Steer your career with automotive services
Why not steer your passion for cars into a franchise opportunity and get a green light for your own business, suggests Domini Stuart
Earning a good living from something you love; for most people, that's the ultimate career goal. If your passion is cars, a mobile automotive service franchise could throw in the benefits of being your own boss. Or you could even turn driving very fast into a lucrative business.
Superfinish ExpressAsk David Bruckshaw what he does for a living and he'll tell you he paints cars - and that he loves it. "It's exactly what I'd do if I had the choice of any career," he says. "I've enjoyed a great lifestyle and made good money doing it and now I'm helping other car-lovers to do the same."
A sixth generation spray painter and the force behind Superfinish Express, Bruckshaw developed a unique, mobile system for repairing and rejuvenating paint work, plastics, alloy wheels, bumpers and interiors.
"I took my first van to the streets in 1993, offering on-site repairs to the automotive industry," he says. "They couldn't get enough of it. We sold our first franchise just two years later and now have 43 franchisees operating nationally."
Richard Rule, who has a territory in Wollongong, New South Wales, likes putting his previous training and experience to good use.
"I really enjoy the independence," he says. "And I also like the fact that I'm free to get on with the job without worrying about paperwork or chasing customers for payment. The accounts team at the national support office takes care of all that - and I get paid every week."
Bruckshaw says franchisees don't need any experience: "we just look for people who are keen, enthusiastic and have a will to succeed."
Superfinish Express franchises start at $67,500 including GST for an exclusive territory. Franchisees also need their own commercial van; all other equipment, materials and training are provided. New franchisees get help with establishing a customer base and one-on-one training in the necessary technical skills, followed by unlimited technical, marketing and field support.
"We only service the trade," Bruckshaw continues. "We've found that this creates repeat business and consistently high volumes of work all year round."
For Rule, another perk is working on iconic marques.
"One of my most memorable experiences was being asked to repair and paint the interior trim on a red Ferrari with just an hour before the customer arrived," he says. "It turned out perfectly and I got to drive it. What a car!"
What Scratch?Stephen Kuzmik loves being able to see the results of his efforts and knowing his customers will walk away happy. He also loves cars, so when he saw an advertisement for a What Scratch? franchise, it sounded like the perfect fit.
"I get a huge amount of satisfaction from turning a sad, neglected-looking car into one that's gleaming and happy-looking," he says. "And it's great to watch customers' faces when they see the transformation. I've had so many say they can't believe the difference that I've made. I tell them I tapped their car three times with a joke magic wand."
What Scratch? was born 10 years ago when, like Bruckshaw, Matt Burke found a way to turn his love of making cars look their best into a successful mobile business. He, too, thought it would be a good idea to take his services directly to automotive dealerships. It was; he was soon adding van after van in order to keep up with demand.
By 2008 he had decided to franchise and sold his first territory in Perth. Today he has 18 franchisees and four company vans spread across Western Australia and New South Wales. He also owns the exclusive local rights to a patented scratch repair system which doesn't involve mixing or spraying paint.
He says his biggest challenge has been managing the company's growth.
"We approach dealerships in a territory and start servicing them before the franchisee starts training," says Burke. "Franchisees are then introduced to their customers over a minimum of four weeks' one-on-one training. That's very time consuming for us so there is a limit to how many franchises we can sell each year."
What Scratch? franchisees have the option of servicing private clients as well as building their business with fleet work and more dealerships.
"Our marketing and communications manager is available to support any marketing initiatives our franchisees would like to employ, but it's up to them to decide if and how they want to grow," Burke continues.
Kuzmik was happy with his level of income within a matter of weeks.
"I could earn more if I wanted but I prefer to work at a comfortable pace and enjoy a good lifestyle," he says.
Burke looks for franchisees who are physically fit, passionate about cars and have a positive, customer-focused attitude. They also need an investment of $66,000 including GST and, again, their own small van.
He encourages people who are considering a franchise system to look at new brands and systems.
"Modern customers just want their problem solved with the minimum of inconvenience at a fair price," he says. "We believe that franchisees who do this well can't go wrong."
NanotekIt's seven years since Jim Cornish launched an innovative waterless car cleaning system known as Ecowash Mobile - and he still loves what he does.
"Every day is different and fun," he says.
Now known as Nanotek, the company has 130 franchisees across Australia and in 15 countries around the world.
Cornish cites a continuous drive for improvement as the company's biggest ongoing challenge. However, this refusal to settle is also fundamental to its continuing success.
"It prompted the market research that led us to adapt the local system to overseas markets," he says. "It also drove our pioneering use of nanotechnology and the development of the Nanotek brand."
A Nanotek franchise costs $51,700 including GST. Franchisees receive a complete turn-key business, induction training, ongoing support, exclusive products and a range of centralised business systems. The only other cost is a car lease.
"We look for franchisees with entrepreneurial spirit and initiative combined with a team mentality," says Cornish. "With Nanotek, you can either be passionate about the business or passionate about cars - but just be passionate, because that's what makes the difference."
Touch Up GuysPeter Darnell, franchise sales manager for Touch Up Guys, believes having a genuine passion for the business and a total commitment to quality work and customer satisfaction is the key to achieving financial independence and success.
"Our franchisees are highly motivated because they transform damage to our customers' vehicles in a matter of hours and have the satisfaction of instant positive feedback after every job."
Touch Up Guys' services include high quality on-site repairs to automotive bumper bars, paintwork, plastics, and alloy wheels, and installing and colour matching reversing sensors. Most repairs are completed in a matter of hours.
To invest in this mobile business will cost $85,250, which covers full training, fitout, equipment, mentoring, an iPad and relevant software. The costs of an approved vehicle and working capital are the only extras.
"The unique thing about our business," says Darnell "is that everyone has minor damage to their vehicle at some time or other, and every satisfied customer knows friends, family or colleagues who also need the service. Every job that is completed to a high standard generates more work from satisfied and grateful customers. This instills a passion for excellence in our franchisees because it is emotionally rewarding and sound business sense."
Extreme DrivingTwenty two years ago, Mark Haybittle was so determined to spend more time driving rally cars that he bought one, leased a track and started selling the experience. Today, with 67 cars in the Extreme Driving fleet and franchisees in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, he still gets to do what he loves every day.
"Extreme Driving gives people a chance to get behind the wheel of a real rally car," he says. "Customers take turns to drive under instruction then get a flat-out hot lap through the forest with the instructor driving. And, recently, we've added rallying on tarmac and racing V8 cars around a track, so there's a wider choice for both customers and franchisees."
For the right franchisees, Extreme Driving really is a chance to live the dream. Since Haybittle started working on a franchise model in 2006 he hasn't been short of very keen applicants - but his biggest challenge is finding people with passion who also have the ability to run a successful business and access to the necessary finance.
Surprisingly, the one thing they don't need is any special driving experience.
"We can take someone with no experience and train them to the point where they're not only good instructors but good enough to compete if they wanted to," says Haybittle.
For $495,000, franchisees get a turnkey operation including three fully-equipped Rally Drive Day Cars, a track to run them on, backup and training.
While Extreme Driving is not one of the cheapest options, Haybittle says the income is well above that of a conventional franchise.
"There is also huge potential for growth," he points out. "If you want to expand you can buy more cars to run on the same track or take on another location. I can't think of many businesses where you can make such a good living out of having so much fun."