Larry Read Leveraged Idea Sharing in the Fast Lube and Oil Manufacturing Industries
Larry Read isn’t your typical fast lube owner. He’s currently the CEO of Oil Changers, a fast lube company with 34 facilities throughout California, but his career didn’t start in the auto industry.
First, he was drafted into the United States Armed Forces. He returned to civilian life and dabbled in accounting before finding the insurance profession, when he joined Presidential Life Insurance Company. He went on to become CEO of the company, which he sold in 2012.
During his 45 years at Presidential Life Insurance, Read spent a lot of time on the road, and in the early 1980s, a quick lube shop caught his eye.
“I was fascinated by what I saw,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty, but the concept was all there. My curiosity grew from that point.”
Read stopped at a fast lube facility whenever he had an opportunity. When he rented cars for his business trips, he would get them serviced, just to explore the shops and conduct research. In 1986, Read turned his interest into a second career and opened his first Oil Changer.
His early years, though, were not easy. He needed advice and vital information specific to what he was trying to accomplish. The answer to his problems was the National Association of Independent Lubes (NAIL). He was a founding member of the organization that is now called the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA).
The association was critical to his success. He leveraged the networking and idea sharing. He applied everything the association offered to his facilities.
“We have now serviced more than 10,000,000 cars in every make and model,” Read said. “We know what we’re doing. We train our people. We have low management turnover, and we treat our customers with the appreciation they deserve. That’s our secret. We don’t advertise, because we believe our best advertising is word-of-mouth. We may not have all the answers, but we continue to grow after 28 years in business.”
Read isn’t the selfish type; he gave back to the association. He has served on countless committees and the board of directors. He provided leadership during the early 1990s and is still actively involved. Aside from AOCA, Read further demonstrates his industry-first mentality by regularly opening his doors to anyone who wants to see how he runs his facilities. He isn’t afraid of giving away secrets; all he wants to do is help.
“There are few trade secrets in our industry,” Read said. “Best practices bring about greater earnings, and I always want to compete against the best in my industry. If you have a ‘bad’ operator in your market, it will reflect negatively on your business — you get painted with the same brush. We have shared practices with operators across the country, and they have reciprocated. When you quit learning about your business, you begin decaying.”
In additional to generous idea sharing, Read finds a lot of information from his other business — North American Lubricants, Co., a bulk oil manufacturing and blending operation he started in 1999, which now has a 48-state distribution infrastructure.
Being able to see the market from two completely different perspectives is advantageous; however, Read prefers to lean on the fast lube side to get a better pulse of the marketplace.