AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR FRANCHISE OWNER JEFF TOTH SAYS THE COMPANY’S NAME ‘HELPS ME REMEMBER WHO I REPRESENT’
When Jeff Toth, 46, told his friends that he was thinking about opening a Christian Brothers Automotive franchise, they were ecstatic. They felt he’d be a perfect fit for an automotive repair franchise that has put faith and service at the center of the way it does business. Jeff bought his first location seven years ago in Houston and added a second store three years ago. This is his story.
What were you doing before Christian Brothers Automotive?
I was vice president for an automotive aftermarket company that specialized in add-ons for trucks — bedliners, tool boxes, alarm systems, etc. It was a family-owned company, and the founders got older and decided to cash out of the business. I actually met (Christian Brothers Automotive CEO) Mark Carr when that business was for sale, because he was interested in the real estate the company had, and we struck up a friendship. We have mutual friends, and they were excited when I started looking into Christian Brothers. One friend who was praying for us said, you know, I always thought this was a company you should own.
What attracted you to Christian Brothers?
Meeting Mark, and getting to know the culture of the business. I like that it’s a Christ-honoring business, and that is the intention and the goal. It was a business where I could be a light in the community and do something. We are a business that really tries to be a light in an industry that hasn’t always had the best of reputation. I’m here to make a living, but also to provide an honest service to my customers. I also like that I’m free to express my faith. Both of my businesses have a stack of free Bibles on the counter for anyone who may need one or would like to read one while they’re here. It helps me remember who I represent as a Christian in the way I do business.
How do your core values express themselves?
What it looks like is a company that holds itself to extremely high standards. Honesty and integrity are the backbone of everything we do. We are constantly meeting to discuss what we’re doing and how we serve our customers. If we make a mistake, we own it. Customers understand that they can trust us. And part of serving your customers is making sure they have a nice place to visit when they stop in. I had a lady at my Magnolia Parkway location who came in for oil change and said this was the best oil change and service she’d ever had — it is unlike any auto repair place she’d ever been. We hold ourselves to a super-high standard. By looking out for our customers, we’re looking out for other owners, too. If a customer comes here and doesn’t get the service they deserve, if they move to Tennessee, they may not visit the store there. So we also work to honor and be a blessing to our fellow franchisees.
How did you find out about Christian Brothers?
Talking to Mark, I really was intrigued by his story. I met with Josh Wall, who was real involved with the initial phase of finding franchisees. A lot came from talking to friends and business acquaintances. Several already knew the brand. We found very positive things about the brand as we continued to progress toward owning one. It’s the kind of company I’m proud to associate my name with.
What sets Christian Brothers apart?
Our customers can tell we’re always prepared to go the extra mile to provide them with world-class service. People who don’t know us and the brand and how we conduct ourselves sometimes come in and are almost adversarial — and I understand that. When your car needs repair, and you’re not sure how you will be treated, you might have a chip on your shoulder. The respect we show them and the attitude we convey wins people over. We’re interested in helping them and serving them as people, not just to get their money. We’re not just here to work on cars — we’re here to serve our customers and partner with them in getting their lives back in order. When your car is broken down and you have a job to get to, your life is upside down. Our goal is to get your life back in order.
The first thing we do when people come in is find out what is wrong so we can get their vehicle worked on as quickly as possible. Then we work to avoid the disruption to their lives that happens when your car is being repaired. We are happy to shuttle them where they need to go. Every day, we are taking people to work, picking them up, taking them home. Car breaks down in the morning? We’ll shuttle kids to school, take the kids to school, pick up their parents, pick up the kids from school. That’s the norm for us, day in and day out. Our goal is not to have customers have to sit in here all day. It’s beautiful and comfortable, but we don’t want them to have to be here. We want them to continue with their life so they can pay their bills and take care of their responsibilities.
How large is the growth opportunity?
There is a huge need for a business like this in the automotive industry. People don’t understand auto repair, and they need someone dependable that they can trust; someone who will tell them the truth.
How important is previous automotive experience for a Christian Brothers owner?
It doesn’t hurt. My experience was limited — I could change my own radiator and spark plugs and simple things like that. Christian Brothers as a brand does a great job providing training and assisting with hiring for new franchisees. Business experience is much more important — someone who has been in management and understands some basic concepts. Christian Brothers helps a lot. If you lack marketing knowledge, we have a marketing department that offers great assistance. If you need help managing the store’s finances, there are people to help you. There are people at every turn within the organization to help you with any questions — not to mention other franchisees! Other store owners are as helpful as anybody. Christian Brothers does a great job of bringing people who want to help one another into the organization.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Christian Brothers franchise?
Someone who enjoys business and who enjoys serving their community. Someone who is self-motivated and is looking for an opportunity to own a Christ-centered business where we’re not ashamed of who we are. There have been numerous times during shuttle rides where customers have shared prayer requests, and there have been times when I’ve prayed with a customer in the showroom. Christian Brothers is full of servant leaders, from the home office down. It’s a great business. You can lay head down at night knowing that you had a chance to witness and glorify God through your business.