FullSpeed is evolving the SpeeDee brand with its Total Trust Guarantee™.
By Alan Dorich, Knighthouse Media
When franchisees join the Grease Monkey® or SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service® brands, they can be certain that they will get expert support from their franchising company. Ralph Yarusso notes that the company’s management team carries extensive automotive and franchise expertise.
“Everyone here has a plethora of experience in the space,” he says, adding that many are former franchisees and operators. “We’ve been in the industry for a long time.”
Yarusso is the Chief Development Officer for Grease Monkey and SpeeDee at FullSpeed Automotive. While Grease Monkey has been in operation since 1978, the FullSpeed concept took shape in early 2017 when Grease Monkey International acquired SpeeDee to form the perfect partnership between two independent franchisors of automotive oil change centers.
Today, FullSpeed has 534 locations in the United States, China, Mexico, Colombia and Saudi Arabia that include SpeeDee and Grease Monkey stores. Yarusso, whose 35 years of experience includes positions at Meineke Car Care Centers LLC, says the company’s experience has been critical to its success.
“Everyone in my franchise development department has been an owner/operator of some degree in the automotive space,” he says. “That makes us uniquely different.”
Kevin Kormondy, who is the President and COO at FullSpeed, agrees. “When you couple that with a great base of franchise owners in both brands, it’s just a great equation for success,” he says.
He notes that he personally carries nearly 30 years’ experience in franchising with companies such as Maaco and Big O Tires. In addition, “Our field team has years and years of experience, particularly in the automotive aftermarket,” he states.
FullSpeed’s recent initiatives have included refining its Certified Pit Crew program, which emphasizes fast, professional customer service at its Grease Monkey locations. In order to qualify for the program, employees at all locations are required to take a minimum of 18 courses from the company’s FullSpeed University, which is followed by an in-store evaluation by the Franchise Support Director to ensure they are following the proper procedures.
All Grease Monkey locations also offer a specific time guarantee from when a customer’s vehicle pulls into a bay to when service is expected to be completed. But if the employees exceed that time limit, the customer is refunded a dollar for every minute they are late.
“We’ve continued our efforts to hone that program and continue to work with our franchises to make it stronger and more effective on the Grease Monkey side,” Kormondy says, adding that FullSpeed also has a new initiative for the SpeeDee side.
“We’ve introduced what we consider to be a reinvention of the SpeeDee brand with what we’re calling our ‘Total Trust Guarantee,’” he describes, adding that this was inspired by a recent statistic reported by AAA that 76 percent of customers feel a lack of trust for their service provider in the automotive space.
He notes that this can be due to providers selling customers something they did not need or not receiving the service they paid for. “Our market research led us down a path of trying to change those perceptions from the retail public,” Kormondy says, adding that SpeeDee’s Total Trust Guarantee includes several points of transparency to help establish that trust with clients.
SpeeDee is making updates to its locations so that customers will be able to watch their vehicles being serviced via camera systems. They also will receive photos of replacement parts, more transparency when it comes to pricing, and backgrounds on the certified technicians working on their vehicles.
FullSpeed also developed SpeeDee Performance Certified, a certification program for its SpeeDee personnel and franchisees. “[Customers will] know that the persons working on their vehicles have received the certifications,” he says. Certification courses include training for Courtesy Technicians, Upper Bay Technicians, Lower Bay Technicians and Customer Interactions, to name a few.
Yarusso notes that FullSpeed developed the program with their National Franchisee Advisory Council (NFAC). “It was really a collaborative effort,” he says. “We spent a lot of time in 2017, formulating a strategy of what we needed to do going forward for our consumer and our consumer experience.”
FullSpeed also partnered with their NFAC to create a strategy map that would provide the company and its franchisees with a clear path to follow. “[We also] have a clear message of what we’re trying to achieve and attain,” he adds. “It also makes it easy for the franchisees to buy into it when it was their own elected leadership council that helped create it.”
FullSpeed is in the process of converting its entire SpeeDee chain to the Total Trust Guarantee model. “We’re hopeful in the next 60 days or so that we’ll have 80 percent of the program complete,” he says. “We’re making great progress on the path of having our personnel certified in that training program.”
