When Mark Carr started an auto repair garage in 1982, he never dreamed that one-day he would be CEO of a national auto repair franchise.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Christian Brothers Automotive Corporation is an automotive repair franchise that provides full-service automotive diagnostic testing and evaluation, maintenance programs and repair work for all domestic and foreign vehicles at each of its locations. All of CBAC's facilities are staffed with automotive service excellence (ASE) certified technicians.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was selling photographic services. Yes, this is my first business.
Where did you get the startup money?
Initially, money came from friends and family. Then after we began franchising, I accepted venture capital funding which I was later able to buy out.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Our main competitors are other auto repair chains and local independents. Setting us apart from the competition is our mission to follow the Bible's golden rule – "love your neighbor as yourself" - by running automotive repair facilities based on honesty, integrity and exceptional customer service. This business model has proven successful – not a single facility has closed since we began in 1982.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
The experience has been amazing. After I opened the first repair shop in '82 I didn't have plans to open more. But once word spread about how we do business, it just took off. Historically, the automotive repair industry has been plagued by negative perceptions. CBAC exists to challenge these perceptions and we're succeeding.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I didn't get involved with a venture capital firm because they were very misleading and wanted too much control of my business. They took advantage of my naiveté regarding VC firms.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I would have to say our decision to franchise in 1997. Franchising has allowed us to maintain common rules and values for each repair shop. Consistency in operations helps train new employees, plus having a good management team in place helps with picking neighborhoods and locations where our auto repair shops would most likely succeed.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Make sure you have enough capital, at least 25 percent more capital than you projected.
Thanks, Mark! That is great advice for all entrepreneurs.