Scott Hester was recently named as one of Moran Family of Brands’ Franchisees of the Year, as selected by his peers from the system. He has owned the Mr. Transmission in Decatur, Georgia, since 2006.
If a Hester from Georgia winning the Mr. Transmission Franchisee of the Year sounds familiar, that would be correct. Scott’s father, Lowell, owns the Mr. Transmission in nearby Sandy Springs and has won one the award twice.
If there is a franchise gene, Lowell apparently passed it onto Scott. In any case, for those franchise owners wondering if they might want to sell or pass on their franchise to their offspring, that’s one way to go. But if you aren’t in the mindset of retiring any time soon, you still might be able to use your franchise to help your kids build their own future. For those people, Scott’s story may be instructive.
Path to Franchise Ownership
Scott’s career began with the U.S. Navy. He served for eight years, from 1989 to 1996. During that time, he worked as an electronic technician, repairing and maintaining air search radar systems aboard the USS Jack Williams. After returning home, he accepted an invitation to work at his father’s Mr. Transmission in Decatur, Georgia.
His dad needed help, and Scott, a new dad, wanted to remain close to his daughter. It was a win-win situation for everyone.
Still, while Lowell said that transmission systems were becoming more electronic and that his son’s knowledge from being an electronic transmission might be useful, Scott wasn’t sure he would be of much help.
Indeed, at the start, Scott took on the role of an entry-level employee, sweeping floors, running parts, pulling down pans and doing none of the complex work on transmissions. But he slowly began learning about the business and different types of transmission systems, and after about a year, he had become comfortable working on car engines.
Around that time, Scott took up his dad’s offer to go to management school at the Moran Family of Brands’ corporate offices, which was very helpful, particularly in learning sales techniques. He then came back and worked as a manager at Lowell’s store in Sandy Springs.
In some ways, Scott found himself in a more challenging relationship with his father. He was still an employee but one with a lot of responsibilities, and, of course, he was working with his dad. But they made it work. Increasingly, Scott started to imagine one day owning a Mr. Transmission franchise.
He really started feeling gratified when he would work with the customers, relishing it when things worked out well.
If somebody thought a transmission repair would be $3,000, and it turned out to only be $300 or $400, you can imagine how much fun it was to give news like that.
“It felt good to be able to help someone out and earn a good reputation in the community by having a good business and having others appreciate you,” said Scott.
In 2006, Lowell sold his Decatur store to Scott.
Learning from the Father
Scott said he has learned a lot – and quickly came around to his father’s point of view on many things after he became the owner of a Mr. Transmission.
“There was a method to his madness as far as why he did certain things,” said Scott. “After owning a shop, I called him a couple of months later and told him, ‘I realize why you did what you did.’”
Scott had been a really good manager, but it is a different role than that of an owner. He never had to pay the business’s bills, for instance, until he was the owner of a Mr. Transmission. “that was a big eye-opener,” he said.
In any case, Scott reels off a few life lessons that would serve any business owner well.
Punctuality pays off. “Always be the first one at the store before other employees arrive,” said Scott.
Be polite. Scott said of his dad, “He’d always say, ‘No matter how bad the day has gone, put a smile on your face when you answer the phone. You can even let the phone ring one more time, take a deep breath and smile when you answer. People will know the difference.’”
Don’t panic. “When a bad week happens, don’t worry – things will be all right,” said Scott. An example of this is February, a typically slow month for his business. It’s right after the holidays, and people are waiting for their tax refunds. It isn’t a time when people are too eager to get their transmission worked on. But over time, things will even out.
Being a second-generation franchise owner has its benefits. Scott says that he enjoys telling his customers that his father owns a nearby Mr. Transmission. It’s a way of making it clear to everybody that his really is family business.
Scott said it has always been nice having both corporate and a fellow franchisee who is a family member in his corner.
“It’s great to have the support from the home office and my dad,” Scott says. “That has helped make me a better owner.”
“I’m very proud of him,” said Lowell Hester. “He is very knowledgeable and dedicated, and he treats his customers right. He has had a very successful career, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Indeed, Scott has been proud that since he started the business, he has only had six or seven employees in total. There isn’t much turnover at his Mr. Transmission.
Carrying on the Family Business
Scott has two adult children, Morgan, 22, and Cameron, who is 20. His kids, when they were younger, often hung out with him Saturday mornings when the shop was open – and as they got older, he let them help keep the store clean and answer phones. He also taught them some of the basics about car repair.
Cameron is also working part-time at his father’s Mr. Transmission three days a week – and even recently watched after the store when his father was away.
“He did a great job covering the store for a week when I was away,” said Scott, “and I received a lot of compliments from customers about Cameron during that time.”
Scott recently acknowledged the possibility of Cameron following him into the business after graduating from college. “He is pursuing a degree in business management,” said Scott, “and a lot of franchise ownership is managing a business.”
It remains to be seen whether Scott’s son will someday be a Mr. Transmission owner, but if there is a Hester franchise gene, it seems that there’s a good chance that Cameron has it, too.