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Car Service City’s Success After Switching To Franchising

Car Service City has been around for more than ten years. Entrepreneur spoke to founder and franchisor Grant Brady about how the brand has grown and evolved over the years.

GG van Rooyen




Vital stats

After dealing with a frustrating and unhelpful service shop, Grant Brady stumbled upon the idea of creating a reliable service centre that wouldn’t try to take advantage of customers.

From this simple idea a large national brand has grown. Today, Car Service City boasts a national network of more than 60 service centres — and the plan is to add to this growing number.

How was the idea for Car Service City born?

I took my car to a repair shop over the festive season of 2003. When I went back, I discovered that they had closed up shop for the holidays without fixing my car, leaving me with no transport.

I realised that my experience wasn’t unique. People were sick of being taken advantage of by fly-by-night mechanic workshops.

I thought there was a gap in the market for affordable services run as a clean, professional, corporatised operation.

Related: Full Stomachs, Smiling Faces with Maxi’s

How did you come to the decision to franchise the operation?


My hunch proved to be correct, as the gap in the market proved to be big. Car Service City took off quickly. Within two years we were operating 22 corporate-owned stores.

We realised that it made sense to switch to a franchise model, since this was the best way to accommodate our rapid rate of growth.

Although the majority of our stores are franchise operations now, we still have some corporate stores. We keep these stores because they allow us to keep our ear close to the ground — we get to experience the same things our franchisees do.

We get to understand the challenges they face daily. We also get to ‘test run’ our initiatives in our own stores, before rolling them out throughout the franchise network.

How has the franchise operation changed over the last decade?

It all comes down to processes. You can’t run a large operation in the same way that you run a small one. We’ve spent a lot of time putting structures in place that allow us to bring new franchisees on board in a hassle-free and structured way.

We’ve also refined our training. Training is incredibly important, which is why we don’t only train our franchisees, but help them to train their staff as well. We assist franchisees in training staff at every level.

Has your approach to selecting franchisees changed at all?


Not really, although we probably have the luxury of being a bit more selective these days. We really look for owner/operators that will live the brand and be at the coalface every day. We’ve found that owner/operators have a much higher success rate than those owners who simply put a manager in place. You need to make the store your own.

We’ve also always aimed to allow anyone — regardless of educational or work background — to become a Car Service City franchisee. This is still the case. We aren’t looking for technicians; we want business-savvy people who are passionate about customer service. Some of our most successful franchisees are from the corporate environment where they’ve become used to structured systems and processes.

Related: Chicken Xpress – The ‘No Frills, No-Fuss, Keeping-It-Simple Franchise’

What is the biggest challenge of running a large franchise operation?

Communication is probably the biggest challenge. The larger an organisation becomes, the harder it is to communicate effectively with everyone involved. We make sure that we do everything we can to stay in touch with our franchisees.

We are not only very involved with the set-up of a new franchisee, but try to visit franchisees regularly as well. Moreover, we organise events that allow franchisees to interact. It’s important for franchisees to get to know one another, since they can provide each other with great support — they are all dealing with the same challenges.

We maintain an ‘open door’ policy at head office. We want franchisees to feel welcome; franchisees visit me daily.

What sets your most successful branches apart from the rest?


Energy. When you walk into a great store you can sense that there is a different energy in the air. The employees seem happy, motivated and hard-working. This all stems from the owner. The owner sets the tone. If the franchisee is hard-working and passionate, the employees will follow his or her example. As mentioned, we look for owner/operators for exactly this reason. An owner isn’t there simply for the paycheque — he or she has real skin in the game.

How do you deal with brand image and identity when it comes to a large operation such as Car Service City?

The bigger and more visible the brand is, the more important it is to maintain its image. We pay close attention to this by running large marketing campaigns and managing social media.

Social media has become particularly important because it allows a customer to not only interact with a particular franchisee, but with the brand as a whole.

The franchisees deal with marketing at the neighbourhood level by making use of the brand’s well-known ‘flyer guys’. However, just about everyone knows what Car Service City’s flyer guys look like, so it’s important for head office to ensure that they maintain the desired brand image. Because of this we play a big part in training and equipping them.

Related: Avoid These 3 Simple Mistakes When Buying A Franchise

And how do you deal with brand identity at a franchisee level?

Once a workshop has been around for a decade, maintaining brand identity can be tricky. Every once in a while, a workshop needs to be refreshed, as things start to look tired. It needs to be brought up to date with regards to design. You need to update your signage, décor, etc.

Overhauling an entire store can be very expensive, which is why we employ a more constant maintenance plan. We try to help them to slowly upgrade their stores. They might upgrade their signage first, and then update their furniture later. The aim is to ensure that the workshop looks up to date and fresh at all times.

What does the future hold for Car Service City?

