Building a Successful Service Franchise, One Question at a Time

Building a franchise business can be difficult —particularly because many early decisions can affect long-term growth when it comes to employee retention, sales and instilling a sustainable culture. However, evaluating the current franchise network and leadership of the company you’d like to franchise are great first steps in developing and growing a successful franchise business.

When my partner and I opened our first Jiffy Lube franchise in 1985, we never imagined how quickly we’d be able to grow our business. Through strategic acquisitions, generous vendor support and consistently refining and reflecting, we experienced steady growth throughout the nineties that propelled the business to where it is today. We’ve also remained intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of our forty-seven service centers, known collectively as Indiana Lube Group.

Most importantly, we asked ourselves if we would be able to provide our employees the tools to grow in a family- type atmosphere in an industry that all too often sees rapid personnel turnover. At Indiana Lube Group, we want our employees to feel passionate about the work they do every day. We want them to work hard to provide the best customer service possible, while having fun and continually learning on the job. And, we believe our employees’ passion translates into tangible success.

Over the past thirty years, Indiana Lube Group has remained in the top quartile across all Jiffy Lube International franchises. With a focus on investing in the growth of our employees and increasing service programs, we are committed to winning lifetime customers through excellent customer service and offering an umbrella of services at our service center locations. Our approach is anchored by two pillars that helped to guide us when we started our business in 1985 and continue to guide us today as we look to grow and succeed as franchise owners.

The backend

As someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, I was inspired by Jiffy Lube from the get-go. The company gave us freedom and flexibility to build a business from the ground up and make our own decisions. As opposed to other franchise organizations, Jiffy Lube allowed us to buy our own property, build our own buildings and negotiate with our choice of suppliers. At the same time, Jiffy Lube offered support and systematic operations that were unparalleled within the industry.

I urge individuals who are considering franchise ownership to carefully evaluate the brand’s current franchise operations as well as the service or product offering. How tried and true is the system? What differentiates the franchisor’s system from its competitors? What value can they provide to you that will justify the cost of the franchise? Once you have this insight, it’s that much easier to make a smart decision on a franchisor that fits the business you’re aiming to run.

The heart of it all

Growing up with parents who were teachers helped me to recognize the value in helping others achieve personal and professional goals. This was an important consideration for me as I set out to become a franchise owner. Supporting employees personally and professionally was also fundamental to Jiffy Lube’s founder, Jim Hindman, and I found his outlook to be contagious as I considered what type of company culture I wanted to foster.

At Indiana Lube Group we pride ourselves in providing all of our employees with ongoing professional development opportunities, along with supporting them in their personal endeavors. For example, Indiana Lube Group offers a program called Growing People Through Work, a series of sessions in which our Chief of Operations and I meet with employees to discuss various topics, all geared towards helping employees develop a positive, fulfilled attitude. The program includes guidance on financial literacy and information around healthy eating, such as how to read nutritional labels. We also promote goal setting—it’s our goal to challenge employees to be the best they can be every day. It’s been my experience that employees who are actively engaged in and take advantage of these programs are best able to offer exceptional service to our customers.

To offer additional support to Indiana Lube Group employees, we have set up a monetary fund to help employees in their times of need. Sometimes this is in the form of an interest-free loan; sometimes it’s just a gift in recognition of their loyalty while going through a difficult time. Team members are eligible to apply for a used vehicle in this program as well. Simple payroll deductions are used over the course of a year to fully pay off the vehicle—permitting the team member to have reliable transportation and save more of their hard earned money as investment in their future.

When looking for a franchisor that will promote an enriching culture, try to uncover the areas of the business they are most passionate about, and gauge their attitude towards personal and professional development programs for employees. Passion and enthusiasm for developing a strong culture are what you want to see in your franchisor. Before you commit to a lifetime of paying someone for their expertise to build, guide, control and motivate an entire franchise system, you need to be confident that the leadership team is committed to you and your employees’ success.

What it comes down to

After evaluating your potential franchisor, there are questions to ask yourself that can help pave your way to a thriving franchise business. Here’s my question checklist:

    • Do I fully understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing both the industry and the specific franchise that I’ve chosen?
    • Am I confident in my belief that I will overcome the obstacles that will be thrown my way?
    • How can continue to fuel that passion? Am I passionate in my belief that this business fills a valuable need for consumers?
    • Are the financial elements including conservative estimates on everything from initial funding, to operational cash flow needs to grow funding well-thought out?

Keeping these questions and financial components in mind can help develop a strong foundation for growth.

While this process may seem front-loaded, you’ll thank yourself later for remaining vigilant during the initial stages of your business. A sustainable culture and long term sales growth relies on your understanding of the franchisor’s offering, leadership and passion for you, your employees and most importantly, your customers.

Steve Sanner is President of Indiana Lube Group, a group that independently owns and operates 47 Jiffy Lube stores throughout Indiana. Steve was the recipient of Jiffy Lube’s 2016 Franchisee of the Year award.

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