Robert Skinner - VP Franchise Development for Cap-it

Date: MAY 16th, 2012

Topic: Interview with a CEO

Robert has over 35 years of experience in franchise systems development and consulting. Store operations, training program development and franchisee recruitment are among his specialties. His unique background includes the experience of being a franchisee with three stores as part Canada’s largest paint and wallpaper chain. For many years Robert was very active within the Canadian Franchise Association, sitting as Director on the national board and chairing the western region council promoting ethical franchising in Canada. Since joining Cap-it in 2006 Robert has been responsible for many key areas of restructure that has strengthened the Cap-it franchise program. With the growing popularity of the Cap-it Franchise and Dealership system, Robert anticipates 5 or more new stores coming online every year over the next 5 years.


BeTheBoss.ca: Tell us about the Cap-it franchise concept.

Robert Skinner: Cap-it Genuine Truckware is Western Canada’s leading retailer of aftermarket accessories for light trucks, Vans and SUVs with 20 outlets currently in BC and Alberta. Cap-it has grown carefully over the last 20years, developing a system, taking a complicated aftermarket industry and making it simple for a franchise business owner to operate and make some money.


There are six Keys to Our Success Formula

1. Getting Connected: joining an experienced and successful management team linked to over 200 manufactures and suppliers and with another 20 franchisees with a mutual goal of success.

2. Buying Power: central purchasing sources products for the huge buying group at Cap-it achieving the best prices, profit margins, co-op advertising dollars and support.

3. Technology: integration of sophisticated systems for inventory management, customer tracking, staff training and more.

4. Marketing Power: Television, radio, custom catalogues in print and online plus a powerful internet presence with localized pages, e-mail marketing, social media and more is all coordinated by Cap-it marketing experts to drive sales to every store.

5. Training: hands-on, in-depth education before, during and after opening is the biggest Key to success and we are very dedicated to it with a great team of experts.

6. Image: be part of a well recognized and respected Brand, focused on great looking stores and superior customer service.


NEW WITHIN CAP-IT … THE SMALL MARKET CONCEPT! Cap-it now has many Full size and Express size franchise stores in most large cities in Western Canada and yes there is room for a few more.

Cap-it is now offering is a Small Market Business Model, designed to be added on to an existing complimentary business such as a glass shop, a tire shop or sign business. It is called a Licensed Dealership. If you have a business already, perhaps you are selling a few accessories now and you want to expand, Cap-it is for you. Don’t have a business?…A small standalone Cap-it Dealership operation may also be considered if our analysis indicates the community will support it as a market entry option, and that it could grow to a full-size store over the first three years. Cap-it brings all of the buying and marketing power of a large Cap-it Signature Store to a small community, as part of your existing business or mini stand alone.


BTB: How did you get involved with Cap-it?

RS: I joined the Cap-it Team in 2006 as their Franchise and Operations Manager just as the company was gearing up for expansion. My background in franchising was extensive in all types of business but this was really something new. Cap-it had taken a fractured industry and consolidated it under one roof and brand. I saw Cap-it as the Home Depot of the truck accessories industry and business was booming.

The Hitch shop, the Tire shop, the truck Cap shop, the place you buy commercial grade truck racks and tool boxes and recreational racks and cargo boxes for your SUV or car were now all available in one place… and even better, they installed everything that they sold.


BTB: What was your background prior to joining Cap-it?

RS: My background before joining Cap-it was all business development and franchise related. I was an independent franchise and small home business consultant working with people that wanted to operate their own business large and small. Prior to 1997 is spent over 25 years with Color Your World Paints where I was a franchisee in the late 70’s early 80’s with three stores while I raised my family in Richmond. I then became the Franchise and Dealership Development manager for CYW and spearheaded the expansion of over 40 stores in western Canada.


BTB: Why should someone consider a franchise purchase?

RS: Being a Franchisee with a good company offers a person an opportunity to get into a proven business that they would never be able to do alone. The main advantages are starting out in business with a Brand name, an established product line and supply chain, a business operating system and a marketing plan to follow. No need to re-invent. The chances of succeeding are increase dramatically over an independent start up. The biggest single advantage is Training. Getting the education needed to operate the business.


BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?

RS: The ideal Franchisee is someone who is willing to learn and work very hard and is willing to follow the lead of a senior partner and mentor, the Franchisor. If you are a strong personality that likes to do it your way or no way at all, do not become a franchisee.


BTB: Tell us a little about the automotive aftermarket industry.

RS: The automotive aftermarket industry in North America is huge and growing steadily since the mid 80’s. Accessorizing vehicles for work and for play has expanded exponentially with the changing family and work place lifestyles. The light truck segment of the industry has been especially strong as the demographic of Pick-up truck and SUV owners has broadened dramatically to include the growing resource industry sector, the outdoor recreation sector and the off-road enthusiast community. Contractors and farmers will always need the pick-up or Van for their business and manufactures have created many “make-work-easier” accessories for this market. Even through the recessionary times, many people still need a truck to make a living.


BTB: What have you learned while growing the Cap-it concept?

RS: The greatest lesson I have learned in growing the Cap-it Franchise is that training and communication is everything. Every problem that has ever come up in the past has been the result of lack of training or communication. At Cap-it we are now totally focused on training. There is another great lesson however and that is “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. Most Franchise systems have learned all of the lessons the hard way and they understand the huge benefits of “extreme customer service”. It is taught and expounded upon over and over but the single biggest difficulty that new franchisees have is adopting the customer service at any cost attitude. If you get into a quality franchise business and you want to win, drink the company Kool-Aide and become a customer satisfaction expert.


BTB: Do you have any mentors?

RS: Over the years I have been associated with many great and not so great business associates and bosses. One of the very best business mentors I have know is Hank Funk, the founder and CEO of Cap-it. His philosophies on a business and on a personal level, have lead him on a path of success to be envied. In Cap-it his passion for the business in general and for his focus specifically on what is needed for the success of the franchisees of the organization, is amazing.


BTB: What advice to you have for someone purchasing a franchise?

RS: The best advice I can offer someone looking at a franchise is they need to feel a passion for the business. Passion and a love for what you do is the key and you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes. The next best piece of advice I can give you is, if you do not have the money to do it right, do not do it at all. The biggest reason for failure in business is lack of adequate unencumbered cash. Every business goes through ups and downs. Even good time can create money problems. Many times when a business grows, all of the profits that are made, need to go back into the business for more inventory or marketing support or new staff. Financial pressure can be a real problem with paying off loans and mortgages along with the requirement for food and shelter for the family. You may have enough money to get a business started but you will need more money to make it grow.


BTB: Why should someone consider Cap-it?

RS: Cap-it is a great opportunity for the right person. It is fun to operate offering a great variety of things to do. It is like Christmas over and over as you deck out trucks with shiny chrome accessories or heavy duty equipment. A Cap-it store is there to satisfy the customer’s fondest wish list of items for work and play. Cap-it is not a place you go to because your transmission is failing or you need a tune up in the worst way. Your customers look forward to shopping at your store. To operate a Cap-it and succeed, you need to have a brain with an attitude for learning plus a strong work ethic. You must enjoy interacting directly with people of all kinds face to face and by phone. But the main reason that Cap-it is a great opportunity is that it makes money through the years while growing business equity in a very resalable business brand.