Prospective franchisees are often drawn to franchising by the freedom that owning a small business affords. The allure of being one’s own boss is one of the most common drives to leave the corporate world and start a business. But that freedom from management does not always translate to free time. Many small business owners will find themselves putting in far more than the standard 40 hours per week to keep their business running smoothly and profitably, and two-day weekends are all but unheard of in the small-business world. That’s where Christian Brothers Automotive has quietly changed the game.
Christian Brothers Automotive is open five days a week. That means that every Christian Brothers owner across the system enjoys a full two-day weekend every week, a rare benefit in an industry where weekends are often the busiest days of the week. The five-day workweek is not just an operational favor given to franchisees, it’s a fundamental extension of the brand’s core values, which hold family as guiding principle.
Where many franchise brands hold a set of core values as aspirational mottos, Christian Brothers has built their values into their operational model. A prioritization of family is just one of those values. Respect and transparency are two other principles that inform both internal and customer-facing operations.
As Phoenix-area franchisee Tony Schottenbauer puts it, Christian Brothers “walks the walk.”
During his discovery process, Schottenbauer, who was looking for an organization that represented his personal values, pegged Christian Brothers as the real deal.
“They didn’t just have Christian in the name,” Schottenbauer said. “It was clear that their operations were all based on Christian values. My only goal is to treat customers with respect, and the Christian Brothers mission statement is to love your neighbor as yourself. So it’s easy. It’s like following the law. I work hard, but it comes naturally. It’s just a matter of treating people right.”
Amy Stehr, another Christian Brothers Automotive franchisee in Rockwall, Texas, said that the system-wide application of the franchise’s core values is what defines the Christian Brothers brand.
“What really makes Christian Brothers Automotive stand out is the people behind the brand,” said Stehr. “Every member of our team, whether they’re on the corporate or franchisee side of the business, wants to make a difference in the lives of others. No matter where we’re operating, we all come together over our roots in the Christian faith. Christian Brothers Automotive is more than just a brand. We’re a family.”
To ensure that Christian Brothers’ core values are applied rigorously throughout the franchise’s entire network of franchisees, the brand’s development team maintains a stringent vetting process for prospective franchisees. Josh Wall, CBA’s vice president of franchise and strategic development, explained that candidates are evaluated from a personal rather than financial perspective.
“We are very selective about who we bring on board. We are looking for good stewards of the brand, people who can live up to our core values and run a strong business. Those are the qualifications that matter to us, not liquidity,” Wall said. “It doesn’t serve us to rule out good candidates just because they can’t come up with an enormous initial investment.”
That careful selection process has proven enormously successful for the franchise. In Christian Brothers’ 35 years, they have not closed a single store, of which there are now 171 across the U.S., and franchisee satisfaction is among the highest in the industry.
Franchisee satisfaction is not only a boon to owners, it also promotes rock solid unit-level operations, making Christian Brothers a trusted brand among consumers, which is an invaluable asset in a segment still dogged by less than favorable consumer sentiment. As a result, Christian Brothers stores enjoy rabidly loyal customer bases.
For Schottenbauer’s CBA store, customer referrals have all but eliminated the need for advertising.
“I don’t do much advertising,” Schottenbauer said. “I rely on customers to tell people about us. People are looking for what we have to offer. When I get a new customer, I really try to exceed their expectations, and I know they’ll bring me new business.”
Ultimately, Wall sees customer and franchisee satisfaction as a cycle fed by Christian Brothers’ commitment to its core values.
“Happy franchisees make happy customers, and happy customers bring business, which makes happy franchisees,” Wall said. “All we have to do is make sure that we continue to hire high-quality franchisees who believe in our values and show an ability to apply them day-in and day-out, and that cycle will continue.”