SpeeDee has already won a warm response in several locations where it tested the Total Trust Guarantee. In these long-established locations, customers took notice to the changes where SpeeDee opened up its showrooms and created viewing areas where they could see into the bays.
“The feedback has been really positive in terms of how much they appreciate the visibility,” Kormondy says, adding that SpeeDee’s franchisees are enthusiastic about the program, particularly due to the marketing materials and the training program for their employees.
“Our franchisees are reinvigorated,” Yarusso adds, noting that many are spending money renovating their locations. “It’s really created the direction and incentivized them to get a new coat of paint on the building.”
The Perfect Recipe
Kormondy not only takes pride in his team at FullSpeed, but his franchisees as well. “Without exception, the caliber of our franchisees is one of the things I’m most proud of in this organization,” he says.
Yarusso agrees. “We’ve got a lot of successful franchisees out there,” he declares, adding that only a few of its stores have closed. In many cases, the closures have come as a result of the inability to secure a new lease or retirement as opposed to financial performance.
“Our operations and field support people are very intuitive to our franchisees’ needs and are engaged in putting a plan in place if things aren’t going so well,” Yarusso says. “I’m pretty proud of them as a whole and the success they’ve had.”
FullSpeed also has been very successful in the recruitment of military veterans as franchisees. “We have been and continue to be a huge supporter of the VetFran program through the International Franchise Association,” Kormondy says.
Yarusso, who is a veteran himself, has participated heavily in this initiative and notes that Entrepreneur magazine ranked the company No. 21 in the top franchises for veterans and ranked the company one of the top in the automotive space.
“I also give a lot of credit to our board of directors to put those programs in front of veterans,” he says.
He explains that FullSpeed’s board allowed the company to move forward with discounting programs for veterans as well as rebates and additional help to ramp up business. Its vendors also have shown support by providing certain discounts on their products and services as well.
Yarusso notes that the ability to follow a system makes veterans a good fit for franchises. “That’s the perfect recipe for a franchisee,” he says. “You get into a franchise in the first place because you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
“Veterans understand that because it’s pretty much what they’ve been doing for their military careers,” he continues. “That aspect of their military background bodes very well once they transition into civilian life.”
FullSpeed has more than 20 veteran franchisees across its brands. “We’ve sold five new veteran licenses this year alone so we’re on a roll,” he says, noting that a former Navy Seal plans to open a location in California later this month.
In addition, a former U.S. Army soldier is currently securing a site in Illinois. “We’ve got another Army veteran who literally took his fatigues off, put on a Grease Monkey uniform and is operating a Grease Monkey store in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.,” Yarusso reports. “We’re open for business with the military and we love it.”
In the Pipeline
Kormondy sees continued growth ahead for FullSpeed and across the Grease Monkey and SpeeDee brands. “Ralph and his team had a record year last year for franchises sold in the Grease Monkey organization,” he says. “We are really confident in the pipeline we’ve put together that continues to grow and develop every day.”
“The future looks incredibly bright for us,” Yarusso says, adding that its training department will be essential going forward. “A lot of franchisors out there are very passive with their training. They’re not really looking at cutting-edge stuff.”
But FullSpeed is going in the opposite direction. “Now we’re modifying our [training] to accommodate what the five-year vision looks like,” he says. “Not that we have a crystal ball, but we’re doing the best to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in our industry.”
When Grease Monkey and SpeeDee franchisees recruit their own staff members, previous experience is not a requirement. “You give us someone with good character and we’ll train them,” Yarusso says. “Common sense will tell you we always want those folks.”
But as these recruits participate in FullSpeed Automotive’s training program, “We can harvest and grow [them] through our organization,” he says. “We’ll take people with good character and the desire to learn all day long.”
Kevin Kormondy notes that the company recently enhanced its training it has available to its franchisees. Currently, it has approximately 250 courses that are customized and available via its websites. “We’re huge proponents and believers in the power of training and continue to enhance our sites,” he says.
But the company has no plans to stop there. “We’ve got another 30 courses that should be added to that repertoire at the end of second quarter this year,” he says. “Our goal is to have 50,000 courses completed across the entire enterprise this year.” Those courses cover a range of topics including operational processes, self-improvement (including management and leadership), as well as courses which will prepare its technicians to become industry (ASE) certified. Various vendors have also lent their training courses to the FullSpeed University curriculum.