If you have ever looked into franchises and how they work, it’s always interesting to see how one comes together. There’s no one right or wrong way to become a franchise owner. Sometimes people lose their job and then invest their life savings and become a franchise owner. Other times, investors will buy franchises and make all of the franchises part of their corporate mini-empire. Other people have done just fine in their careers but decide they want to be their own boss and so they buy a franchise.
That’s where Bill and Sheri Granger come in. They recently opened a Milex Complete Auto Care and Mr. Transmission store in Bradenton, Florida.
Bill Granger spent 17 years as a mechanic working for several car dealerships and spent 10 years in the oil refinery industry with BP. He most recently oversaw management of landfill gas plants at the Manatee County Landfill. Sheri Granger spent 25 years in the healthcare field handling billing coding and office management for family doctor practitioners. They could have easily remained in their careers and retired someday and had a nice life.
But they wanted a nicer life. The demands of constantly being on call were a lot for Bill, while dealing with a lot of the red tape from the insurance companies pushed Sheri to look elsewhere in her career.
The couple started mulling over the idea that maybe they should become franchise owners. And they did it, in a very creative and smart way.
The Grangers purchased an existing business – but not an existing franchise. Sometimes, a franchise owner will buy an existing franchise and then continue it. For instance, in 2018, Jason Shastri purchased a Mr. Transmission and Milex franchise in Stafford, Texas. He was able to create a seamless customer experience from the previous franchise owner’s business to his own.
But Bill and Sheri came up with a different approach.
When they learned of a couple who owned a tire franchise store and wanted to sell their business, they bought the building and was able to keep three employees – two technicians and a customer service representative. But instead of joining forces with the tire franchise company and taking over that franchise, they instead bought the co-branded franchise from Moran Family of Brands -- Milex Complete Auto Care and Mr. Transmission.
“We liked the smaller, family feel of Moran,” said Bill. “When I spoke to [CEO] Barb Moran, she really spoke from the heart and I liked that about her. I also liked the level of support we receive from the franchisor. When I spoke to a lot of the people with Moran and to the other franchise owners, they told me the support here is fantastic. It just felt right. Any time I have a question or concern, I can just pick up the phone and call someone and they will answer.”
So now they run Milex Complete Auto Care, doing oil changes, fixing brakes and repairing engines, among other things, and Mr. Transmission, repairing and installing transmission systems and drivetrain components. Plus, they are carrying the tradition of the Factory Tire Outlet store by selling new tires.
Turning an existing business into a new franchise was a process. The Grangers bought into the Moran Family of Brands franchise in April of 2018 and opened their new business on May 1. That said, the former store remained open, and the previous ownership kept it in operation. The Grangers spent the year unwinding their own careers and gearing up to start their own franchise. It worked out well because the former owners showed the Grangers the tire side of the business. Slowly but surely, as the year progress, the Grangers converted the building from a tire resale outlet to an auto repair and transmission shop that also sells new tires.
“The outside of the store was in good condition and we did not do too much, other than put up new signage,” said Bill. “We were able to create additional space inside by removing used tires and rims that were previously sold at that location.”
They did repaint all of the walls of the office and have plans to replace the flooring. They also installed a computer system to schedule, input customer information, order parts, which is something the previous ownership did not use.
Having customers from the old business helped with the new one. The Grangers had customers at the door at 8:00 a.m., when they opened for business on May 1, 2019. Many of their first clientele were regulars from the tire store – who would drop by and then learn the business was changing into a Milex Complete Auto Care/Mr. Transmission. The time between buying the franchise and opening it also meant that the Grangers were able to have plenty of time for marketing and get the word out about their new business.
Things are off to a good start. Business has been good and picking up. After initially seeing business from people who thought the store was still Factory Tire, the Grangers have been finding their own customers, through people searching for auto and transmission repair on Google, word of mouth and general marketing.
The Grangers are also already getting involved in working with their community. Sheri has been working with the local school district to create a class to instruct students on the proper way to change tires and what to do if they experience a blowout or accident.
Bill has been focusing on doing the service writing and technical work. Sheri handles the administrative responsibilities, like bookkeeping, payroll and invoicing.
“My biggest adjustment was that I kept calling our customers ‘patients,’” Sheri said with a laugh. But she has come to see their customers’ cars as “patients.”
The Grangers have a philosophy that they’re trying to bring to their business. That is, they’re trying to not be a stereotypical business. “I stress to every customer that they are not going to pay for anything they don’t need,” said Bill. “I’ve made it very clear to everyone here that if they ever put someone on a car the customer doesn’t need, they will be fired on the spot. I talk to the customers like they are my family. I tell them what is absolutely necessary if it is a safety issue and what is something that they can hold off having done. I’m very straightforward with people and give them an honest evaluation of their vehicle. That’s what we give them.”
The Grangers have advice for anyone looking to own a franchise. “People need to research their options very well and pick the right place for them,” said Bill. “There are too many franchises that just want another store with their name on it and don’t really care much about their franchisees.”
“I would also recommend for people to do their due diligence,” he adds. “Talk to people and other franchisees in the system. At the end of the day, most times if something is not right, it is because you should have done something differently. If you are with the right franchise, the support is going to be there. You just have to follow the system. They are proven to work and that is why we have franchises.”