Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s 2007 Lube Industry Leaders Review is the result of an extensive search into the nation’s car care industry to find the country’s top-performing fast-lube businesses.
Suggestions were solicited from attendees of the 2007 Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) convention, top performing fast lube shops, industry experts and consultants.
The following profiles represent a glimpse of the best of the best in the fast lube industry today. We are thankful for the participation of the operators, without whom this project would not be possible.
The most important business aspect.
Twenty years ago, David Rogers finished his time with the military and looked around. He was itching for a new project, a new career. He turned to the automotive industry.
Rogers began service writing and recognized a natural aptitude and interest in the car care business. He accelerated into management and executive positions, always within the car care industry. Today, he is Chief Operations Officer of Keller Bros. Auto, a quick lube shop in Littleton, CO, and one of the top performing businesses in the nation.
A natural communicator and entertainer, Rogers is an active member of the National Speaker’s Association. Over the years, he realized the asset of his speaking ability and learned to utilize it to promote his business.
He frequently uses the success of Keller Bros. Auto as a business model in the speeches he gives at both private and public functions. He teaches executives and managers to model their businesses after Keller Bros. Auto, and relishes the opportunity to share his success with others.
It’s all about the service
The goal of Keller Bros. is to provide customers with all of the information they need to make informed decisions about car repairs and maintenance. Rogers places an emphasis on teaching the customer the what, why and cost of each repair before it is completed. Not only do technicians take the time to educate consumers, a newsletter is also distributed, focusing on educating customers outside of the shop.
From 1997 to 1999, the shop was selected as a top ten finalist from over 40,000 quick lubes across the country and appointed to the Carquest Service Dealers Advisory Council. (Carquest is a supplier of automotive parts and accessories.) In addition to being placed on the council, the business was chosen by Carquest as the #1 auto repair facility in the nation in 1999 and winner of the National Excellence Award.
Rogers doesn’t only expect excellence from the overall performance of the shop, but also from the individual employees who make up the quick lube’s team. The shop’s staff has over 165 years of combined experience in the automotive repair business and Rogers emphasizes their training and customer service.
Shop manager Terry Keller has been in the business for over 35 years and is an ASE Master Certified Technician. He is also certified as an Accredited Automotive Manager by AMI, and is the 2007 Colorado ASE/NAPA Technician of the Year. The award is in recognition not only of Keller’s personal achievement, but also of the shop’s dedication to consumer and employee education.
In the news
After servicing a local TV producer’s vehicle, Rogers was asked to appear on the news station’s broadcast as the “Monday Morning Mechanic.” The TV producer recognized Roger’s ability to simplify even the most difficult repair in a language that all consumers could understand.
While being a spokesperson does bring recognition, Rogers humbly uses this opportunity to educate customers. Frankly, Rogers said he gets more feedback from other shops than consumer response.
A little advice
When asked what piece of advice Rogers would tell a new lube operator joining the business, he said, “Whatever you do, don’t do the free oil change.”
There are two types of customers, Rogers explained, one that wants everything cheap and free, and those who want to have their vehicle properly maintained. By placing this type of ad, your shop will bring in all the wrong types of customers and you’ll wind up chasing down people who don’t want to pay for the work performed.
And Rogers still remembers the best piece of advice he ever received: “Whatever you do, don’t burn anyone else in the industry because it is a very small world.”
If a customer ever comes in complaining about poor service at another shop, call the manager and work together to fix the problem, advises Rogers. The customer is always the heart of your business. If you badmouth another shop, it will come back to haunt you.
“If you solicit blame,” he said, “it will diminish the customer’s trust.”
Multi-million dollar manager worth his weight.
Earlier this year, Danny Keeling, general manager of Wolf Creek Car Wash & Oil Change in College Station, TX, was recognized by the Southwest Car Wash Association (SCWA) as its lube manager of the year.
It’s not hard to see why. As a manager who consistently brings in profits of over $1,000,000, Keeling’s passion for the fast lube industry is evident. According to those who know him, his enthusiasm comes from over 30 years in the fast lube industry, starting as a supplier of oil and parts, to managing multiple locations and even taking a crack at owning and operating his own lube shops.
Keeling’s nomination is laced with praise. Chuck Space, executive director of the SCWA, said, “Danny’s attitude, length of service, dedication to the industry, increase in sales, volume, profit and number of stores, employee retention and running the shop as if it were his own are what won Danny the award.”
Today, Keeling manages two locations. The most profitable shop, established 15 years ago, features three bays with a full-serve carwash.
In comparison to its well-established counterpart, the second store is fairly new, having recently celebrated its seven year anniversary. This young store features a two-bay tandem with an express carwash.
According to Keeling, the “newest” store won’t be the baby in the family for long. Based upon his success in the last five years, Keeling plans to work with Bill Trainer, the owner of Wolf Creek, to add new sites in the next few years. He would like to see the number of stores grow along with the business’s profits.
Taking care of business
Keeling’s secret to success is employee retention. His carwash manager has been with the business for 15 years. His assistant manager has been logging hours alongside him for 20 years. Many of his technicians and sales staff have been with Wolf Creek for 10-20+ years.
How does he manage to keep his employees happy? Mutual respect, he says.
“Treating them right is what keeps our people here,” Keeling explained. And keeping employees here is what keeps his shop running smoothly.
Keeling also mentions his employee training program, which seeks to educate his staff and help turn them into customer service experts.
But training employees does not mean trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
“All of your employees are different,” Keeling said. “They all have strengths and weaknesses. Work with their strengths and deal with their weaknesses.”
By tailoring his training program to suit the needs of different types of employees, Keeling has been able to raise the performance level of his staff and bond them to the store. By helping each employee realize their individuality he has made them a team.
In fact, Keeling was able to turn around the under-performing quick lubes into multi-million dollar businesses with the help of his staff and a little determination on his part.
One last piece of advice Keeling remembers when trying to increase revenue at the business is something that was told to him many years ago — don’t be afraid to charge what your service is worth. While this may seem obvious to some, many shop owners undercharge, hoping to gain additional business off the backs of their higher-priced competitors.