Hitting High Gear With Christian Brothers Automotive
Hitting High Gear With Christian Brothers Automotive

Q&A with Josh Wall, Christian Brothers Automotive VP of Franchise & Strategic Development.

Turns out there’s no great secret to achieving franchise success. Build a solid business plan, fill your system with dedicated franchisees and put your customers’ needs first. Then, growth is likely to follow.

Few business sectors are more dependent on that model than automotive repair, and none have embraced it more successfully than Christian Brothers Automotive. Since the brand began franchising in 1996, Christian Brothers has held true to its core principle: operate each location, each day with honesty, integrity, reliability and exceptional customer service. That philosophy has yielded impressive results. Christian Brothers Automotive continues to grow at a pace of 15 to 20 stores annually while maintaining a 100 percent success rate with its store operations, never having closed a single location.
1851 Franchise spoke with Josh Wall, Christian Brothers Automotive Vice President of Franchise & Strategic Development to find out what’s helped make the brand so successful.
1851 Franchise: Christian Brothers Automotive recently announced plans to open new franchise locations in seven more cities nationwide. What’s driven this rapid growth?
Josh Wall: We’re attracting great franchise candidates, and there are multiple reasons behind that. First is the culture of our organization. From the top down, we have a family focus and a faith-based focus that attracts driven, entrepreneurial-minded individuals who might not have otherwise thought about being involved in an automotive repair franchise. The performance of the business is also extremely attractive to franchise candidates. We’ve never gone dark on a store and our revenues are strong. Our average unit volume for non-tire stores leads the industry. This is a service business that customers truly connect with that also has the right financial model designed to make franchisees successful.
1851: Christian Brothers most recent Franchise Disclosure Document shows average revenue up 4.4% from 2013 to 2014. How has that helped validation efforts for potential franchisees?
JW: The rise in average revenue last year is proof that our commitment to provide our customers with a ‘nice difference’ is really resonating, and the growth is even more significant because we included 12 new stores in our calculations. That commitment to service excellence is shaped by our franchisees. We have extremely talented owners, so we tap into that as much as we can. About 10 percent of our franchisees serve as mentors for new owners. New franchisees get to see how a successful shop runs, and the mentor works closely as the new location begins their operation. We started that about 30 months ago, and it’s been a huge success.
1851: How have Christian Brothers Automotive owners responded to the corporate support they receive?
JW: Our franchisees are highly satisfied and invested in making the brand and their business successful. In the 13 years I’ve been with Christian Brothers, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a potential franchisee say they heard anything negative through the validation process. That’s something I’m really proud of. Our unit level metrics make us continually attractive to profit-minded individuals, but we’re also focused on putting quality individuals into our system who want to be partners in our future success.
1851: What are the key traits in Christian Brothers’ ownership model?
JW: We use an owner/operator business model which allows our franchisees to be in the shop and closely involved in the marketing efforts designed to boost their success. Our model is also unique in the automotive repair world because Christian Brothers’ locations are closed on the weekends. That’s very rare and very attractive to candidates. In addition, in our system, the royalty fee actually comes off of the bottom line and we only charge the royalty fee if the business is profitable.
1851: Where is Christian Brothers Automotive focusing its growth efforts in 2016 and beyond?
JW: We are focused on growth in the Midwest, Eastern Seaboard and the Southwest U.S. Christian Brothers now has 150 locations in 21 states and we will be at 154 open units by the end of the year. We want to grow at the right pace with the right partners. We’re focused on finding high quality, high character, driven individuals who want to make Christian Brothers a light in their community. If we continue doing that, then our future is very bright.