How an entrepreneur tired of the corporate life became a top performer for the iconic auto repair franchise
We call the corporate life a grind for reason — it’s an endless race of meeting other people’s expectations to advance your career. For many, being subjected to the whims of others becomes too stressful and frustrating a life, as corporate careers make it hard for people to use the whole breadth of their experience, improve their skill sets and reach their potential as leaders. This is why so many corporate executives and professionals hang up their suits and put on the boots of an entrepreneur.
Marlene Herman knew early on that the corporate life wasn’t for her — she left a potentially lucrative career in the banking industry for work that was more hands-on, becoming an expert in forging molten steel — and in doing so bucked the stereotype that women couldn’t succeed in gritty professions. Not only did she succeed, but excelled — so much so that when she discovered that an AAMCO franchise in her area was for sale, she jumped at the chance to go into business for herself.
“I never really thought about owning my own business,” Marlene says. “In 1994, AAMCO was the No. 1 auto repair franchise in the country. I had a gut feeling that I could succeed, as I love cars and I have the care gene — the natural tendency to make sure the people around me are taken care of — which goes a long way with customers.”
Marlene worked with Realtors in her area to find a perfect location – which proved difficult in Cleveland in 1994. She had to hit the pavement, walking the streets of different neighborhoods, touring buildings and then repeating the process. In the end, she had to compromise. She had the perfect building in a less than desirable neighborhood.
“I had six Realtors looking for buildings, and I was out on every street trying to find a building that would suit our needs,” Marlene says. “The building I ended up buying was in Brookline, which was a tough part of Cleveland at the time. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle to get going, but we dug in and did just that. Our business steadily grew, and we established ourselves as a trustworthy business that went above and beyond for our customers.”
In 2002, a nearby AAMCO franchise owner was diagnosed with cancer, forcing him to put his business up for sale. Again, Marlene jumped in and bought him out.
“We jumped in immediately,” Marlene says. “We closed the business down for a weekend, repainted the place, and when we opened, we had a line of angry customers who were wondering why their cars weren’t ready. We had to do a lot of work on improving the reputation of this center, which we did one customer at a time. Fast-forward to today, and I’m proud to say that nearly 50 percent of our business comes from customer referrals.”
Today, Marlene is at the helm of flourishing businesses, and in her corner is the executive team that has reinvigorated the AAMCO brand. AAMCO now boasts a state-of-the-art training facility, a new consumer financing platform and the multiple revenue streams of Total Car Care, which allow AAMCO franchisees to serve their customers’ auto repair needs, from brakes to oil changes to tires beginning in 2018.
“The executive team is really exceptional, and they’re doing a terrific job focusing on customer relationships,” Marlene says. “I adopted Total Car Care early on, and it’s done tremendously well for us. Right now, my revenue is split 60% transmissions and 40% Total Car Care, and we’re growing all the time.”
As Marlene looks towards continuing to grow her business, she has a lot of wisdom to provide to entrepreneurs who are looking into investing into the iconic auto repair franchise:
“You have to really love cars and helping people, because that is your life every single day,” Marlene says. “You have to hire the right people who share your desire to help people and work hard. This business, especially at first, requires a lot of hard work to get established, but it’s worth it in the end. AAMCO is a great business to invest in, and the auto repair is a great industry. You can do very well if you put the work in.”
Bring the iconic auto repair franchise to your community
For more than 50 years, AAMCO’s network of locally owned and independently operated automotive service centers has employed the latest technology. Expert technicians diagnose a repair, fix it right the first time and back it with a nationwide warranty. Known as the world’s leading transmission expert, the company has evolved into a Total Car Care brand that provides a variety of services, including brake repair, tune-ups, shocks and struts, routine maintenance and more.
With nearly 650 centers across North America, AAMCO is actively seeking single- and multi-unit operators who are passionate about the brand and committed to providing the highest-quality service. Interested candidates should have a minimum net worth of $250,000 and liquid assets of at least $65,000 per unit. Depending on the real estate site selected, franchisees can expect the total investment to be $223,600-$330,500, with an $39,500 initial franchise fee. Reduced franchise fees are available for honorably discharged veterans.