Keeping up with cars
Vehicles have changed drastically in the last 15 years. The quality and materials provide a whole different feel. Cars have anti-lock braking systems (ABSs) and electronic steering. So today, you’re no longer a mechanic, you’re a technician. You perform diagnostics on a laptop computer.
Another change in this industry has been the introduction of more European-style vehicles, mostly due to their improved fuel economy. Today, all automotive manufacturers are gutting their cylinders and making their vehicles more fuel-efficient. For every change, though, new diagnostics equipment and tools are needed.
We keep up with our training all of the time, but in today’s complex market, we’re also glad we have the support that comes with being part of a larger franchise organization. Our group in Canada works together to help each other. We are like a family.
After living in Corner Brook for 21 years, Eileen and I moved two years ago to Humber Valley Resort in Little Rapids, N.L. While it’s only 15 minutes from work, it’s private and secluded, with its own golf course.
So, I get to play golf, though not nearly as much as I’d like to. Each year, between May and November, I probably get 20 to 30 rounds in. And every summer, we put together a tournament at the course for AA Senior Hockey. My wife and I own a team and I am its acting president, which keeps us busy together over the winter months.
As I need to spend about half of each month in St. John’s, I do a lot of driving. Though I spent a decade in Calgary near the beginning of my career, I would never consider leaving my home province again. I love it here too much. We’re both happy with our decision to move back home and raise our family here.
The economy was pretty slow 10 to 15 years ago, but has gotten a lot better. In the past eight to nine years, it has consistently been among Canada’s top three provinces for economic growth. The fishery has rebounded somewhat and the oil and mining industries are strong.
I’m considering opportunities for further expansion. We’re looking at getting into the east end of St. John’s within the next couple of years, for example. My choice would be to take over an existing shop. I find it easier to convert one, rather than build new. Sometimes these shops are owned by people who are getting ready for retirement, so they are an easy switch.
Duane Arbeau, vice-president (VP) of Meineke Canada, has been very supportive to our group. My St. John’s franchise, for example, came about because he asked me if I would want to expand there and then used his relationship with the previous owners to help open the door. (He used to work with Midas.)
It’s also good that Meineke doesn’t enforce just one way of doing things. I’ve been involved with other companies where it’s “my way or the highway!”
We’re going through a big change now. Kenneth D. Walker, the chair and CEO of Meineke’s parent company, Driven Brands, retired in July 2012. We were recently down in New Orleans for a series of meetings with the new president and CEO, Jonathan Fitzpatrick. There’s also a new president coming in for Meineke, Paul Clayton, and they both want to expand the chain.
This is great for us. Sometimes executives want to tear things down, but these ones don’t, they want to grow the business. Irving, for example, decided at one point to take a different direction and no longer operate a retail business. And Midas does not have a presence in Newfoundland anymore.
As our franchisor puts it, while there are already more than 900 Meineke franchises throughout North America, that number could be doubled, given today’s vehicle populations and market densities.
Ross Coates is a multi-unit Meineke Car Care Centre franchisee based in Newfoundland. For more information, visit www.meineke.ca.
Meineke Car Care Centre
Date of first franchise: 1972
Franchise/corporate units in Canada: 35
Investment required: $75,000
Initial franchise fee: $30,000