Working on the business, not in it
Sunnyvale, Calif.—A pair of Fix Auto USA franchise partners since 2011, co-owners Mary Oliver and Steve Springer have been watching their business steadily grow. By adding their third location in Sunnyvale recently, they’re confident they will be able to emulate the success that they’ve already achieved at their other two Fix Auto USA shops in San Jose and Gilroy.
“The two primary drivers why I went to Fix Auto USA were to protect what I had built,” he said. “The other one was an exit plan. A single independent shop owner who sells his business to another independent shop is more like selling a job as opposed to selling a business, and I wanted to truly own a business. I built these shops to where I have managers in place and they pretty much run themselves. So, I come in from a leadership capacity and as a numbers guy I work with my managers to improve operations, processes and profitability.”
A veteran of the industry, Springer said he is now in a great position and he credits much of it to Fix Auto USA.
“After 25 years of learning and constantly getting better, I think we finally have it down. We have a formula that works now and we believe that Fix Auto is a big part of that. They offer us a wide range of tools, so we have reports we didn’t have before that make it a lot easier for us to manage the business. We also have a national lifetime warranty, which means that if you get a car fixed at any Fix Auto USA location and run into issues down the road, you can take it to any Fix Auto USA regardless of where it is.”
Negotiating national contracts with insurance companies is also an advantage for Springer as a Fix Auto USA franchise partner, he said. “Instead of having to continually negotiate with our local insurers, these are national DRPs. Before we were with Fix Auto USA, we had to spend a lot of time calling on agents and building relationships with them. We still do it, but not to the degree we used to. We get contracts now because we integrated with Fix Auto’s corporate culture and, in the end, the company wins these contracts on our behalf. The days of having to pound the pavement are done, which enables us to spend more time in other areas.”
When it comes to advertising and marketing his shops, Springer can make a larger impact by buying together with the other Fix Auto locations in his region. “When I was an independent, we spent a lot of money on advertising and the results were uneven. Now, we pay a nominal monthly amount per shop in conjunction with the franchisees in the Bay Area. With pooled purchasing, we get much better coverage in local media and can have impact advertising in venues such as Golden State Warrior and San Francisco Giant broadcasts on both TV and radio. There’s absolutely no way that we could have come up with an annual $216,000 advertising budget with only two locations.”
Shop evaluation and vetting
Fix Auto USA is continually looking for independent shops to invite into their network, said Paul Gange, Fix Auto USA president and CEO, and several factors are considered when evaluating a potential franchisee.
“Qualitatively, we carefully examine four personality traits of the owner: competitiveness, passion for the business, drive toward continuous improvement and their focus on quality. Quantitatively, we evaluate their operational performance, financial stability and capacity for growth. We also ask our existing franchise partners for their input, to ensure the new member will increase the overall value of our network ownership team.”
As the collision industry continues to consolidate, Springer said he is happy to be in the right place at the right time. “Insurers are looking for predictable results, and when you go to places like Starbucks or McDonald’s, you get predictable results. Especially in the Bay Area, where we’re actually bigger than all of the regional MSOs, which positions us right where we want to be.”