Jud Cook served as a civil and environmental engineer in the Army and retired as a Colonel after 30 years. In 2013 he and his wife, Jennifer, decided to open a Christian Brothers Automotive in Brandon, FL. Jud shares his experience and advice for franchisees.
How is it that you entered franchising? I always had a goal to be a business owner. I chose franchising to do so because it offers the advantage of a team that is focused on my success and assists me in a variety of areas including training, required equipment recommendations, and acquisition of property. In addition, I have a network of trusted franchisees who willingly share advice and counsel. I felt comfortable paying for these advantages.
What advice do you have for people considering purchasing a franchise? My best advice is to understand and then write a statement that describes where you want to be in five years, ten years, and 20 years. Define what “right” looks like in your life. What are your personal goals – family, monetary, spiritual? Write them down. Next, compare those word pictures to the lives you see franchisees in the company you are investigating living. Does their way of life match your vision? Does their way of life allow for your vision? Since investing in a franchise is a significant investment in time and money, it is also important to understand the terms of the agreement you are entering and your expected return. I recommend legal and financial advice from professionals.
What advice would you share with a franchisee in his or her first year of business? Over a period of time, you’ll want your business to run without your direct involvement in every detail, so surround yourself with a great team who shares your vision. You’ll spend lots of time training team members, which is rewarding when they want to change and grow and demoralizing if they simply just want a job.
What is your work/life balance? I’ve worked full days since I opened three years ago, but as time has progressed, the tasks I do have changed. Initially, I did the same thing I was paying other people to do because we didn’t have enough people. As the business grew, we hired more people, which means I now work on tasks that set the conditions at the shop for my employees to be successful. My work/life balance is much better now than when I was in the army. I take long weekends, hit Tampa Bay in my boat, and travel to see family. I even took a 10-day river cruise in Europe over Christmas a couple of years ago. We also have every weekend available to pursue our dreams.
What is it that you like best about owning your franchise? I just have to say it, I like being the boss. I get great personal reward from charting a course and then watching our team reach the goal. Second, I love serving people, which is why I loved the military. At Christian Brothers Automotive we are passionate about doing so. Finally, owning the franchise allows me to be a generous provider for my family and my church. I make a great living doing stuff I like to do.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a franchisee? Matching customer service demands with the right number of well-trained, motivated employees who mirror the vision I have for our company. It is all about hiring and leading people!
What kind of support do you most appreciate from your franchisor? Christian Brothers Automotive is extremely responsive to franchisee questions, issues, and concerns. Our model provides a coach/trainer who is always available. It is very comforting to know that I have a teammate I can call anytime I have any issue. Even better, I know that my coach will act on my request. The staff is talented in their area of expertise and among the most dedicated I have ever worked with. When I deal with the corporate staff, I feel like my issue is among the most important things they are working on.
How does your franchisor facilitate interactions between franchisees? We are teamed with a fellow franchisee when we open whose title is Certified Franchisee Trainer (CFT). New Franchisees and their CFTs spend a minimum of three weeks working shoulder to shoulder – two weeks at the CFT’s store, then a week at the new franchisee’s store. Being trained and mentored by a peer who does what you do on a daily basis is invaluable. Christian Brothers Automotive also structures franchisee peer groups and assigns a coach/trainer from the corporate office to facilitate franchisee goal setting, accountability, friendship, and moral support.
To learn about Christian Brothers Automotive click here.
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