Midas, or Red Cross?
How one shop owner accounts for more than 2,000 blood donations per year
9/11 is a day that will never be forgotten. It sparked the War on Terror, increased American patriotism, and started several conversations about national security. For Mark Smith, owner of four Midas Richmond locations in Virginia, it began an almost two decade long process of giving back to his community.
On the fateful day in 2001 that the Twin Towers fell, Smith went to give blood and saw people waiting to help in whatever way they could. As a five-gallon donor himself, this was the moment when the idea of hosting a blood drive was first planted in his head. Smith put on his first blood drive later that year and has continued to host them since. Now, his four locations host five blood drives throughout the year. These blood drives account for 2.5 percent of all blood donated in central Virginia; which makes sense, as his blood drives average 400 donations per drive compared to the average 27 donations from a standard Red Cross drive Smith says.
Smith says that helping his community is important to him, and beyond that, making it a part of his business model has really helped to drive people into the shop.
A Giving Philosophy
His focus on giving back to the community brings a lot of customers in to his shops, but that isn’t why Smith does it. His selfless attitude accounts for the success of his shops and the mantra, “If not me, then who?”
Smith instills in his shops that it’s important for everyone to help out, regardless of what your position is. You can help your community, whether you’re the CEO or just starting, it doesn’t matter. You should be doing what you can to help others, Smith says.
Smith continues to find new ways to increase the amount that he helps other people. In fact, he’s adding a fifth location that will include a permanent blood donation center.
Getting People to Donate
For Smith, giving back to his community also means giving away oil changes and free tires for each blood or platelet donation received at his blood drives. His goal for this is to maximize donations, and make people want to come back to his shops. And it works; Smith says that his shops are now the largest volume Midas stores in the world, generating roughly $3.9 million per year.
Going Beyond Blood Drives
Smith gets cold calls from people all the time. People asking him to help with this project or that event, and although he wants to help as many people as possible, sometimes you have to limit yourself, he says. It’s important to find a reputable cause that you believe in.
Several years ago, Smith got a call from the St Joseph's Villa in Richmond, Va. She was asking him to come down to the school to see if he would be interested in donating to the school or helping in some way. Usually, visits like these are fairly short, but this one lasted two hours. The two of them were walking around campus and he saw a few raised gardens. As it turns out, those gardens were used to supply a cooking program at the school that was about to be cut. Smith asked to go see these students, and after spending time with them, told Jenny that if they didn’t cut the program, that Midas would underwrite the paycheck for the next ten years.
In 2002, Smith found out that there weren’t going to be enough turkeys at the food bank for Thanksgiving. So, he decided that alongside giving each person an oil change for their blood donation, that he would also donate a turkey for every donation they received. That year, Smith donated 83 turkeys.
Somehow, Smith still finds time to do even more. Shalom Farms is an organization that works with communities to provide access to healthy, sustainable food. Smith says that they’ve had a relationship with Midas for around five or six years, helping to distribute the produce.
Marketing to Customers
Taking your business into the community and marketing what you’re doing to your client base is going to make them want to come to your shop. They are going to want to come to the businesses that are helping them, Smith says.
One way that Smith goes about community marketing is something he also ties into giving back. Smith will give away oil changes to school groups—like drama clubs, STEM clubs, language clubs, and sports teams—and let them sell the oil changes as a fundraiser. Those teams and clubs then get all of the profit, and Smith has people coming in to the shop. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
While there is no black and white quantification for measuring the impact giving back helps a business, Smith says that the numbers speak for themselves. Smith says that an average Midas shop sees about 12 cars per day, and his smallest location sees at least 20 cars per day.
“Cars are an industry with a lot of headwind” says Smith.
This means that people eventually have to come in—they have to get their tires rotated, they have to get their oil changed. Why shouldn’t it be at your shop? At the end of the day, people want to feel good about where their money goes. If they know that their money is going to go back into the community somehow, it leaves the customer feeling good.
All in all, find something you’re passionate about, and find a way to help.
"Build this culture of giving back into your personal brand, and into your professional brand, and then you’ll be successful” says Smith.