands. This impacts franchised stores and company stores in the same way, as our nationally negotiated contract on bulk-delivered oil is priced the same for all stores whether franchised or corporate, and the franchisor does not add any additional middleman costs to the delivered price for franchisees.

FH: What are some of the best benefits franchisees have from working with Express Oil? 

DL: Franchisees who enter our business benefit first from an industry and business that is stable and not a passing trend. The added benefit of the Express Oil Change business is that the repairs side of the business allows franchisees to take advantage of the fact that Americans are keeping their cars longer, thereby needing more repairs. The average age of cars on the road today is almost 11 years, and is one of the reasons many of our stores have seen stunning growth on the repair side of the business.

FH: What do you see for the future of Express Oil (e.g. expansion, acquisition, new offerings, etc.)? 

DL: Express Oil Change is continuing to grow both our corporate stores and franchised units across the country. We began 2012 with 75 company stores, and will finish out the year with 88 stores. We are also expanding the footprint of states that we are franchising in, outward from the core southeastern base, westerly into Texas and Oklahoma, northbound with our first franchise store under construction in northern Indiana, and up the east coast with stores under construction in Virginia for the first time. We even sold our first franchise in NJ recently.

FH: Does Express Oil have any programs for veterans? 

DL: We do not offer any discounts off of fees for veterans; however we believe we offer something much more valuable and long lasting, and that is a solid business opportunity with a brand that has experienced 29 quarters of uninterrupted same-store sales increases even during the major recession. Our entire model and culture is built around integrity, and it has enabled us to lead the industry in per day car counts and total store sales for years.

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