Midas Franchise Review — Veteran Owner Says Brand Recognition, Customer Service Sets Midas Apart From Competitors
Posted on: June 13, 2014
Jerry Creamer chronicles more than two decades as a Midas franchisee
Even though Jerry Creamer has been a Midas franchisee for more than 22 years, he never gets bored on the job. “I find that there’s something new to learn every day,” Jerry says. “Plus, there’s a real beauty to the franchise organization. If you need help, there is always a peer out there who is willing to help you. It helps to get someone else’s knowledge and then to make it your own and put your own twist on it. You can work smarter and more confidently.”
Creamer, who owns four Midas shops in the suburbs of Chicago is a leader among his fellow franchisees. He serves as vice president of the International Midas Dealers Association, a role that sees him acting as a liaison between Midas’ top brass and franchisees.
This is his story:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your history with the brand? I have been a franchisee for better than 22 years. My father-in-law started in the Midas business in 1968. My father is a retired Chicago policeman. He had five hot dog stands, and I worked for him as a kid. I went to the University of Illinois and got a degree in agricultural commerce. I was an investigator at the Board of Trade. I did a stint in sales, and then my wife’s father asked me to join the Midas family business.
I grew up two blocks away from my wife, and I was well aware that my father-in-law always made a good living. Deep down, I always knew that I wanted to work for myself. My sales career taught me that I was having a huge day when I talked to four or five customers a day. When I came to Midas I had 15 to 20 customers every day. It was huge to have that many customers — all people who wanted to talk to me and needed me. I got hooked on the process of taking care of them, taking that fear of automobile repair away and putting them at ease. That is where the pleasure is, and there is nothing more rewarding.
I have grown my Midas shops over time from one to four. For the first six to seven years I ran the store six days a week. Then I transitioned into an administrative general manager role for my stores. I wear a lot of hats. I do my own payroll, marketing, hiring and firing. I am still active in my shops and still get behind the counter. Right now I have 22 employees.
Have you seen Midas evolve as a brand? When I started Midas, within the first couple months we started doing oil changes. We weren’t doing full-service maintenance yet. Of course, all that has changed. Taking care of customers is my passion, and I was able to take that interest and run with it.
How important is it to have a car background to be a Midas franchisee? I like cars, but I really love people. I grew my knowledge on automobiles through running the counter. If you are a people person, you often have a better understanding of explaining things to your customers in terms that they understand. If you are too technical, you run the risk of losing a customer in the first 30 seconds. I’m glad that I had some understanding of cars. It certainly helps. However, our business is a service business. It is all about people, whether they’re the employees or the customers.
What sets Midas apart from competitors? Well, certainly our heritage. Midas started this business. We grew this business. We have always been the leaders, whether it’s in exhaust or brakes. Our brand name is iconic. No one has the kind of draw we have with consumers. Because Midas is franchised, the shops are locally owned and operated. I think all this combined provides a better customer experience.
How many customers do you serve in a day? I average 17.2 customers a day in each shop.
What makes you feel good about Midas from a customer service perspective? There’s something powerful about seeing the same old faces coming back year after year. Customers become very attached to their local stores. They bring in gifts at Christmas and for other events — fresh-baked cookies, a case of beer, pizzas. You know you have done something really special when customers are so thoughtful.
You are vice president of the International Midas Dealers Association, a trade group that represents Midas dealers in the U.S. and Canada. What does this role involve? We meet face to face with Midas quite often. We really try to bring the franchisee’s perspective to Midas and TBC Corporation (the parent company for Midas). We have that bridge of communication with them.
We have a very powerful and outspoken group of dealers. It’s important that they (higher corporate management) understand the ground-level changes in our business. I am the voice of an average Midas dealer. I have four stores, and although our sales are above the national average, I’m not running multi-million dollar sales out of one store. I still work in my business. I think it’s great we are able to speak to upper management about our needs and our wins. We talk to them about a lot more than what we need. We also talk about positive things and how we are winning. To continue to win we need to keep communicating. We are fortunate to have Mike Gould (executive vice president and chief operating officer of Midas International) because he listens. Like so many of us, he has grown up in the business. He has worked in the shop, on the floor, behind the counter and in various management positions. Now he is overseeing the company. When you tell him about things that are going on in the shops, he understands because he’s been there.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Midas? It’s substantial. Right now we are seeing some new blood at Midas, and I think it’s going to entice and engage our customers. And let’s face it, there are mom-and-pop shops going out of business because they don’t have a transition or plan. It means that there’s going to be even more room for Midas franchises. More than ever, customers have a need for skilled care maintenance. Cars are getting more technical. A brand with the national recognition of Midas offers tons of value and opportunity.
What has owning a franchise allowed you to do that you might not have been able to do in your former sales career? My son is a freshman in college now. When he was younger he played hockey, and it required going out of town on weekends. Midas allowed me to spend a lot of time with him as a young man. I had the time to really bond with him. When he gave up hockey in eighth grade, he transitioned to golf and I was able to spend time playing golf with him. I was able to watch him closely. Those high school years are so tough, and there are so many avenues kids can go down. I had good people to cover for me, so I could go watch my son play competitive golf or take an afternoon off to go play a round with him.
What would you say to someone interested in buying a Midas franchise? You are going to have to work. Our business has changed to where you can no longer be an absentee owner. It requires daily management of your people and of your business. There is great opportunity, but it is going to take continual investment in technology and equipment. If you take care of your customers and put out the effort needed, there is a very nice living for you. It can be a lot of fun.
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