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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.

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Make Your Business A Good Neighbour

Take your business from invisible and struggling to a thriving neighbourhood landmark.

Richard Mukheibir




Is your business invisible to your customers? You may have fewer customers than you would like because your business does not seem relevant to those in your neighbourhood. This is an even bigger mistake than not being able to reach beyond your direct trading area.

To appeal to people – customers – you should also present your business as a group of people who help other people. This can be helping supply them with goods they need to buy, helping provide them with loans or simply being a reassuring and consistent presence in your neighbourhood.

As our Local Area Marketing Manager, Juan Botha, tells Cash Converters’ franchisees, this is about blending and fitting in like a neighbour. It is about give and take. And all of that adds up to community engagement.

Related: Effective Ways To Bring Customers To Your Door

Here are six of his top tips:

  1. Introduce the family: Cultivate a friendly, welcoming atmosphere in your shop or office. Introduce new staff to regular customers. Make sure that new customers can get to know staff through your in-store welcome boards and name badges.
  2. Find your partners: Identify the gatekeepers in your community and create partnerships with them. Think about approaching sports clubs, schools, church groups, sewing circles and book clubs.
  3. Snatch some selfies: If you have local celebrities as customers, take a selfie and post it on your social media: “Guess who came to say hello today . . .” Build relationships with local heroes and you will be able to call on them to host your in-house fun day or charity drive.
  4. Give back to business: Be involved in local business chambers and groupings as more than a participant. Show you are a good business neighbour by facilitating speed networking, hosting a speaker or sponsoring a sound system or catering for the next meeting.
  5. Adopt a cause: Identify a local charity and rally support for it.
  6. Help the community: Launch or participate in a community project – anything from an area clean-up or helping repaint school classrooms to planting trees or a community vegetable garden.

Building relationships helps you build your business’s reputation. That is because you can make people start to feel a certain way about your business and influence them positively towards you. Then, when they need something that you supply, you will be top of mind.

That neighbourhood warmth creates a sense of ownership. These prospective customers will already know how you can benefit their lives and so are more likely to become your regular customers.

They will be acting on the fact that people remember you for the experience you give them. As top American writer Maya Angelou said, their memories will be shaped by how you make them feel – not how or what you make them think. Relationships may be intangible but they can bring real value to your business.

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Why Your Franchise Should Adopt A Shared Value Business Model

Stay ahead of the curve in an evolving business environment and unlock business growth by addressing social issues.

Diana Albertyn




Have you heard the term ‘profit with purpose’ in your business ownership circles, but not sure how exactly it could be applied to your franchise? As a franchisor, entrenching this model into your core business strategy could see your current growth potential multiply – along with the communities that play a role in your business’ success.

“By leveraging resources, market access, scale and their capacity for innovation, businesses can advance and accelerate development while generating commercial returns.”– Serial entrepreneur Cindy Langeveld.

Considered the key to profit and progress, the shared value business model enables your franchise to go beyond just ticking the CSR box. Here’s why and how your franchise can start establishing partnerships for business growth:

Indicates your business has a conscience

Not only is a profit-first business approach is no longer viable for long-term business growth, the role of the consumer is becoming more prominent – and they are leaning towards buying from corporations that demonstrate conscientious business practices. Donating blankets to a charity is good, but how are you impacting those involved in the value chain that sustains your business?

Related: 3 Crucial Considerations For New Multi-unit Franchisees

Chicken franchise chain Nando’s, for example, creates shared value for the key players in the success of their brand – the small farmers in Southern Africa who farm their unique African Bird’s Eye Chillies used in the PERi-PERi flavour.

This farming initiative was started ten years ago in Mozambique with just six small farms. Today it includes 1400 farmers and produces in excess of 360 tonnes of chilli across Southern Africa.

Ensures your profit creates progress

nandos-peri-peri-farming-initiativeWhile implementing shared value business models helps consumers see your business in a better light, it’s important for the initiatives that stem from it have a visible, positive and measurable impact on the communities concerned.

