SHOP STATS: Charlie's Fast Lube Location: JACKSON, MISS. (HQ). Operator: Glueck Enterprises Average Monthly Count: 26.5 Staff Size: 30 Network Size: 7 quick lube; 5 tire shops Average Ticket: $68.25
Operators know that different markets have different hiring pools. Finding the right person to manage one or multiple shops takes time—time to find candidates, time to train and develop them and time to try out different people in those roles.
The operators of Missouri-based Charlie’s Fast Lube know this well. The family-run business has been hiring and developing managers since it started as a tire and automotive shop in 1980. In around 1990, a fast lube component was added to the business. Today, there are seven Charlie’s Fast Lube stores to complement the five tire and auto shop locations.
Jason Glueck’s father Charlie started the business, and it’s now in the hands of Jason and his brother. Like any experienced operator, he knows that an effective manager is essential to day-to-day success.
Glueck has experienced the grind of finding and developing the manager position during his 25 years with the company. And he’s also seen what happens when the right person takes the job. Charlie’s Fast Lube has found that in its district manager.
“Brian Hahs is a guy that’s been with us now 11 years,” Glueck says. “He started off as a store manager, and he’s now a district manager over those seven lube centers.”
Glueck says that Hahs’ success has translated into better business for the quick lube. But what exactly is he doing to be an effective manager? And how does Glueck set him up for success?
First, The Search
Charlie’s Fast Lube is not immune to turnover at any position. It can take a few times to find the right manager, but when hiring, Glueck says he’s looking for an ability to handle person-to-person interactions well.
“You’ll go through three of them before finding one to stick,” he says. “We try to look at the people skills more than the sales skills. We can teach them the process. We can teach them to sell, but if they can’t talk to customers and they can't deal with employees, then they're not going to last.”
Hahs has been in the district manager position for about seven years. But to get there, he proved himself as an effective store-level manager at the Sikeston, Mo. shop.
During that time, Glueck says that Hahs set the example for the future standard of a Charlie’s Fast Lube store.
Here are some examples of Hahs’ impactful work.
His Shop Reflected the Customer’s View.
Shop owners should look for attention to detail in the work of prospective managers.
Hahs ran a tight ship in Sikeston. The small details, which can get pushed aside on occasion, were always in order at that location.
Glueck says Hahs ran the cleanest shop in the network. The techs were always in clean uniforms. The windows were clean, for heaven’s sake.
Glueck believes that it’s Hahs’ approach that led to success. He saw his operation from the customer’s point of view.
“How the customer views what you do is very important as well,” Glueck says. “It’s not just about us and where the ticket average is going to be. It’s how the customer is going to perceive it.”
The ability to rein in staff to make good on those details requires a stern hand at times. It’s often a personality trait of a good manager to find that line between respectful sternness and overbearance.
They must get results while maintaining the faith of staff, and that’s usually done by reaching a common goal.
“Some of our best managers are the guys who are pretty stern with how they do their process, but the guys respect it because they know where they’re at,” Glueck says. “The ones who are a little more wishy washy, they struggle sometimes to keep people, because everybody’s not on the same page.”
He Was Identified for a Big Project.
Staying on top of business as the Sikeston store manager got the owner’s attention for a bigger role. Hahs worked with then-owner Charlie Glueck to put a more precise process down on paper. There had been some formal processes in the past, while others were more informal. Hahs worked to change that.
Everything from customer greetings to oil recommendations to add-on sales pitches and the actual service were analyzed and made formal.
Before, techs might have asked about additional services sometimes. With a formal process at hand, there’s a requirement to make recommendations as needed.
“We were set up to do the extra services like transmissions, power steering, differentials, cabin filters, et cetera, but there was no teeth in it, so not much extra was being sold besides the conventional oil change,” Hahs says.
So when maintaining car counts became more challenging, The shop’s process helped identify stronger ticket sales within their current service offerings.
“Without a process, without the way to find those 30, 35 percent who buy other services, other things that happen on a car,” Glueck says. “That’s where your ticket average comes from. I can't do employee incentives and benefits and things like that if you’re just changing oil.”
The best managers often take on roles that are larger than their positions. In doing so, they make positive changes company-wide.
The System Holds Managers Accountable.
About five years ago, Charlie’s instituted an accountability measure for managers. The monthly check-in records things like shop cleanliness, inventory, sales and other important variables.
The report cards are one way to track the company’s incentive system, which includes cash and other perks. Managers see that and buy into the system, but that’s not the true benefit.
“It’s all about communication, that’s where the change is,” Glueck says. “It’s not the dollars. Don’t get me wrong; they want to make money. The incentive is still the incentive. But I think it’s the communication that is forced with having a report card that helps it.”
There’s another level of accountability to the system as well. Glueck says that the managers themselves will often conduct a follow-up report card on themselves. It’s a way to mark quick turnarounds following the first report card, as well as a means to get the management team talking.
Often, it’s positive reinforcement. Communication is just as valuable when things are going well.
Those Past Efforts Produce Results Today.
In early 2020, at a Charlie’s Fast Lube staff party, three of the seven store managers received five-year plaques.
“In the lube business, that’s saying something,” Glueck says.
There are always hiring challenges in different markets, but Glueck is proud of the work and retention that’s taken place in the Charlie’s shops.
Thanks to the work of Charlie Glueck, Hahs and others who helped nail down the Charlie’s Fast Lube process, add-on sales grew. Sales of premium oil changes have grown as well to become the majority.
“We got to work selling these oils and soon had our premium oils at 65 percent of all our oil changes,” Hahs says. “We were way ahead of our time, but it raised our ticket average considerably. We now sell 75 percent to 78 percent premium oils.”
Boosting the ticket average and overall sales helps boost company revenue, which allows for the incentive program, which retains and recruits managers. It’s a cycle.
The manager is a part-owner by proxy, taking a piece of that leadership role when the business gets too big for one person to manage. Glueck says that it isn’t long before the owner can’t wrap their arms around the scope of business.
There’s a lot of autonomy at the store level or the district level. Managers need to be able to handle business. Hahs demonstrated this by running a tight ship as a store manager. That work was identified by the owner, who worked with Hahs to develop the company’s process.
“People don't care that much about the oil change itself, but they remember how they felt when they pull out of the shop,” Hahs says. “If we can put a smile on their face because of how they were treated and they enjoy the free wash, they'll come back.”