ED PATE OWNED AN INDEPENDENT AUTO REPAIR SHOP FOR 26 YEARS. IN THIS Q&A, HE EXPLAINS WHY HE JOINED THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS FRANCHISE
Ed Pate’s first encounter with Christian Brothers was as a former owner of an independent auto repair shop in Texas. He took note of Christian Brothers’ clean, modern exterior and wanted to learn more. After quite a bit of research, he saw the company not only provided excellent auto repair service, it also offered Christian values and a commitment to community.
After some soul searching, he decided to take the experience of owning his own repair shop and combine that with Christian Brothers’ ability to offer a wide array of support services and large-scale buying power. He also made a big move.
He took over an existing location in Germantown, Tennessee (a suburb of Memphis), in March. The 10-year old location is at 7446 Sonic Drive, Memphis, TN 38125.
What were you doing before Christian Brothers Automotive?
I have 36 years experience in the automotive industry and 26 years experience owning an independent repair shop in Texas. After I sold it, I was working for one of the big three from Detroit, but I wasn’t satisfied working for them.
How did you find out about Christian Brothers?
Christian Brothers built a store around the corner from my house in Texas. I thought it was a unique place. I also thought it was an independent shop at first. I noticed the business became busier and busier. I noticed more Christian Brothers locations as I traveled around town, and their parking lots were always full. Then I started checking into them.
The more I checked into Christian Brothers, the more attractive they looked. I found out what they stand for and the support and benefits they give you as a franchisee.
I did a lot of checking online about them, such as checking into their reputation through online reviews (Google reviews and so on). I started looking at various stores in the metroplex and checking franchise trade magazines.
It all looked very attractive, so I began the application process to become a franchisee. I went to the Christian Brothers corporate website and contacted them. I heard back from Josh Wall, and we began a dialogue. Then we went through the process of me checking them out and them checking me out.
I really appreciated going through the process. It was very discretionary and selective. They want to make sure each party is right for the other, and they are interested in a partnership and not just grabbing that franchise fee. A lot of franchises out there just want you to show up with money. They’ll take it and just put you out there. Christian Brothers is different; they want to make sure about a person’s fit with the company.
Are other family members going to be involved in the business day-to-day?
My wife does help some in the business, but she’s also a professional real estate agent. She’s working on getting her Realtor license in Memphis.
She did go through all the training with me, though. We were at a local trade show yesterday, and she was helping staff the booth and distribute materials.
What sets Christian Brothers apart?
As a veteran in the automotive business, especially after being an independent owner, I never thought I’d be involved in a franchise. I’ve really come to appreciate all the support. There are 50 people in the home office, and they offer help with accounting, legal training, technician training — anything you need to help make your business run well. And they have the national buying power to get the best prices on equipment. When I was an independent, it would have been very attractive to have that.
Throughout the years, being an independent owner, I had to learn hard lessons by trial and error. It can be costly. Having people who can help who have been there and done that is very valuable.
Christian Brothers looks different from most automotive shops. The waiting room is a comfortable area where a person can bring children and wait. It’s more like a doctor’s office. Other shops have waiting areas that are close to where they’re working on cars, and it’s noisy.
We also have well-trained technicians and well-trained staff. The company invests a lot of money in technology, and we’re able to work on all models, domestic and foreign. Plus, you just can’t get the pricing you get with us at other places. We have the buying power of 130-plus stores.
Another thing that sets us apart is owner support; it’s second to none. They look at the franchise/franchisee relationship as a vested partnership. They give you any kind of training you need to make sure you’re successful and to help you flourish.
If you’re building a new one from ground up, they have professionals to staff your store, and they train you how to ask the right questions when you’re hiring. God gave us all different gifts; they have the people to help where you’re weak to make you strong.
How large is the opportunity to grow the business?
We have a bright future at our location. We’re doing a lot of things to make it better, such as a lot of employee training, marketing with corporate help and a lot of grassroots marketing. We have a flourishing location, and we’re making it better. It’s been on an upward trend, and corporate is helping me accomplish that.
