The Benefits of a Family-Run Business

April 1, 2020

Why this shop owner says working with his wife and kids has been the best time of his life.

SHOP STATS: Winners Express Lube  Location: Leesburg, Fla.  Operator: Jeffrey Hayes  Average Daily Car Count: 16  Staff Size: 4  Shop Size: 1,000 sq. ft. Ticket Average: $63

Driving around a town, a lot of independent signs will read, “family-owned and operated,” where some of these businesses have run through three generations. Some of these businesses have family in ownership with mainly outside hires, but some of them have the entire family as their staff. For Jeff Hayes, having his family work for him was an ideal situation.

“Your values for the business are also in them,” Hayes says. “It’s going to be the way you want it done.”

Hayes has been in the quick lube industry since 1988, first turning wrenches for his uncle up in Buffalo, N.Y., and he knows the ins-and-outs of the quick lube business. He started off making $4.25 per hour as a technician and worked his way through the industry into every position imaginable. He rose to become the vice president of operations for North Florida Lubes, overseeing 65 stores in the state. When the company was sold to Take 5 Oil Change, he stayed on for one more year before leaving the position in 2018. 

With all of his experience and connections, he’s been able to give those same opportunities to his sons—Devon, 25, Jeffrey, 18, and Austin, 17. Winners Express Lube is the result of those efforts, and it’s Hayes’ home shop.

When Devon was 15 years old, Hayes brought him in to work at a shop close to their home as his first real job. Devon, instantly fell into his role, eventually going on to become an ASE-certified technician. Now, he wants to manage quick lubes like his old man.

“I could see all of my kids running quick lubes,” Hayes says.

In January 2019, Hayes and Devon opened up Winners Express Lube in Leesburg, Fla. Recently, he’s also jumped into a role as district manager for Road Runner Express Lube back with his old friend and mentor, Brian Fowler. Currently, Hayes is deciding whether or not he’ll have time between both jobs. And the decision may potentially weigh with the possibility of passing the store onto his son, Devon. 

With this in mind, Hayes’s overall goal for the future is to get a quick lube for each one of his sons, and oversee their operations. 

But first, it starts with getting them on as quick lube employees.

Going With the Inside Hire

Hayes says his boys always had an interest in what he did while they were growing up. He’d come home every night after a long day of work and talk about his day. They always wanted to see what dad did for 15 hours per day, as Hayes puts it. So, when the boys were old enough, he looked to give them an opportunity in the business without just handing it to them.

You might think hiring one of your children for the job would lead to some trouble, but Hayes says it’s the opposite. When asked why he hired his kids instead of regular employees, he said he knows and trusts them. He knows they aren’t going to call in sick and they ride with him to work every day, so being late isn’t an issue. He wouldn’t have hired them on if he knew they couldn’t get the job done.

“Teach them, give them the opportunity, and you’ll know within two days if they are made for it or not,” Hayes says.

Nina, Hayes’ wife, also joined the business. She’s in charge of camera reviews, which involves watching car counts and service time, as well as making sure all of the steps are followed and seeing that safety procedures are executed. Each Friday, the family has a safety meeting to go over the footage and see where they could improve. Hayes says that extra set of eyes has helped them with their efficiency significantly. It became such a hit, Hayes’s friend, Fowler, hired her on to do bay reviews for North Florida Lubes here and there.

The only outside hire Hayes went with was a service writer. Devon happened to recommend his old assistant manager, so Hayes brought him in and hired him on the spot. Even though he had multiple people he could choose from that he knew and had experience with the company, he trusted his son’s judgement. The saying holds true: it’s not about what you know, it’s who you know.

Working Together

Working for your dad does have its perks: Hayes buys his family lunch every day and they get a free ride with him to and from work. Other than that, Hayes tries to treat his sons like any other employee. When his son, Devon, is at work, he calls Hayes by his first name instead of “Dad,” just to keep things more professional.

While Devon works as the full-time manager, Jeffrey and Austin work at multiple locations on the weekends. Austin helps out with changing cabin filters, tires, and other smaller jobs, while Jeffrey is in charge of courtesy and waving signage outside. When it’s busy, he has Jeffrey help out on tires, wipe down vehicles’ windows and make sure everything is stocked and ready to go.

Not only has working with his boys been effective, but it’s also been the best time of his life. Hayes says the hour-long car ride to and from work—the deep conversations and goofiness involved—has been so much fun for him.

“When you work with your kids every day, it’s awesome,” Hayes says.

And Hayes isn’t the only big fan of his kids working in the shop—so are customers. He says Jeffrey is always the one getting the good tips.

“When people hear that these are your kids working on their car, they love it,” Hayes says. “They love family businesses and love that we are working together.”

It hasn’t always been easy. The trust and fun between them is there, but when it comes to managing and training, Hayes says it’s definitely harder.

“It’s a patience factor,” Hayes says. “You know what your family can and can’t do, and pushing them to do out of their comfort zone, it’s harder to do. It’s not as hard with a regular employee.”

When dealing with a regular employee, Hayes says feelings aren’t the first thing that comes to his mind, but with your kids, the “dad instinct” always wants to kick in. 

“I give them the praise they need when they deserve it, but also kick them in the butt when they need it,” Hayes says.

Through it all though, he says you have to keep it fun. Hayes says he’s a firm believer that, for every criticism, you have to give two to three positives. From this, he says they feel appreciated, they work harder, and they feel better, too. he’s learned a lot on the right balance of managing and parenting.

“When it’s time to play, play. When it’s time to work, work,” Hayes says. “Your family needs to know that those times need to be dedicated.”

Preparing for the Future

With Hayes’s sons working alongside him at the quick lube, they are already at an advantage, knowing the business more than most managers do—he has been grooming his boys their whole lives for this. On the other hand, however, he doesn’t want to force them into it. Hayes wants his kids to be able to feel they can take whatever path they choose. Jeffrey has Aspergers, and with that, Hayes says Jeffrey’s not sure if this is what he wants to do in the future, so he makes sure not to push him. He gives him the opportunity, and from there, he can choose on his own.

“You have to give them an out without an ultimatum involved,” Hayes says.

Even if they don’t want to be a part of the quick lube business in the future, Hayes says his boys will have what it takes to run any kind of business with the training and skills they’ve attained. Just by working with their dad in the shop, Hayes says he’s training them for the real world.

“They know I will take care of them and that I’m setting them up for the future,” Hayes says.