A franchise with “less hassle, more hustle” and all the right tools for success.
by Erin Coldewey – National Oil & Lube News
January 2015

Franchise: Grease Monkey
Years of Operation: 37
Stores: 300

Mission Statement: “Our mission is to be our customers’ trusted partner for vehicle maintenance with a ‘less hassle, more hustle’ experience every time.”

Jon Crum didn’t grow up getting his oil changed. He grew up going to Grease Monkey. It was his first job at 14 years old, a successful business he ran with his father and now it’s what he does each day as an owner and operator in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Jon Crum's Grease Monkey in Greensboro, NC

Jon Crum’s Grease Monkey in Greensboro, NC

“I want it to be a household name. I remember as a kid we didn’t ‘get our oil changed,’ we ‘went to Grease Monkey,’” Crum said. “That’s my goal with what we’re doing.”

Now Crum and his crew take Grease Monkey out of the shop with them onto Little League baseball fields and into elementary schools.

“We have a mascot — Seymore Miles — the Grease Monkey mascot,” Crum said. “It’s a nine- or 10-foot inflatable monkey suit. The kids, for lack of a better term, just go bananas over Seymore. We hand out stuffed monkeys, and the kids just love them. Community involvement makes a big difference because you are dealing with people who are close to your store. We let the kids get the name, and they talk about it to their parents.”

Aside from Seymore, there are some serious benefits to being a member of the Grease Monkey family.

“I think the main benefit is they negotiate pricing on oil and filters,” Crum said. “What I’m able to get as a single-store operator is very good. That pretty much justifies the royalties.”

But the benefits go beyond dollars and cents.

“The real benefit I find is the interaction with other franchisees in the system,” Crum said.

Every three months, Crum and a handful of Grease Monkey franchisees with locations in North Carolina meet at a specified location and discuss operations.

“We find out what’s working, what’s not, what cars they’re servicing and what services they’re doing on specific cars,” Crum said. “It’s small things that you can’t thumb through a book and find out. You’ve got to find someone who is doing whatever is you’re doing or want to be doing and has had success with it.”

One area where many operators are finding success is the digital arena, but unfamiliarity with various platforms and constant upkeep have hindered some from exploring the wide and wonderful world of social media. But at Grease Monkey, you have a tour guide.

“I’m not a marketing or advertising person,” Crum said. “I lean prettily heavily on [GREASE MONKEY] for that, especially now with social media. I’m not on Facebook, but the franchise supports my company Facebook page. They contact me with material, asking if it’s approved or not. If I approve it, it goes on the page.”

As the best social efforts are, updating Crum’s page is a collaborative effort.

“I contact Grease Monkey when I have something specific I want to have posted,” Crum said. “We did a charity event for the local cancer center last month, and I asked them to put that up on the page for me. I’m an operations person. I’m best at managing the flow inside the shops and giving customer service under any circumstance. Most people want to hear the economics behind it and they ask ‘Why would I pay royalties every month?’ First, it’s the price negotiation they do on my behalf, but more than that, it’s the additional support in the areas where I need help the most.”

Crum’s North Carolina shop is one of nearly 300 Grease Monkey locations.

“Our mission is to be our customers’ trusted partner for vehicle maintenance with a ‘less hassle, more hustle’ experience every time,” said Ralph Yarusso, senior vice president of Domestic Operations for Grease Monkey International. “One of the key elements about Grease Monkey is that we aren’t owned by an oil company. Our franchisees have choices. Another component is we are a vet-friendly company recognized with the International Franchise Association (IFA), and we offer a $10,000 discount to any of our veterans with honorable discharge.”

The “less hassle, more hustle” mentality is the bread and butter of the Grease Monkey mission. It’s also something franchisees can expect from the executive team.

“You’ve heard all the sayings like, ‘You can be in business for yourself, but not by yourself,’” said Tom Staker, director of Training and New Services for Grease Monkey International. “But what it really comes down to, for me personally, was I liked to sell. I liked the whole business environment, but I’m not a big creative guy. If I could find something that interested me and used that program that’s already been thought through and mulled over, I might use my talents, couple that with a good program and that’s a good combination for me.”

In addition to the many benefits Grease Monkey offers, the franchise is experiencing a modern-day renaissance heading into the new year.

“We’re a company that’s revitalized, and we have a renewed spirit of putting a world-class organization together,” Staker said. “I think our franchisees are starting to feel that. It’s not just about oil in the lube business. It’s about the process and the experience that you give the customer and that takes training.”

These days, it’s not enough to simply be better than the alternative.

“Used to, if you were just better than the other oil change down the road, you were fine,” Tom said. “That’s not true anymore. We’re being compared with all retail experiences a customer has.”

Any retail establishment is as good as the employees on the payroll. To keep everyone on top of their proverbial game, Grease Monkey provides a wealth of training opportunities both in-person and online.

“For 2014, I’m projecting over 5,000 man hours of training,” Staker said. “That’s instructor led, in-person training that we have accomplished in the last year.”

The franchise also offers Grease Monkey University, an online, state-of-the-art training program available to all franchisees. New courses are continually updated to match the different programs and procedures implemented throughout the year.

“We are projecting by the end of 2014 to have over 18,000 courses completed within our company,” Staker said.

Whether you are a single- or multi-store operator, you’ll never be just a cog in the Grease Monkey corporate machine.

“[The executive team] has operated stores. We’re not ivory tower people,” Yarusso said. “We know what it takes to get behind the counter and serve the customer.”

Perhaps it’s this element that has led to the franchise’s unique leadership style.

“We place a lot of stock in what our owners and managers have to say,” Staker said. “We’re more supporting from the field up when it comes to new ideas and programs because we know it’s tried and tested. It came from the field. Those are the most effective programs.”

For Crum, being a Grease Monkey franchisee is truly a marriage between talents.

“With the franchise, I can concentrate on what I’m good at,” Crum said. “They’ll supplement where I’m lacking. To me that’s more valuable than the dollars.”