There’s a lot to be said about a strong foundation. After all, houses aren’t built on quicksand. Flowers don’t bloom from bent stems. Cars don’t run on empty gas tanks. Well-developed foundations help a building stay standing. They bring life to a garden, and they allow us to get where we need to go.
When it comes to running a shop in the quick lube industry, foundations go beyond the physical sense. In an industry that is no stranger to navigating change, a solid base keeps things structured. This benefits everyone involved – from the shop owner to the employees to the customer.
It starts with shop culture. Each shop may have a different way of defining it, but its existence helps shops survive and thrive despite any challenges. NOLN spoke with three quick lube operators about this topic – each with their own distinct setup and culture approach.
Achieving consistent shop culture isn’t cut and dry. According to Chad Weisbeck, who owns a multi-location Jiffy Lube franchise based in South Carolina called Bronco Lube, outside factors have an impact.
“I wouldn’t say that culture is consistent because it’s just so affected by all the things going on around us,” Weisbeck says. “It’s such a hard word to put a measure on.”
Weisbeck has been in the industry for 28 years, and Bronco Lube celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2022. While he has witnessed change throughout his career, he doesn’t rule out consistency entirely.
“Culture is not something that happens in a vacuum or a closed box, it is affected by a new hire we bring on today,” Weisbeck says. “The short answer is, we have a solid culture. Because from the top, we’ve had some real consistency. Our leaders and top roles have been here for a significant time.”
This foundation is created by a “top-down” mentality across the Bronco Lube network. Weisbeck describes it as a telephone game. He’ll convey his vision, and that gets passed down to managers and team members.
Weisbeck acknowledges that there is potential for inconsistencies to sneak in due to the amount of people passing that message along. But in the grand scheme of things, putting in the effort to communicate across the franchise pays off.
“I do think when you are communicating with the same individuals regularly enough … there’s certainly a better chance that a consistent message gets delivered day in and day out,” Weisbeck says.
Chad Weisbeck’s Culture Keys:
1. Focus on character when hiring and training employees
2. Invest in tools and equipment to build physical culture and create a comfortable work environment
3. When making decisions for your shop, simply ask: “Is it the right thing to do?”
Over the years, the crowd of people looking for work in this industry has shrunk. Weisbeck says the “do as I say” managerial mentality of days past doesn’t work with the younger generation.
“Our environment 25 to 30 years ago created this leadership style where people didn’t matter … and they were expendable,” Weisbeck says. “They didn’t do the job, they didn’t want to follow the rules, then we’d just hire the next guy because there was a line of people waiting to work.”
Weisbeck says the addition of a Human Resources Director to Bronco Lube has brought a valuable perspective to this topic: instead of writing someone off, take a moment to consider if they are redeemable.
“When it comes to that question of whether or not we’re going to separate or terminate somebody, if you just stop and ask a very important question; ‘Do they have redeemable qualities?’ You may look at it differently,” Weisbeck says.
This goes along with another thing Weisbeck and his team practice: Recognition. Say someone shows up to work disheveled or they aren’t rising to a standard of customer service. Instead of singling that person out, compliment the employees who are doing it right.
Weisbeck says this is a mindset shift, and it shouldn’t be misinterpreted as not telling someone when they’re doing something wrong. It’s about finding that balance and focusing on the positive.
“Even a difficult employee wants some level of encouragement,” Weisbeck says. “You’ve got to find a way to give it.”
Train for Trust
Implementing a culture strategy when taking over an existing business may seem like a daunting task, but Jeff Perreault has proven to be up to the challenge. He’s the owner of Mike’s In Out Oil Change in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Perreault took over from the previous owner about 5 years ago, coming off a career in dealerships. He credits much of the growth that the shop has experienced in recent years to their connection with customers, which was instilled in him at the dealership.
“I’m very comfortable talking to anybody,” Perreault says. “Because in the dealership world, that’s what you had to do. That’s how I was trained for 41 years. I’m lucky that way, that’s what’s helped us grow. I’m sure of it.”
Perreault says there was some turnover when he took over the shop. He says three out of five original employees voluntarily left Mikes In Out, but now the team is up to 16. He describes their culture as family-like, and they enjoy having a good time together.
“I like to have fun,” Perreault says. “I’m actually out there vacuuming when I can, I’m out there checking tires when I can, but I’m also the biggest cut-up.”
