Christian Brothers Automotive Franchise Review: Q&A with Jonita White

Christian Brothers Automotive Franchise Review: Q&A with Jonita White

Christian Brothers Automotive franchise owner in Frisco, Texas, says faith and customer service drive her business

Clockwise from left: Jonita, Adam, Shemicka and Adam Jr. The Whites opened their Christian Brothers Automotive franchise in 2011 after moving to Texas to be near her parents, who retired to a farm in Oakwood.

Faith and family led Jonita White to Texas, and to Christian Brothers Automotive. Jonita and her husband, Adam, moved from San Diego to Frisco, Texas, nine years ago to be closer to Jonita’s parents, who live in the tiny country town of Oakwood. Adam took a job with Sprint; Jonita took a job with Bank of America. On weekends, they would head to Oakwood to help with chickens, cows and horses on the family farm.

They had planned to start a business after moving to Texas — and they found the right opportunity after becoming customers of a Christian Brothers Automotive in east Frisco. Service was great, the property was immaculate, and — most importantly — faith infused the business.

Adam still works for Sprint, but Jonita now devotes her time to managing a Christian Brothers Automotive franchise of her own. This is her story.

What were you doing before you became a Christian Brothers owner?

I lived in San Diego and worked for the Kaiser Permanente health system. I managed the facilities at 18 different locations and oversaw security, property management, rental agreements, engineering, housekeeping, biohazardous waste disposal — all the things that have to happen to keep hospitals and medical offices in good shape so that doctors and nurses can concentrate on providing great care. It was very interesting and challenging, and it was a 24/7 operation. Hospitals never shut down. I love customer service and am very people-focused. At Kaiser Permanente, I saw nurses, doctors and patients all as my customers, and I worked to make sure all their needs were met.

How does that attitude carry over to your Christian Brothers Automotive business?

I like helping people, building the relationships with people. Living right here in Frisco, when I go to the grocery store, I see my customers. They know me by name, and I know most of them by name. I like having that relationship outside of Christian Brothers.

I try to improve the lives of my customers. When somebody brings their car in, they are often having a stressful day — and it’s even harder for women because so many feel like they have been taken advantage of by auto repair places in the past. With me being a people person and loving the Lord, I make sure my staff and technicians are honest and upfront with customers about what their vehicle needs. My customer service advisor and I work to make sure people get the best value they can for the money they are spending. Honesty and integrity are important, something customers respect. Once they know they can trust you, they will be your customer for a long time.

It’s not just about taking care of cars, to you, then?

It’s about taking care of people, and one of the things I love is that I can care for my customers and pray with them. It usually happens when shuttling customers home and just talking with them. My very first customer — I will always remember her — I was taking her home. She needed a timing belt on her car, and we were talking about how things were very expensive. She says, “I just don’t know, I have so many things going on.” And she opened up to me about her grandson who was struggling in the world, and she was struggling to find a way to help. By that time we were at her house, and I said, “Can we just pray over this?” And she really wanted to. I have customers who come into the lobby and put a request in our prayer request book. Here are some of them:

I am trying to open a business. Please pray that I will be able to open it this year and that God will be in my business as he is here at Christian Brothers.

Please pray for people to have a nice day, to love one another and not hate. (Written in a child’s handwriting.)

Please pray for our son, who is autistic and nonverbal. Please pray for a breakthrough, pray for strength and guidance and healing.

Sandy has ALS and is in her last stages unless God intervenes. Please pray. She has had prior illnesses, and we may be homeless soon. Please pray that God sends healing to Sandy.

Pray for the kids in the Frisco school district.

God answers prayers, and he is in control.

I pray with my staff on Monday mornings. We prayed yesterday for wisdom and guidance and to control our tongues when we are frustrated. If we start the mornings off with the Lord, he is with us throughout the day. Once a week, we pray over the prayer request book. I have a group at my church that comes in once a month to pray over our building, the property and the technicians’ tools, that they be blessed and used to honor God.

My service manager, Denisha Dickey, is a praying woman, as well. Sometimes customers will come in and ask for a prayer, and she and the customer can go into my office. We always take the time to pray. I am blessed to have Denisha. God sent her as an extension of me, as far as my faith and the way I want to treat people. She believes in loving people and praying for people. I know if I have to be out of this building, I can trust that she will handle things the way I would.

Jonita, left, with Cayl Cox, John Turner and Denisha Dickey at Christian Brothers Automotive of West Frisco.

How does the service mentality apply to technicians?

