In pursuit of every teenage boy's muscle car dream, I purchased a Camaro when I was 18 years old. I took it to my local Maaco Auto Painting & Collision Repair franchise to have some work done. Intrigued with the body shop's straightforward business – customers pay for service and get results – I asked to work as a full-time employee. Today, that Camaro and Maaco body shop job, has led me to become the owner of an $8 million automotive aftermarket franchise.
Working as an employee at Maaco, I quickly recognized the shop wasn't living up to its potential. Ditching any plans for college, I approached the current franchisee in hopes of landing some ownership in the business. Financing was hard to come by as a 19-year-old kid with very little equity, so I leveraged my prized Camaro and sold it to a Maaco customer. In exchange, the franchisee allowed me to own 10 percent of the business and at the end of the year, I'd receive 10 percent of the profits.
I thought this was a great investment and had tremendous plans to drastically improve the franchise to start turning greater profit – hiring better employees, ramping up advertising efforts and investing in better equipment. Problem was that as only 10 percent owner, I was not able to make any decision on how to spend money.
Not ready to throw in the towel, I struck another deal with the owner to structure a payment plan that would allow me to own 100 percent of the business. In a short time my note was paid off, and I had money in the bank and complete control of the business.
The path to profitability
I was focused on one thing: profitability. I began investing back into the business – I purchased new equipment and improved lighting, began an advertising campaign and updated my payment structure to keep my best and most qualified employees.
With the changes I made to the shop, after eight years, we increased profitability and began to outgrow the original structure. I bought land up the road and began construction of a 16,000 square foot building, which, at the time, was an outrageous size for a Maaco franchise. Rejected for a construction loan due to lack of collateral, Maaco founder Tony Martino provided me a short-term loan to build the shop. I paid Tony in full less than 60 days after receiving the loan.
After owning the shop for 26 years, we are projected to break $8 million in sales this year and will rank No. 1 in the more than 500 location Maaco system for the 18th consecutive year. My 43 employees and I welcome more than 110 vehicles for paint and repair each week, and our efficiencies only continue to grow.
I'm proud to be building a livelihood for not only me and my family, but also my employees and their families. More than half of my workforce has been with me for more than 15 years. I know each of their names, their weekend plans, their family milestones, etc. I know who they are, why they enjoy their work and what motivates them to do their best. We act as a unit – I actively identify problems before they occur, and my crew is present and ready to deliver superior customer service every day. We close up shop at 5:30 p.m. and are home by 6, because we do not sacrifice time spent with loved ones.
Perseverance, patience and problem-solving have led me to the ultimate prize of profitability. Even though I had no experience in running a franchise at the age of 19, I recognized the strengths and weaknesses of the business as an employee, and sold my cherished Camaro to make operational changes to improve the business. By staying focused on the ultimate goal of profitability, my team and I achieved record sales in 2016 and are expected to exceed those sales by more than 21 percent this year.
About the author: Brian Greenley is the owner and operator of Maaco Auto Painting & Collision Repair in Littleton, Colorado. He first purchased the business in 1990 and has since grown the operation to be the leader in the Maaco franchise system for the past 18 years. Maaco is a part of the Driven Brands, Inc. family of automotive aftermarket franchise brands based in Charlotte, NC and America's #1 Bodyshop. Maaco provides automotive paint and cosmetic repair services for nearly 500,000 drivers annually.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.