One thing I do enjoy, even though I’m a seasoned professional, is the training process. When you open the store, you have a trainer come on site a few days, and then you meet weekly with him. The trainer offers a fresh set of eyes; he helps you see what you missed and suggests things to make you strong. It’s nice to have that accountability, and nice to have someone help keep you on track.
The way they go about it is respectful. It’s not like big brother is watching you. They’re there to help you be a success, and they are fabulous about it. They have a proven plan, and if you stick to it you will be successful.
How important is previous automotive experience for a Christian Brothers owner?
That’s the fabulous thing about the franchise, you can come in with no experience to the automotive business, listen to them, go through the training, do what they tell you — and you will be successful. They’ve never had a store fail, and they have a proven track record.
What attracts customers to Christian Brothers rather than competitors?
I believe our clean, comfortable waiting area is one attraction. Also, the technicians are trained in various skill levels, we have new diagnostic equipment, and we’re a great alternative to a dealership. We’re a faith-based company, and that shows in our locations. Many have Bibles on tables, or Christian music playing in the waiting area.
The other franchisees in our area get together on Monday mornings. We have breakfast and spend time praying together. We have a reputation for being trustworthy, and we operate with integrity.
People who come to Christian Brothers talk about being treated fairly and getting no surprises. People rave about the service and the fact they do so many things that other automotive service shops don’t do.
What does your typical day look like?
It depends on which day of the week it is. For a typical day, you come in, look at the previous day’s sales and invoices, look at reports, and you may have a conference call with a trainer. During the day, once a week, I have a meeting with technician staff, such as the service manager and the staff up front.
I shuttle customers to and from work and greet customers in the waiting area. I also meet with our vendors.
Today, for example, we’re having a cookout for employees, the technicians and other staff. For lunch, we’re having ribeye steaks with baked potatoes. We usually have lunch on Fridays. It attracts employees to us and lets them know we appreciate them. A few days back, for example, the staff went to the Memphis International Raceway to drive cars. Events like that show appreciation.
Another thing Christian Brothers does is reach out to people in need in the community. Once a year, we will open on a Saturday in October, and we will change the oil for widows and single mothers. We also do a safety inspection on the cars. We want to give back to the community in those kinds of ways.
There are a lot of corporate and community franchise owners who do great things for people in the community. Here, in April, the five Memphis-area franchise owners got together and gave away two scholarships for high school seniors going off to college, one from Shelby County and one from DeSoto County. Each senior received a $1,500 scholarship. It’s important to give back to the youth growing up in our communities.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Christian Brothers franchise?
I think a person who enjoys interactions with customers and employees, who likes a challenge and who likes to be their own boss is a good fit for Christian Brothers. It’s a successful franchise model that helps you succeed and be profitable.
It’s also good for someone who would like a faith-based company, is interested in giving back and in working with a company that also gives back.
What goals do you hope to achieve for your business, family and community by owning a Christian Brothers?
I’m definitely looking at it as a source of income for our family. I have daughters, and they may someday be interested in the business.
We also want to be known as the best auto repair shop in the community, with the highest integrity.
Would you recommend a Christian Brothers franchise to someone else?
Definitely! If you’re thinking about the automotive business, it’s going to be your best bet for a franchise. Their support is second to none, and they’re just not going to take your franchise money and leave you out there alone. They’re going to partner with you and do everything possible to make you a success.
One great thing about the Christian Brothers community is that we have a great time together. I even get together with owners at other Christian Brothers locations — we get together and share information. It’s a very unique culture. How many businesses get together and share the secrets that make them successful? But that’s just another avenue to ensure your success!
We have lunch weekly with one to two other franchise owners in area. We take the time to pray for each other. That gives us even more support. You’ve got somebody that’s got a business in the same franchise as yours, you can sit down and talk about things that are challenging in your business, and you can bounce ideas off each other.
When I moved to Memphis, I didn’t know anybody. Now I have a couple of friends in the franchise I just love to death, and we have a great relationship.
Christian Brothers is always trying to make their franchises better. They’re always looking at being an innovator in the industry and ways to make us better and stronger. They don’t want to be a follower, they want to be an innovator and set the bar high.
To learn more about the Christian Brothers Automotive and to start a conversation about franchise opportunities, contact our team and we’ll be in touch!