Sisters Wendy Carr and Sonia Cruz-Robinson, right, own the SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Robinson is the operating partner.
Sonia Cruz-Robinson Explains Her Path to Becoming a Franchise Owner
Before Sonia Cruz-Robinson started her SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service franchise in Fort Mill, South Carolina, she spent years building up auto service businesses for other people. When she decided to make the leap from manager to owner, she chose SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service as the ideal brand and business model. We asked Sonia to share some of her experiences.
What were you doing before opening this franchise?
I started working for BMW as a receptionist, then as a service cashier and later, an appointment coordinator. I was there for five years. After that, I worked at a couple of Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge dealerships as a service writer and service manager.
About eight years ago, Carolina Mobility Sales, which sold wheelchair-accessible vans, asked me to help build their service department. That company was sold to Mobility Works, another large wheelchair-accessible van dealership. I worked as a regional service manager and oversaw 12 shops.
What made you want to become a business owner?
I came into the automotive service industry because I love the field. My background is in bookkeeping/accounting. But after working at the dealership, I decided to stay in the industry. As the years went on, I just wanted to own my own shop.
One of the major reasons I wanted my own location is because women sometimes don’t feel safe at shops. They just don’t feel like going to a shop full of men. I would love to see more women in the industry, and I wanted to be that change.
What Makes SpeeDee Stand Out
Why did you choose the SpeeDee franchise?
I didn’t want to just do oil changes. I wanted to be able to do full mechanical repairs, and SpeeDee was willing to let me do that. I wanted to be able to venture out to do full repairs also. It was also an affordable way to get into the business.
What makes the business stand out for your customers?
For me, it is about building relationships with customers, not just doing oil changes. It helps promote trust. Our customers trust us, and when we tell them during their oil change that they are going to need a serpentine belt or a tensioner, they come back and get it done.
We give customers the best quality of work, and if we mess up, we own up and fix it. The employees, too. We are like family.
Challenges and Successes
What have been your largest challenges?
The biggest challenge was that when I redid my building, I didn’t have pits for oil changes like other SpeeDees do, and I had to figure out a way to do the same service. I bought drive-on pits with rotary lifts.
Another challenge for me was marketing. I converted the location of an older automotive business, and I had to change the perception of customers that went to the previous location—I had to make sure to give my all to those folks. You also have to go out and prospect and meet people. I’m a little introverted. I had to go out and hand out fliers to get people to come in.
You have to do a lot of marketing on your own locally, but when you do email the SpeeDee Marketing team, they are there. Right now one of them is working on something for me where I am going to give 60 nurses free oil change gift certificates.
What does it take to succeed?
Potential franchisees should do their research and understand that there will be a lot of work involved, but it is a wonderful opportunity. One thing I finally did was hire a manager because I thought things were stagnant with me trying to manage too many roles, and it was the best decision I made this year.
I was originally looking at it as a previous regional manager, and when I started focusing on it as owner, I realized I have to hire people to help manage. That has helped me be able to reach out and network.
To find out more about the business opportunity with SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service, fill out the form on this page to download our free franchise report.