Interview with Travis Allan CEO of Pro Oil Change
Travis Allan started in the oil change business as an employee of an independent oil change centre in 1996 and purchased this business in November, 1999. He has thirteen years experience in the ownership and operation of Pro Oil Change centres and is fully versed in all the aspects of the business including operations, real estate, construction, financing, marketing and advertising.
In addition, Travis invested, owning 2 Mr. Sub franchise stores which were operated by a managing partner. The businesses were sold in 2005 to allow the managing partner to rejoin the Pro Oil Change team as Director of Operations and Training.
BeTheBoss - Tell us about the beginning of Pro Oil Change and how it got started?
Travis Allan - It’s a pretty interesting story! When I finished school I applied to the local quick lube for part time work while trying to make a decision about my post secondary education. I started working at the shop and really enjoyed the job. I was a technician for one (1) year. After the first year, I was promoted to store manager. I handled this position for two (2) years. In 1999, I was sitting around the dinner table with my father in law talking about work, plans for the future etc, etc. My father in law is a seasoned businessman. He asked me, “why don’t you buy out your boss and take ownership of the store yourself?” Well, you can imagine my surprise. Buy him out, how do I do that?! After many meetings, we agreed on a price and I became the owner of the quick lube shop in Mississauga Ontario. The shop name was changed to Pro Oil Change as it was more descriptive and told customers what we did. New signage was easier for potential customers to read while driving past our shop. From that day forward, I have never looked back. I realized what a great industry it was, with opportunity for growth. Nine years later we operate 15 shops, soon to be 20 by the end of 2009.
BTB - What is your franchise opportunity all about?
TA - When I look at our business model there are three things to consider: 1. STABILITY; (of the industry and our concept). Pro Oil Change has developed an operating system, unlike its competition, which makes for a very stable, predictable business model. Vehicle maintenance is a provision or necessity, as vehicles will always need regular fluid changes. In these tough economic, times people are servicing their vehicles more, not wanting them to breakdown. They’re not running out and leasing a new vehicle. If they want NEW, manufacturers offer finance programs which has brought back pride of ownership. 2. FINANCIAL; (upside of the business), Potential earnings and how simple these #’s are to achieve as the business matures. Pro Oil Change works off high gross margins while not employing highly paid, licensed technicians. When an operator follows our system, implements our advertising and marketing programs, commercial fleet and community sponsorship programs, the sky is the limit! 3. QUALITY OF LIFE; this is one of the biggest things we have to offer. At franchise trade shows when meeting with potential franchisees, people don’t want to be slaves to their businesses. People seem to forget this sometimes. They want to be their own boss, want to control their destiny and buying a franchise can do this. However, the most important thing to consider when you are buying a business is whether or not that business is going to suit your lifestyle! Is it going to be the type of business that you will enjoy working at? Will you be able to spend time with your family? Are you going to be employing so many people that you’re going to find yourself spending too much time recruiting people instead of focusing ON your business. Pro Oil Change offer reasonable hours, conducive to a family lifestyle, and with our margins you can pay employees proper wages. You will have 4 to 6 fulltime employees. With our structured system and operating procedures, you can leave the store in the hands of an assistant manager without worrying, and can operate multiple locations because our process is so structured.
BTB - What are the qualities you look for in your ideal franchisee?
TA - Here are the main qualities we look for. A great desire to be successful; self motivated individuals; self confident; a general understanding of business; devotion no matter the cost or circumstance, passion, leadership and a POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
BTB - What have some of the challenges been in growing your franchise?
TA - Being completely honest with you, we haven’t had many challenges. Anything we have encountered so far been bumps in the road. We’ve found ways to navigate around them. The system has been designed based on a great deal of experience and knowledge. For example, when building new sites became a challenge due to Landlords and contractor issues, we developed an easier way to construct stores, designing a modular building constructed off site.
BTB - Do you feel that franchising is a great way for individuals who wish to start their own business?
TA- Yes. However, there is one general guideline. For a person looking to get into this business, they have to be the type of person that doesn’t want to “re-invent wheel”. They have to be a person who is willing to work in a structured system, and grow within that structure.
BTB - What are some of the advantages in being a Pro Oil Change franchisee?
TA - Proven track record. All stores are delivered on a turnkey basis, financed, built, equipped and ready to open for business. A franchises goes into training and shows up on opening day ready to operate. The system has been built on repeatable processes, high margins, low wage costs, ongoing training, with all advertising dollars spent directly in YOUR market. We have purchased and developed an amazing site selection process designed by Pitney Bowes - Map Info Business Solutions. This site selection is a proven way to choose AAA sites only!
BTB - Any success stories you’d like to share with us?
TA - In a very short time we’ve attracted franchisees with proven operating history from other brand name franchise systems across Canada.
BTB - Do you belong to any associations or networking groups?
TA - I’m a big believer in doing this! You have to stay on top of your business and the business world, period. I belong to the CFA which covers all aspects of franchising across Canada. I also belong to the AOCA which is the oil change industry association. They cover endless information specific to our industry throughout North America.
BTB As a franchise executive, who has been your greatest inspiration?
TA - On a personal level, my father has been a great inspiration to me! He taught me ethics and how to treat people which has guided my path in growing our business. On a business level, there is no one person that has been an inspiration to me. What inspires me is the growth opportunity for our company. We are looking to excel everyday, in everything we do.
BTB - In your opinion, why do you think that Pro Oil Change would be a great opportunity for someone?
TA - We have an amazing team of people who work hard every day to make this is a great company. I’m happy to meet with all candidates who qualify, and plan to give each person a guided tour of our exciting business opportunity and share my vision with each and every franchisee.