“I’ll never forget my first impact assessment. I sat with one of our farmers and a translator who told me about the impact growing chilli crops for Nando’s was having on his life and his community” recalls Sam Hirst, Nando’s PERi-PERi Farming Initiative Manager.

Nando’s has grown and sustained its network of farmers through learning and improving on the process, despite the challenges involved. Empowering the small farmer has required unprecedented effort and working very closely with farmers every day and every step of the way to overcome challenges such as generating working capital to set up the infrastructure the farmers needed, managing unpredictable weather conditions, and high transactional costs.

Related: Why Your Franchise Brand Should Be Culturally Relevant

Creates sustainable partnerships

The purpose of implementing a shared value business model is so make a sustainable difference in both your business’ growth and that of the communities involved in your supply chain. For Nando’s the motivation was the potential impact the chilli farming could have in its communities.

The franchise has consequently invested in providing these farmers with the tools and skills for sustainable farming. Investing in technologies and various new processes has enabled Nando’s to secure prices and contracts directly with the farmers, avoiding potential negative economic impact on the farmers’ financial security.

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3 Employment Best Practices To Apply In Your Franchise

Brand new to franchising? As a first-time franchisee, you may need some guidance on managing your recruitment processes within your business.

Diana Albertyn




You’ve just hired your first few employees. Congratulations. As an owner-operator who is also new to business ownership, navigating the human resources aspect of your franchise may be daunting, especially when growth is imminent. Your franchisor offers support, but may not want to play a huge role in recruiting and managing your staff.

“Employee management and HR compliance is a tricky topic, especially with the relationship between franchisors and franchisees. Depending on what HR support the franchisor can and cannot provide, the franchisee may be on their own in this all-important area.” – Dean Haller, President and founder of HRSentry

This, however, doesn’t mean you’ll have to blindly search your way through human resources practices, hoping you’ll eventually get it right. Invest a little time into learning the basics, and you’ll make the best decisions until you can afford to hire an HR specialist – and pick up some expertise along the way.

1. Equip newcomers with the tools for success

Consider the type of information, tools and training your new recruits may need to function productively in their new work environment – and ensure they get it. “Studies indicate that most new employees decide whether to stay or leave a company within the first six months, so be sure to be welcoming early on to help them feel part of your team,” advises Haller.

Related: Why Your Franchise Brand Should Be Culturally Relevant

“If you’re thoughtful of your employees’ new experience, they will become more productive and engaged, and thus, more likely to stay.”

Remember the first time you went through the manuals while familiarising yourself with the franchise concept? A new employees’ experience is similar as they have to take in a lot of new information while acquainting themselves with their new workspace, colleagues and systems. Make the on-boarding easier, by reasonably introducing each aspect during orientation and training.

2. Remain stern on performance standards

Once both parties are satisfied with the training and support offered, new staff should be made aware of expectations and receive continuous and constructive feedback on their performance based on these.

Should employees fail to meet their KPIs, it’s important you’re able to identify if your best efforts have failed and whether termination is an option. “Don’t procrastinate. Make sure all performance-related reasons are documented clearly,” says Haller. “Treat the person with dignity and respect –not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good business practice and can help you avoid any potential legal action against your business in the future.”

You can avoid this situation early on by hiring employees whose CVs not only meet your business’ operational needs, your company culture too.

Related: As Consumers’ Tastes Change Can Your Franchise Keep Up?

3. Acknowledge and reward hard work

During key periods of business growth, it’s easy to overlook good performance. And even when you acknowledge your best employees, sometimes money in the bank isn’t as meaningful as creative tokens of appreciation.

“Get creative,” says Haller. “Provide flexible work schedules, interesting assignments, or a gift certificate to a great restaurant or spa. Be mindful that it’s costly to replace a good employee, so reward your employees with some kind of benefits if you can,” he adds.

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