Franchise Spotlight: Oilstop

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Franchised: Oilstop Inc.

California-based franchise Oilstop has grown from a single location to span four western states

Franchise: Oilstop Inc.

Years in Operation: 27

Mission statement: “We will serve people with excellence, humbly, with a servant’s heart.”

At, an abandoned gas station in Petaluma, California, is where it all started. From this humble birthplace, Oilstop founder and CEO Larry Dahl can trace the beginnings of what is now a successful family of drive-thru service centers that span four western states.

“Since the first Oilstop in Petaluma in 1988, we have added 22 more Oilstop locations, including 12 corporate and 11 franchises,” Dahl said. “We’re currently in the process of building a new store in Eureka, California, and we continue to seek new locations for stores.”

The story goes back a decade to when Dahl opened an independent carwash in Medford, Oregon, in 1978. Six years later, he expanded operations to include an oil change and soon after launched Oilstop in Petaluma. The key to Oilstop’s success has been Dahl’s personal attention and the a commitment to reliable service.

“We have earned a reputation for being very well-trained, gracious and honest,” Dahl added. “Our company culture is based on character and doing the right thing all the time. When you imbue this precept with solid training, smart hiring and accountability, a reputation can be established, and I believe from the comments we receive from our guests, we are definitely making an impact. If you ask anyone in our company to recite our mission statement, you’ll find everyone will say, ‘We serve people with excellence, humbly, with a servant’s heart.’”

That servant’s heart is beating strong, even if in the past quarter century the industry has changed a lot — just like the vehicles rolling through their bays. Dahl looked back fondly on the beginnings.

“It was a lot simpler in those days,” Dahl said. “The number of different makes and models on the road was a third of what it is today. A car’s engine was straightforward and very accessible. There were few, if any, skid plates to remove. Engines weren’t nearly as sophisticated as they are today, and the number of different lubricants you had to stock was more manageable.”

Instead of being left behind by the technological vehicle advances, Dahl and his team have strived to embrace the leaps forward. As a result, car owners continue to have an opportunity to have their vehicles serviced by knowledgeable and gracious technicians in a safe, hospitable environment.

From day one, Oilstop’s goal was to earn the respect and trust of its guests. This was the same in the 1980s and remains true today.

“We constantly speak of such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Dahl said. “These attributes, regularly displayed and held together by character, are our way of earning guest trust.”

Even after a quarter a century, Dahl has acknowledged cars have not only changed but will also continue to change and become ever more technical. To ensure the customer gets the right service comes down to training. According to Dahl, Oilstop achieved success because the best-trained companies always migrate to the top.

This included the use of detailed manuals, extensive in-house produced training videos, audio and visual programs for streaming to devices, its own versions of role-playing and other “in-vitro” training programs, free leadership programs and even webinars where everyone is held accountable in the training.

From this and other similar programs, Dahl affirmed Oilstop has been able to stay abreast of the changing nature of servicing vehicles. Just as a doctor needs to stay up-to-date on new medical procedures the techs at Oilstop continue to stay up-to-date on the latest technical procedures.

“It is about training, training and then more training,” Dahl said.

Over the past 15 years, Oilstop Inc. has developed its own proprietary point of sale system (POS) that serves its chain of corporate and franchise stores. It is affectionately called SPEID: Serving People with Excellence in the Details. The software platform has been used to help revolutionize Oilstop’s business, but has also provided a dramatic shift from the status quo in the quick lube industry with regard to technology implementation.

“Traditional quick lube technology today continues to separate the work from the technology,” Dahl said. “Oil change facilities establish work stations, cashier stations and technical kiosks that a technician must physically move to in order to enter or retrieve critical customer service information. Traditional technology serves as a complement to whatever service process is in play; it does not, for example, dictate how the service process proceeds nor does it play any role in maintaining service process integrity.”

Dahl noted for future success it would be necessary to move away from this model and put vastly improved technology into the hands of technicians as they completed 100-percent of the service experience with the guest. At the same time, it could ensure proper oversight for service process integrity. By marrying the actual service process to the software, Dahl said it has increased efficiency, accountability, training and productivity.

“This critical thinking was behind the development of SPEID, and this technology mirrors and drives our business process to achieve industry-leading performance,” he added.

Going Social

Oilstop calls their customers guests, and this level of openness continues on the Internet and plays an important role in its operations.

“There’s no doubt about it, the Internet plays a key role in our day-to-day operations, as well as our future.” Dahl said. “SPEID is based on a thin-client platform where service technicians use wireless tablets, and vehicle service information is stored on servers, making this information available to any store or staff member in any location, all in real-time. High speed Internet is a must in our stores, not only for the performance of SPEID, but also for many of our marketing programs.”

Other innovations the company relies on include its own Oilstop TV, which is now in all corporate Oilstop stores. It consists of flat screen TVs mounted on the driver’s side in all service bays. It offers a full playlist of video spots for entertainment and education, and this is unique to each store location. It is delivered to each store’s screens from a corporate computer via the Internet. This is just one way to help build guest trust.

In addition, most of the company’s training materials are also available for viewing and/or streaming from the Internet to a technician’s device.

The company offers environmentally conscious guests the chance to be green, by providing the opportunity to have service invoices emailed rather than waste paper and ink printing them. If they want the paper option, it is also available.

After 27 years, Dahl is proud to say Oilstop is in business to make a profit, but it is also in business to change lives.

“We want to impact our guests by providing the best service experience they’ve ever had,” he said. “We want to impact our people by providing a culture of character, grace and accountability, thereby allowing and encouraging them to continue to grow and mature. Adding new stores provides a means to an end, so our future will certainly include continued growth.”

The company has 22 locations, but Dahl sees no reason there won’t be more stores in the future. “Do I think we still have room to grow? Absolutely.”

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