Franchise Spotlight: Christian Brothers Automotive
Today, we may look back on the 1970s as the “me decade” and the 1980s as the “decade of excess” — yet from that era where too many people only thought of themselves, others were looking to make a difference. One man in particular who stood out from the excess was Mark Carr. Carr, who was working as a graphic arts salesman for a photographic mural company, opted to move from upstate New York to Houston in 1981. It was there a chance meeting at church changed everything.
In 1982, Carr co-founded Christian Brothers Automotive, taking the name from the church meeting, and set off with a very simple principle, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
At the time, Carr lacked any typical industry experience, but this allowed him to relate to what many of his customers experienced. Despite this lack of automotive training, Carr knew how to hire the right talent to do the work, and along with the corporate policies that make a difference to the customers, the business grew and thrived.
Across More Than 20 States
Today, Christian Brothers Automotive has grown from a regional shop to one found across much of America. The big change came 14 years after the company was founded as it expanded in the Lone Star State.
“In 1996, Christian Brothers Automotive became a registered franchisor and began offering our franchise system to interested people throughout Texas,” Carr said. “We are proud to currently have 155 locations in 22 states.”
The growth could be said to come with a blessing from a higher power, and while some may frown on working on Sunday, no one complained about networking being done. The first franchises originated through Carr’s Sunday school class at Spring Branch Bible Church. This close connection with his franchise owners has ensured steady growth, while also allowing the company to maintain relationships with those it can truly trust.
“These families or relatives of these families franchised the original seven Christian Brothers locations in Houston, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth,” Carr explained. “The majority of our locations are locally owned and operated by franchisees, with less than 10 percent corporately run, as we search for the right franchisees for those communities.”
By the late 1990s, the company expanded to Tennessee, Georgia and Oklahoma, and by the end of 2001 had 17 locations. Over the next half decade it expanded to 50 locations, growing into Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri. In 2008, Christian Brothers Automotive announced a growth initiative that would take the brand to approximately 200 stores. This would include locations in the Southeast, Lower Midwest and Southwest by the end of 2017. As the company celebrated 30 years in business in 2012, it opened up its 100th store in New Braunfels, Texas, and the expansion has only continued to pick up momentum.
A Nice Difference
Christian Brothers, still maintains the motto, “love your neighbor as yourself” and has built its success on what it calls, “the nice difference,” which means comfortable waiting rooms that wouldn’t be out of place at a lawyer’s office. This idea, along with offering other services, such as a courtesy shuttle to work or home, is to make the customer feel comfortable.
This is part of the company’s success, especially in today’s world of fast food and big box retailers that have no relationship with the consumer. Instead, even as a brand with 155 locations, the idea is to make each location feel like a small shop with the personal touch.
“Having a respected and trusted brand is very important in that it is the trust we’ve earned from our customers that lends to our success,” Carr said. “We build our entire system with a servant’s mindset, asking ourselves how we can put customers at ease and treat them with respect. Our focus on superior customer service and ‘loving your neighbor as yourself,’ has allowed the company to grow with 100-percent store success in 20 years of franchising.”
Carr added all Christian Brothers franchises are locally owned by Christians who want to give their customers a safe haven in the auto repair industry where they will be treated with honesty, integrity and respect.
Christian Brothers has also sought to give back at both a local and global level, and this includes community sponsorship, donations and even a 2008 fundraising effort that led to four well projects in Africa.
Of course, in the past 34 years many things have changed, including the automobile — and how it must be serviced. For Christian Brothers Automotive, this has meant staying up on the latest trends.
“With ongoing advancements in innovation in today’s cars, we hold ourselves accountable to ensure we stay in-tune with changes in technology,” Carr explained. “Our technicians are encouraged to participate regularly in on-site and online training sessions with topics like OE diagnostic tools, inspections and new equipment. Each year, we also host our technicians in an annual conference where they network and share information on new technologies.”
The company also ensures its customers know it takes the environment seriously and shows the same love to the local ecology.
“We have established several best practices across all our locations to ensure we are being proper stewards of the environment,” Carr added. “We find the best way to show our customers we are serious about the environment is through our actions.”
Christian Brothers Automotive locations recycle and reduce excess waste whenever possible, and Carr noted the company partners with parts and supply vendors to ensure proper recycling of all used oil, oil filters, transmission fluid, coolant, batteries, tires and more.
“No oil or grease ever goes into the ground — all floor drains in our shops have grease traps, which prevent any grease from the floor going into the ground,” Carr proudly explained. “The trapped grease and oily water is pumped out and recycled on a regular basis.”
One Stop Service
Cars have become more technical, but ensuring nearly every aspect of maintenance of the vehicle can be handled in the shop is crucial to Christian Brothers Automotive’s success. This helps forge a relationship with the customer.
“It is part of earning their trust,” Carr said. “When a customer knows they can rely on our locations to handle everything from oil changes and scheduled maintenance to brakes and engine repairs, it gives us the opportunity to be their trusted experts and have a history with their vehicle. By having the repair history of the vehicle, our technicians are able to better identify any problems and get the customer back on the road sooner.”
While the company has expanded to 155 locations in 22 states, Carr said there is still plenty of room for growth — and he seeks to bring his trusted brand to parts even further. Through his faith, solid service and determination to make a difference for the consumer, Christian Brothers Automotive will continue to grow.
“There are plans to expand into eight additional states in the near future, including Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Illinois,” Carr explained. “Ultimately, we have built a system that can support locations in all 50 states and anticipate expanding nationwide in the future.”