We definitely want to expand. The focus will be on growth, growth and more growth! However, we don’t want to expand too quickly. We’ve learnt that growing too quickly can have a negative effect. You want to ensure that you have the necessary support structures in place to deal with the added complexity before you start signing franchisees left and right.

We try to build up our systems until we feel that we can deal with a certain number of franchisees, and only then expand.

Once those new franchisees are up and running, we repeat the process — creating the necessary structures for a next wave of expansion.

Job Creator of the Year

Car-Service-City-Job-creatorCar Service City was presented with the Job Creator of the Year award at the 2015 Awards for Excellence in Franchising, sponsored by Absa.

The Job Creator of the Year award recognises those franchisors who, through the expansion of their franchise brand, or through their network of franchisees, contribute extensively to job creation. In addition to assessing the number of jobs created, the criteria also takes into account the skills training offered and the franchisors’ efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation through enterprise development initiatives.

“We act with integrity and are honest about our work in order to be fair and ethical. Accountability to our customers, franchisees and employees, is clear and we always operate transparently. Skills development, performance rewards and participation in a safe and healthy working environment is offered to all employees and franchisees,” says Franchisor Grant Brady.

Car Service City costs

Related: Ordering Made Easy

Remember this

Running a large franchise operation is not the same as running a fledgling one. A franchise brand needs to grow and mature.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.



How Strong Is Your Franchise’s Quality Control?

Your key objective as a franchisor is ensuring every one of your locations maintain the same quality standards. Why?

Diana Albertyn




If you’re concerned about brand consistency as your footprint grows and you acquire more franchisees, listen up. While growth is good, keeping tabs on the quality franchisees are providing versus your company-owned locations’ efforts is difficult, but not impossible.

“McDonald’s is among the world’s most quality-oriented brands, but the value proposition and price point aren’t appropriate for steak and lobster,” says Mark Siebert CEO and Senior Franchise Consultant at iFranchise Group, an author of Franchise Your Business, The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.

Related: 3 Ways Communication Helps You Run Your Franchise Better

“There are, however, high-end franchise brands known for detailed attention to quality. Quality is not about what’s on the menu; it’s about consistency of the operation.”

Inconsistency ruins things

Many franchise brands risk failure by not establishing and maintaining quality for each outlet under the network’s guidelines. Regardless of whether a store is run by your company or a franchisee, if there’s glaring inconsistency in service and product quality between different locations, it’s likely to harm your brand’s reputation.

To establish the strength of your quality control standard, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is your operational training procedure customisable?

Acquiring new franchisees is a chance to cement your training and quality processes and establish if these can be standardised, or if customisation is necessary.

“Training is equally as important as franchisee selection when it comes to maintaining the brand. The best franchisors routinely provide the most – and the most comprehensive – training to their franchisees,” says Siebert. “If standards aren’t rigorously enforced from day one, chances are these standards will continue to slip, and in the process, they’ll become more and more difficult to maintain.”

Because different locations present varying climates and market preferences, remember to customise your training materials based on respective franchisees’ markets, keeping in mind to remain consistent with your brand’s core identity.

2. Have you provided the right tools in the franchisee manual?

Duplicating your franchise’s success relies heavily on mapping out the roadmap for your franchisees and their employees to follow. The right tools will most likely yield the same results you have achieved.

“Documenting systems of operation lend a big hand in a quality control,” says Siebert. “A robust manual has multi-fold benefits and not only serves as a blueprint for operation, but as an ongoing piece of reference for even the most established franchisee, becoming the default go-to in most every scenario.”

Related: 3 Core Strategies For Building Successful Franchise Organisations

3. Do you understand the role of supporting each franchisee?

Whether you choose to conduct on-site field visits, offer master classes like Nando’s, or check in via email or phone monthly, the ultimate goal should be aiming for higher-quality and more profitable franchisees through ongoing support and reinforcement of brand standards.

Quality control is all about commitment. For a good franchisee, that commitment comes naturally. For the franchisor, it comes at a price. But franchisors who are willing to pay that price will find their ability to build a quality brand greatly enhanced,” says Siebert.

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Could Semi-Absentee Franchise Ownership Be For You?

Ready to become your own boss…for only 15 hours a week? Yes, you can become a franchisee while still clocking into work. Here’s how.

Diana Albertyn




If you want to keep your current job while owning your own franchise, you may want to look into semi-absentee franchising.

“A semi-absentee model allows you to work on the franchise for ten to 15 hours per week while continuing full-time employment. Then when the time is right, you can exit your day job to focus entirely on your business,” explains Jim Judy, a consultant at Franchoice.

When you have a capable manager to oversee the daily operations of the business, you have the flexibility to work your full-time job and ownership of a fully-fledged business. But first, the following considerations need to be made:

Related: 3 Things You Should Consider Before Buying Your First Franchise

How will the decision affect your finances?