Jeff Perreault’s Culture Keys:
1. Establish trust
2. Have an open door with your team
3. Practice attentive listening
Perreault has always prioritized trust. He says customers followed him from the dealership sector to Mikes In Out because of the standard he upheld. He doesn’t put the focus on selling.
“In the dealership world, I truly struggled because of whatever reason that I just was uncomfortable selling everything under the sun,” Perreault says.
Instead of trying to hit a certain sales goal, Perreault trains his team to only address what’s necessary.
“When I got here, I said, ‘If it’s broke, we’re going to sell it. I catch you selling something that isn’t broke, (and) it’s theft. And I have zero tolerance. You go home,’” Perreault explains.
Perreault says this approach tackles a couple of things at once. It allows the technician to feel good about the services they are providing, and it encourages the customer to spread the word.
“It ties your technician to the store because he doesn't have to go and sell stuff that's questionable, but also that customer's going home and he's talking to his neighbor … and (says), ‘Hey, they didn't try to sell me a battery. They didn't try to sell me that air filter,’” Perreault says. “My people didn’t cram it down their throat to make sure they had the buyer.”
Perreault sees trust being built firsthand by observing his technicians tell customers that there is still plenty of life left in something like an air filter. Once that employee goes back to work, Perreault hears customers comment that they’ve never experienced something like that before. They’ve always been told to replace it.
“The employees see that, then it builds the trust between that technician and the customer, which they want,” Perreault says. “They want to be trusted.”
All this combined is what Perreault says sets his shop culture up for success – now and into the future.
“Us in the quick lube world … we’re in a good spot I think,” Perreault says. “We’re timed right. This is what the customer wants. He wants quick, honest service.”
Lead by Example
Facing industry-wide challenges such as the current labor shortage can be difficult, but Famous Quick Lube owner Chris Schroeder says it comes down to the leadership approach.
“As a leader, you’ve got to step in and jump in and get your hands dirty with your guys,” Schroeder says. “Let them feel, ‘Hey, we understand it’s a shortage of labor but we’re here to help you as best as we can and we’re going to be here to fill in and help you out and make sure you’re getting your days off and everything like that.’”
Strategies such as this one has helped Schroeder create a supportive work culture across his Jacksonville, Florida-based network, which includes 13 quick lubes and 7 repair shops. Schroeder says he treats employees the way he wants to be treated and doesn’t view anyone as if they are a “corporate number.”
“If you teach them, you’re only as good as yesterday’s numbers, then you’re training your guys wrong,” Schroeder says. “Because everybody’s entitled to a bad day.”
Schroeder says this understanding extends to customers as well, because his team is trained to handle different customer interactions and know when to walk away from an irate customer. He says nine times out of 10, customers just want someone to listen.
“We train our guys, instead of getting defensive sit back and listen and take in what they’re saying to you before you give a rebuttal back,” Schroeder says.
For Schroeder, it’s all about treating the customer the way you want to be treated. He says Famous Quick Lube is known for having a family-oriented atmosphere that prioritizes customer service and care. Building this reputation starts at the top.
“We’re hands on, so we’re always in the field,” Schroeder says. “There’s not a day that they don’t see one of the owners in their shop. “
Chris Schroeder’s Culture Keys:
1. Encourage everyone to show up on time
2. Value trust and integrity
3. Develop a team that is honest, doesn’t steal from the business, and doesn’t lie
Micromanaging is not Schroeder’s style. He says a lot of faith and trust is put into his team to make the right decisions. They’re motivated to maintain trustworthiness because of the example that’s set for them. Schroeder says a hands-on approach is key.
“It shows … that you’re willing to work the trenches right with them,” Schroeder says. “You can’t ask them to do something that you’re not willing to do.”
This element of respect is important to maintain at Famous Quick Lube. Schroeder says the shop culture is valued by his team.
“Culture is what’s keeping our guys together … because they feel like it’s a brotherhood and a sisterhood,” he says.
Overall, Schroeder believes that what he’s built in his shop network keeps employees around and has the potential to encourage new faces to join the team as well.
“As long as we keep the culture going like this, we’re going to have great employees and people that want to grow,” Schroeder says. “And they’re going to bring their friends in and people that they know that (are) looking for jobs and they’re going to explain to them how they feel when they’re at work with us.”