Description: Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops is a premier automotive repair franchise who is based in suburban Chicago Illinois. Our franchisees are a close-knit family, dedicated to providing high quality maintenance and repairs at a fair price. Opportunities: Single, multi-unit available in: IL, WI, GA, CA, HI, IN, MD, MI, MN, NY, ND, RI, SD, VA, WA Business Type: Franchise. Minimum Cash Required: $110,000. Financing Assistance: Yes, through a third party. Training Provided: Yes. SBA-Approved: Yes.
If you qualify, we will give you a $10,000 discount on the initial franchise fee.
Interview with Ray Munoz: General Manager of Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops
Merlin 200,000 Miles is unlike any other auto repair franchise. What’s the difference? The Merlin concept focuses on building and maintaining long term customer relationships, rather than one time transactions. Merlin is about providing high value to both customers and its franchisees. Merlin has the expertise to make sure that franchisees are equipped with the tools for success and longevity — just like the vehicles serviced.
In this Success Story Interview, we hear from Merlin 200,000 Miles General Manager Ray Munoz. Ray has been with Merlin since 2002 and now oversees the entire brand. Among the variety of roles he plays, Ray is actively involved with helping franchisees make the most of their Merlin franchise and building vendor relationships. Read on to find out why this premiere auto repair franchise with a very attractive price tag is ready to support you for the long haul.
Tell us about your history and role at Merlin.
I began my career with Merlin in 2002 as the Director of Company Stores. Since that time I have held the positions of Director Franchise Operations and then Director of Program Development for the chain. In May of 2015, I was promoted to General Manager and oversee the entire brand based out of Chicago.
Merlin is an upscale, automotive provider that helps customers get the full life from their vehicle much more cost effectively then the dealer solution. Merlin franchisees are dedicated to their business and are a close knit organization.
Day to day, I have an active role with the operations team and work closely with them and the Franchisees to ensure shops are getting the most out of the Merlin Operating System. I also work closely with Merlin’s Marketing team to ensure a consistent message to consumers is being delivered.
I am also heavily involved in administering and establishing new special vendor relationships that maximize the Franchisees buying power of quality brand products.
Why is automotive maintenance a good industry for a prospective franchisee?
Like a lot of aspects of the automotive industry, maintenance is recession proof. People are always going to have cars and more than not, people now want to make those cars last longer than ever before. Merlin 200,000 Miles provides a perfect solution because people from different fields can come in and be successful with the Merlin Operating System and different programs we have in place. It’s a relatively low investment business with a good earnings potential. You don’t have to be a millionaire to own your own business.
Merlin 200,000 Miles has strong systems, processes, and market recognition. We have a full complement of Operations Manuals paired with frequent site visits by our Operations staff to help monitor, develop, and coach.
A dedicated free standing training center in the Chicago area is available that Franchisees can utilize at no-charge to them. There is a full complement of hands-on management and technical training classes offered year around.
National and local marketing programs build the brands top of mind awareness and present a call to action to help Franchisees acquire and retain new customers. There are aggressive local programs that have special pricing, are template based and easy to use for Franchisees to locally market their business.
How long does it typically take for a franchisee to get their business up and running?
If they remodel an existing facility, they can be up-and-running in as soon as 60 days. If they start with a brand new facility, from the ground up, it normally ranges from six to nine months.
What is your #1 piece of advice you would share to a first-time franchisee?
Follow the Merlin Operating System which has been in development for over 40 years. Franchise owners will have a higher degree of success if they use and follow the process laid out for them. Also, hire happy, competent people and be ready to develop your staff.
What has been the biggest challenge Merlin has faced? How did you overcome it?
Staffing is one of the challenges that demand our constant focus. We promote “growing our own,” and we strive to employ good, hard-working people with high school or tech school degrees that are eager and willing to learn. This is a big initiative that we support through a corporate tool reimbursement program. This program helps us join forces with the Franchisee to provide a newly hired technician with $2,000 worth of tools. The funding is split between Merlin and the Franchisee and if the technician stays with Merlin for a full year, they get to keep the tools. Normally technicians have to bring their own tools, which are expensive especially for a young tech right out of school, so this is a big incentive. Additionally, all shop Franchisees and employees have full access to the Merlin Training Center in combination with in-shop e-training. This gives Franchisees an advantage in getting their staff up to speed and not having to wait for an onsite training class. In total, we offer approximately 130 training classes that employees can partake in. We are doing our best to construct programs that will meet the needs of our Franchisees and that will help them hire employees that are going to be in it for the long haul.
No automotive experience is required. What kind background is valuable to succeed?
A passion to succeed is paramount to profitability. In addition to that, keeping customers’ first and training staff appropriately help Franchisees toward success. It’s beneficial for the prospective Franchisee to really understand what a franchise business is, and be open and willing to use the Operations and Marketing tools that we provide. Additionally, business management experience is helpful but it’s definitely not a necessity. We have Franchisees that operate million dollar stores that had little management experience before they entered the business.
What type of area is best equipped to support a Merlin franchise?
In general, densely populated areas that are metropolitan or suburban are best equipped to support a Merlin Shop. The reason is simply that those are the areas with a high volume of cars and persons who commute regularly which give the Franchisee a great customer base to develop and service.
What’s next for Merlin in terms of future growth?
Expansion of the Merlin Chain is one of our top priorities. We currently have 40 Franchisees in 3 states. Over the next five years, our goal is to be at 75 locations, and we are licensed to sell Franchises in 14 states.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Merlin has a proprietary maintenance program called THE DRIVE FOR 200,000 Miles. The 200,000 mile proposition emphasizes to customers that there is more to life than just car payments. New cars are significantly increasing in cost every year and include loan terms that often extend beyond five years.
Because of this and the fact that cars are designed to last longer, customers want to get the full value from the car they already paid for. Merlin’s DRIVE program of scheduled maintenance and repair helps customers extend and enjoy the full life of their car. This allows them to spend the money they save for things they value as more important such as a college education, investments, or home renovations to name a few.
GREAT! WHAT'S MY NEXT STEP?
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