My technicians are more at ease. I have some technicians who came from elsewhere, and they say they used to feel pressured to say certain things were wrong with a vehicle when they were not, just so they could meet numbers. I don’t believe in that, and they like being relieved of the pressure to oversell. You tell people what is actually wrong; if you provide loving service, God will send enough cars.

They also love that we are a Monday-through-Friday business, and they can be off on the weekends to spend time with family, rejuvenate and go to church. We pay better than our competitors, from the research I have done, because we are focused on providing higher quality and service. We offer Nordstrom service, not Walmart service. That extends to our technicians — they don’t have to take their uniforms home at the end of the day and toss them in the wash. We take care of that for them.

The bays are clean, too. That’s something that customers and technicians like. I’ve had technicians tell me the bay is so clean that it just makes them want to keep it clean, and the lighting is so good that they can see what they’re working on and don’t need to bring in a lamp. We provide diagnostic scan equipment that is the top of the line. Other places, the technicians had to buy their own scan tools. We take care of them because they are our family, and they are taking care of our extended family — our customers. That’s part of the nice difference about Christian Brothers.

Are people surprised to discover an auto repair business led by women?

They are, but I think it’s one of the things that puts people at ease. My nearest community is a Del Webb community (a 55+ community), and they are so fascinated that it’s a woman running the business! They love that it is female-owned and -operated. I have a lot of female customers, and when they come in and they are talking to Denisha or me, they can instantly let their guard down.

How did you become a Christian Brothers franchise owner?

When we moved from San Diego to Frisco, we knew we wanted to start a business. We were taking our cars to Christian Brothers Automotive in east Frisco, and Chris and Kersti (Carney) started talking to us about the franchise opportunity. My husband, Adam, contacted (Vice President of Franchise Development) Josh Wall in the home office and started gathering information about Christian Brothers, and it really lined up with our beliefs.

Were you concerned about not having an auto repair background?

Not at all. My husband said, “Honey, well, I know you don’t know a lot about cars, but you know business and customer service, and you can do this. If you surround yourself with the right people and pray for God’s guidance, you can do this.”

What has the support been like from Christian Brothers headquarters?

The training at headquarters was great. They have a mock store set up where you can practice the skills you are learning. Then, once your store is open, they come spend at least a week and a half with you. They don’t just hand you the keys, and say, “Here’s your new business — now figure it out!” If you still need help at the end of that time, they stick with you until you are ready. They were with me for two weeks when we opened.

It will be four years on March 28, and it has been the best thing ever. I would do it again in a heartbeat. (CEO) Mark Carr is a man of his word and integrity, and he is so down to earth, too. He treats everyone so equally, and he is so real. What he says, he will do. He hurts when we hurt, and he is happy when we are happy. His empathy and integrity and kindness trickle down. He is such an excellent leader.

What is normal day like for an owner?

When you first open, you will be in the business from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. because you are still learning the business. However, now that I have the right staff around me, I come in around 8 a.m. after I get my son off to school, and I am back home around 5 p.m. Now, there is work I do at home on the computer as far as paying bills and doing online training. While I’m at my business, my day consists of greeting customers and giving them rides, paying bills, shopping for parts. I’ll go out into the shop while a repair is being made so I can learn from technicians. A lot of my time is spent on customer relations — it is about building those relationships and training your office staff to provide great customer service. I also make follow-up calls to customers to make sure they are satisfied with their service and ask if they would recommend us or review us online. I contact vendors. Christian Brothers has a vendors list, but sometimes you might be able to get a great deal somewhere else in your area. I also market my business and go to networking events.

How did you market your business to bring in your first customers?

Christian Brothers does a great job of advertising nationally, so our brand is out there. For me, it was about building ties in the community. My son, Adam Jr., plays football, basketball and soccer, and I introduced myself and the business to people in his leagues. Every coach would receive literature about Christian Brothers and coupons for discounted oil changes. I went to the JCPenney corporate office down the street and met the an HR person and let them know that if employees needed to have repairs or maintenance done during the week, we offer free courtesy shuttle rides to help them get to work. I sponsor golf tournaments at the Del Webb community nearby and do seminars about the importance of winterizing your car and getting your A/C ready for summer. I also networked quite a bit before the store was open. When we first moved to Frisco, I worked at a Bank of America and got to know many customers and co-workers who are now Christian Brothers customers, too!

How large is the opportunity?

There is a ton of demand, so the only limitation is how many cars you can move through your bays. I could see myself opening another location in four years, once my son is off to college.

Would you recommend Christian Brothers as a franchise opportunity?

Definitely. The main thing is being willing to put in the time to grow and manage the business — that is important. And you should pray over it and do your research and not jump into anything. Are you really a people person? It’s not about the cars, it’s about the people.

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