While being a semi-absentee franchise owner may require less from you in terms of time, the financial commitment is the same as investing in a franchise as an owner-operator. The decision to become a semi-absentee franchisee should not be made before examining your needs, goals and expectations of the business. Asking yourself the following:

  • Do I want to become a franchise empire builder?
  • Would I like to build numerous concepts?
  • How much capital do I have to invest?

Keep in mind that semi-absentee models may take longer to turn a stable profit if you’re not giving it your full attention due to spending less time working on the business.

“Semi-absentee business models are also expensive,” says Heather Rosen, president of FranNet of Virginia, a franchise advisory firm. “Because the owner must not only rent the space but hire a competent manager.”

Do you have the necessary skillset?

The key to managing a franchise while at you have a full-time corporate job is having impeccable people management skills. This is because having a manager run your business while you oversee them requires you to be comfortable with delegating and trusting that they will handle the day-to-day operations of your business.

Related: The Secret Sauce To Great Franchise Leadership

In addition to people skills, you may think certain talents are required before calling yourself a business owner, but each franchise is different.

“Some franchisees find that the available training and the business concept allows them to use their particular talents and skills to enter semi-absentee franchising without management or business ownership experience,” say experts at Franchise Direct.

Can you balance your schedule adequately?

Even if your plan is to one day leave your job and become an owner-operator of your franchise, while you’re still on your employer’s payroll, you will need to work out ways to handle your nine-to-five tasks with your business’ success. This is an important aspect of choosing the kind of franchise to purchase. While most semi-franchisee suitable options are in retail or the service industry, ensure you’re able to keep track of the business remotely and can periodically check in on how things are going.

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Insights On Recruitment That Could Affect Franchise Performance

A critical aspect of operating any successful franchise chain is getting the right franchisees on board.

Diana Albertyn




You’re facing a lot of competition as the franchising industry continues to grow. International brands, local giants, and new innovative entrants to the market require you to step up your game. Not only are you geared for growth, but you need your new locations to compete with the best.

“One of the success factors for franchise systems is market penetration which is often achieved through expansion, by opening new stores with quality standards that match the brand – through franchisees,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head: Sales Optimisation and Planning at Standard Bank Group. “The wrong fit, however, can seriously set a franchise’s growth back many years or cause irreparable damage to its reputation.”

Related: 3 Things You Should Consider Before Buying Your First Franchise

Besides the challenge of trying to make your brand more appealing to franchisees in a competitive market, acquiring the right candidates to join your franchise requires the following:

1. Draw up (and adhere to) a checklist

Not all franchisees are created equal, and even a candidate with previous franchising experience may not be the right fit for your particular brand. Alternatively, you can decide to train a potential franchisee if you see potential.

When narrowing down your list of franchisee candidates, consider the importance of this:

  • How important is prior experience in terms of the franchisee’s ability to become profitable in their first year?
  • Does he or she have the necessary resources to train and support the franchise?

“You need to be clear about what you want; don’t compromise on your required skills, priority traits and qualifying requirements,” advises Nyembe. “There’s too much at stake financially and reputation-wise to settle for second best.”

2. Network in the right circles

Sometimes, if the talent doesn’t come to you, it’s beneficial to seek it out physically. Industry events are a great place to come into contact with people aiming to own and run their own franchise. If not, your presence at these functions will expose your brand to more potential people to do business with.

“During key annual industry conferences and trade shows (such as The International Franchise Expo), make a point to send attendees, to sponsor or to exhibit in order to increase brand visibility,” advises Nyembe. “Also consider participating in panel discussions.”

Related: (Infographic) 7 Digital Marketing Strategies For Franchises

3. Get to know your new brand representatives

While personality tests and numerous meetings can give you an idea of whether you’re choosing the right candidate, it’s important to consider taking a more advanced approach to franchisee recruitment.

“Selecting the right candidates to represent your brand is critical to your operation’s ongoing success,” says Sue McConnachie, Vice President, Quality Credit Services Limited. “These franchisees will be the face of your company and you need to trust that they will maintain your brand image.”

The selection of franchisees is crucial because, as it carries both long- and short-term implications, including:

  • Reducing franchisee failure and turnover, while increasing success and profitability
  • Protecting and developing your brand’s reputation
  • Focusing your resources on business planning and management instead of problem-solving
  • Decreasing exposure to legal implications when a franchisee’s conduct is negative or their franchise is unsuccessful
  • Minimising legal and collection claims against delinquent franchisees.

Selecting your next set of franchisees requires establishing a checklist before viewing any CVs, dedicating time to seek out potential franchisees, and ensure you’re choosing people who will take as much pride in your brand as you do.

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