Succeeding in a Male-Dominated Industry
Success as a woman franchise owner requires patience, trust and integrity.
By Katie Inge
The automotive aftermarket is a fast-growing industry with strong ROI and growth potential, particularly for aspiring entrepreneurs interested in franchising. However, for a variety of reasons, there are still few women franchisees in the aftermarket, a trend that is slowly beginning to change.
As a franchise owner of a Maaco paint and collision repair shop, I’ve built my business the same way most franchisees have, but with the added perspective of being a woman in what is still largely a man’s world, as well as one of the youngest owners in the franchise system.
There’s a lot I know now that I wish I’d known when I was first starting out – advice that can make a difference for a new business owner, whether as a woman, an aftermarket professional or a franchisee in any industry.
As a business owner, I want to make sure all my customers know they can depend on my shop for solid expertise and advice. Any franchisee knows the key to customer satisfaction is a quality service or product. In addition, they need to know they can depend on you for good advice and opinions when it comes to their vehicle.
Before I began running my own shop, I was lucky that my father made sure I learned everything about the business, from the cars to the back office to working with customers and bookkeeping. I worked my way up from the bottom – from sanding to painting to learning everything about cars from the outside in.
As a franchisee, I pride myself on my business’s reputation as a trusted collision and paint repair business. Many franchisees in the aftermarket may not have prior experience in car care or maintenance like I did, which is fine – what matters the most is that you, as an owner, build trust by following the tried-and-tested processes and systems of a reliable brand.
“Customer service has often involved a steeper learning curve than becoming an expert in car care and services.”
Build a strong team
Every franchisee needs a strong team to ensure they’re delivering quality services and a superior customer experience. As a woman franchisee, it is especially important to find a manager and employees that can back mr up no matter what happens at the shop.
I encourage other franchisees, whether in the aftermarket or in any industry, to fill their business with employees, and especially a manager, that can build an environment that allows everyone to focus on the task at hand – delivering quality services to the client.
Building trust with customers is about proving to them that you value honesty and integrity, both in what you say and what you do. Growing your customer base starts by showing that respect to everyone who walks through the door and taking the time to build relationships that turn into repeat business.
I’ve found that women customers tend to gravitate to me as an owner, and it’s always exciting to build those relationships with people who might sometimes feel less than confident seeking car care services in a male-dominated industry. Sometimes it’s a little harder to gain a male customer’s trust, especially in older generations, but I enjoy the challenge – I am always willing to go the extra mile for excellent customer service.
My goal is to always be honest with customers. At a grassroots level, that trust often begins with making connections in the community, and taking the time to meet other business owners and people who live nearby. This has resulted in repeat customers and the positive word of mouth has also boosted the reputation of my shop.
Learning the ins and outs of customer service has often been a steeper learning curve than becoming an expert in car care and services. There are many different types of customers seeking paint and collision services. I’ve had to quickly figure out the best ways to accommodate different individual needs and expectations.
As a business owner, I’ve discovered that that what you put into it is what you get out of it. In my case, that means continually growing my business. By staying patiently focused on my goals, you can expand, too.
“It’s important to have thick skin, and not to take things too personally.”
Over time, I’ve learned it’s important to have thick skin, and not to take things too personally, especially in the beginning as the business starts to grow. At the end of the day, what’s most important it to work in an industry you are passionate about.
That passion is the most important piece of advice I can give any owner in the aftermarket industry, man or woman: Don’t let anything hold you, or your business, from meeting your goals as an entrepreneur.
Katie Inge is a franchise owner of Maaco of Chesapeake. Learn more about Maaco Franchising at www.franchise.org/maaco-franchising-inc-franchise.