Chris Schroeder had to reschedule his first interview with National Oil and Lube News because he was filling in at one of his shops.
A good owner and operator, Schroeder is more than just present and attentive in his shops. He’s working at them, helping his people grow the business. And it isn’t to micro-manage. He’s dedicated to the idea that if employees are succeeding, then the entire company can succeed.
After experiencing work for a large corporate quick lube company, Schroeder wanted a more personal touch when he became an owner. And that style of leadership has paid off with explosive growth and strong retention over the years at his Florida network of Famous Quick Lube stores.
“Everybody wants to be treated like a person,” he says. “We call it the Famous Family. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for one of our employees.”
Famous Quick Lube is the Best Workplaces winner for 2022 and received the most nominations of any single operator this year. Schroeder says he attributes his success to his steadfast dedication to giving each employee the attention and acknowledgement they deserve.
That gets tough when your company is reaching 20 locations.
More than a Number
Schroeder has been in the quick lube business for more than 15 years. He started working for a friend of his at shops in Florida. He took advantage of a great mentorship from that time.
“Worked for him for about eight years,” Schroeder says. “He taught me a lot.”
That ownership eventually changed after a corporate sale. Schroeder was less impressed with the detached feeling he got from company ownership. There wasn’t as much ability to make direct impacts outside of sales figures.
Schroeder and some partners wanted to go into business for themselves and operate on the principle of attentive, personable employee culture. Eventually they found their opening.
“We got a phone call about a building that we tried to get years ago that opened up again,” he says. “And we took a chance. We rolled the dice. And ever since then, I haven't looked back. Just keep growing and stay positive.”
The first Famous Quick Lube opened in 2016. After eight months, they acquired a second location. Within 18 months, they were up to three, and the growth continued.
The company also got into mechanical repair, which has been a strong segment of its own. Today, there are 12 quick lube shops and seven repair shops, all separate and successful throughout the Jacksonville, Fla., market area.
That’s a lot of growth to handle when your leadership philosophy is to be available to all employees. All of them have his phone number.
“Right now, I probably manage over 100 people,” he says.
There’s a level of stress. Sometimes it is challenging to be responsive and helpful when lots of people are reaching out at once, but he sees this as an investment in his company culture. The accessibility allows team members to feel like they’re more than a number, and that they can affect positive change across the entire operation.
He’s been rewarded with a growing network and strong retention, especially in key positions.
“All my managers have been with me for at least five years now,” he says. “Every last one of my managers.”
“It’s been a great experience and has been a good career. I look forward to bigger and better growth.”
-James Temple, manager, Famous Quick Lube
When Culture Thrives
Schroeder knows a few key values that employees hold, and he tries to work them into operations. First, he wants his team to know that they have growth plans for longevity. That starts even at the new hire.
“We’d like to find somebody who wants to stick around and learn,” he says. “And that’s how we continue to grow from within.”
One nominator told NOLN that in his first week on the job, he had goals outlined for his success, and he knew exactly what was expected. Another said that his training process encompassed all aspects of the operation with an emphasis on advancement in the company. One nominator said that after a few different quick lube jobs, this was the first company where he met the owner in the first week of work.
Store manager James Temple has been with the company since it began, and he says that he’s been able to thrive. He likes working on cars and working with people, so the position fits well.
“It’s been a great experience and has been a good career,” he says. “I look forward to bigger and better growth.”
Temple reinforced the opportunities given to employees at all levels, which includes a bonus pay system that’s open to everyone. The training opportunities are given to all employees as well. That’s key when the brand is adding locations.
As the company grows, Schroeder wants to emphasize internal promotions to create new opportunities.
“That way, nobody feels overlooked,” he says.
Even past the new hire and training phase, nominators stressed that goal-setting and achievement are big parts of the culture. Schroeder says this was a system he formalized early on.
“I have conference calls every Wednesday morning with all my managers and assistant managers,” he says. “We discuss the game plan, the previous week, where we need to get better and what we need to do.”
The people-first philosophy that Schroeder has as an operator is a way to show accountability. If there’s an issue among his ranks, then he will likely answer it. Ownership presence isn’t what he experienced in the larger corporate quick lube setting.
While his phone might be buzzing nearly all day at times, he realizes the importance of being accountable to those conversations.
“If they can reach out and talk to you, they will respect you more,” he says.
The upside has been the growth and opportunity that Schroeder created by building a sustainable workplace. Former techs have grown into successful managers and made successful careers of their own within the Famous Quick Lube system.
Schroeder says it has been like planting a seed and tending to the plant over time. Now he’s reaping the rewards.
“It’s just great to hear the success stories from other people,” he says. “And to watch it grow.”