Franchisee In Action: Franchise a Little Smarter with Meineke
What began as a single storefront in Houston, Texas in 1972 has since grown into an international franchise
based automotive repair company with over 970
Meineke Car Centers have experienced continuous growth in the US, Canada and Mexico with recent expansion to Saudi Arabia, South Korea and China. Services have broadened dramatically from its inception as muffler install and repair.
Meineke Car Care Centers are now modelled on a one-stop shop approach which include oil and lube, brake service, AC, tires, steering and suspension.
Meineke was purchased by British multinational GKN in 1983 and moved its corporate headquarters to Charlotte,
North Carolina. In 2003 the company was privatized and became part of Driven Brands, a diversified family of automotive companies which include MAACO North America’s Body Shop, Econo Lube ‘N Tune, Drive N Style and Merlins.
Commercial success has been mirrored by notoriety in the franchise world as Meineke was the first automotive
franchisor to receive the Fair Franchising Seal in 2001 as awarded by The American Association of Franchisees and Dealers.
35 percent of Meineke franchisees own multiple locations and 90 percent of the overall franchise footprint ismanaged by an owner/operator.
Ryan Barclay falls firmly into this category. Ryan Barclay purchased his first franchise in 2007. The Harrisburg location was underperforming and Meineke’s corporate office was eager to put the right person at the helm. Ryan, a native of Georgia, had moved to Charlotte eight years prior was considering the prospect of owning a Meineke franchise for some time. “I had been researching Midas and some educational business but really liked Meineke’s business model, the management team and of course the
numbers made sense.”
Less than 20 percent of Meineke franchisees have previous experience in the automotive industry. “I am certainly
not a mechanic but I definitely love cars. At the time I was an outsider looking in and I felt that the automotive repair industry had an unnecessarily bad reputation that I could turn around.” Seizing the opportunity to take over an existing location he pooled together his life savings and took the plunge. It proved to be the right decision for both Meineke and Ryan as he made a quick turnaround, eventually rocketing to 80 percent growth. In the seven years since his first takeover in Harrisburg, Ryan has added two new
locations in Mooresville and Concord, North Carolina and has plans for more.
“Three is a stepping stone to four, five and six” says Ryan. Ryan’s path to the franchise world was far from direct. Ryan attended Allegheny College, a small liberal arts school 35 miles southwest of Erie. Majoring in Economics and Math he thought he wanted to be a stockbroker. “Well, that lasted two months,” laughed Ryan. “I found it to be too much like a call center and nothing at all like I imagined.” So he switched gears and sought the help of a “Meineke Car Centers have experienced continuous growth in the US, Canada and Mexico with recent expansion to Saudi Arabia, South Korea and China.” temp agency. He would soon find himself in the tallest building in Pittsburgh, but not in one of the corner suite offices powering through proposals but instead taking a tally of the PNC Bank’s computer systems at night. However, Ryan soon became an invaluable member of the team and offered a full time position. He later moved to Charlotte joining Nation’s Bank on the cusp of its merger with Bank of America.
His tenure lasted eight years, leaving as the Trading Risk Manager at the Fixed Income Trading Desk.
He knew it was time for a change in 2005 when he felt pressure from senior management to monetize large pools or
mortgages with freighting risk profiles. Little did he know that he stumbled upon one of the largest debt crisis in history.
“By that time I was happy to be attending to an oil change instead of a financial regulator.” It was through his career in the banking industry that Ryan developed professional relationships with a number of senior Meineke management and franchisees.
The road to becoming a Meineke franchisee is broken down into a four stage process. Prospective franchisees first submit a Confidential Franchisee Application which includes a number of documents such as the Franchise
Disclosure Document and the FranchiseAgreement. Stage one concludes with a meeting with a team of Meineke Franchise Development Specialists and selected individuals are invited to purchase a license. Licenses can range between $5,000 and $30,000.
The second stage focuses on site location and funding where franchisees receive guidance from the corporate office.
Meineke works closely with a variety of leading financial institutions for all levels of financing from SBA guaranteed loans to equipment leasing packages. 401K rollover programs are also available at no penalties to access. Each location receives a three to six mile protection zone and a two to three mile right of first refusal. “The fact that I purchased fixed locations, I missed out on the site selection process which is why I would like to build my next location.” Franchise Management Training is perpetual but always starts with a comprehensive 2.5 week long course
hosted at the Charlotte HQ. There were 15 future franchisees in Ryan’s cohort, all from far flung parts of the country; from California to Chicago to Texas. “It was a collegial environment and we all grew close and still stay in touch today.”
Training topics vary from business essentials to technical products and service lines, all designed to bring people of diverse backgrounds up to a common level of understanding. Ongoing formal training is provided by corporate headquarters in the way of product selection, service procedure and reporting requirements. Invaluable training is also offered through the Meineke Dealers Association.
The Dealers Association is an independent organization which strives for the betterment of the overall Meineke Franchise System. Organized in the 1990s the group is broken down into districts with elected members sitting on a national board of directors. The Board polices problems facing dealers and shares pooled experiences and data to help dealers become more successful. A bi-annual convention is held where several hundred dealers get together to make official decisions and network. The final stage is of course the grand opening where The Meineke Project Coordinator, Product and Equipment Manager, and Operations Manager work with franchisees to improve all aspects of operation in order to maintain a homogenize level of quality and service.
Once the franchise is up and running, the focus becomes profitability and efficiency. “The rewards will be endless when you learn that the hours you put in are investments in your company.” Work-life balance is also important to
the Meineke culture. “As the owner/ operator of three locations, it forces you to delegate which is not always easy but you quickly find you spread yourself too thin if you don’t. When I first started out I would easily put in 60 to 70 hours a week learning the ropes to ensure my success.
When I met my wife and started a family I realized that I couldn’t do it all myself and I wanted to spend more time with them. I have learned to delegate to my staff so I can acquire more locations.” Ryan has had some incredible experiences with Meineke. He owes a lot to his Meineke franchises, you could even say he owes his marriage. Ryan’s wife was once a customer of his Harrisburg location. “She came in to get an oil change and the rest is history.” His wife has since taken the Meineke Training Program and has become active in the management of their three locations.
Ryan would whole heartedly recommend the Meineke franchise system to anyone who is interested. His advice for prospective or first time owners is to do your research upfront, know who your partners are and make sure you are willing and able to put in the time to succeed. “The rewards will be endless when you learn that the hours you put in are investments in your company.”
For more information visit: www.meinekefranchise.com