Former Marine Turns To Franchising
Serving two decades in the Marines taught Fred Bowen a key lesson. "You are only as strong as your team is," says the 60-year-old multi-unit franchisee. He's applied that understanding to operating his 4 Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care franchise locations. The result has been a team-oriented culture that focuses on customer satisfaction.
Following 22 years in the Marines and nearly 6 more with the Oklahoma City Police Department, Bowen turned to a career in real estate. That's when he ran across an ad in the local newspaper for an auto repair shop that was looking for franchise investors. He began doing research and discovered he liked what the Cottman brand had to offer.
Bowen is always focused on his team. He looks to hire the best, train them well, and support them in as many ways as he can. "I strive to give my team all of the resources and tools they need. I do as much as I can to ensure their success," he says.
Name: Fred Bowen
Company: Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care
No. of units by brand: 4
Family: Married with 5 kids
Years in franchising: 14 years
Years in current position: 14 years
My involvement in the Marines and the police department shaped my life. As a Marine, I learned that any venture you're in, whether it's business or a hobby, it is important to remember that you are only as strong as your team is. At Cottman, teamwork makes my shop work well and it ensures our customers have the best experience.
I spent 22 years in the Marine Corp. and five-and-half years in Oklahoma City as a police officer.
As a real estate investor, I was looking in the local newspaper to find another property to own when I found an ad for auto repair shop that was looking for franchise investors. I reached out to them for more information and since they were slow in responding back, I did my own research and learned about Cottman in the process. I was thoroughly impressed with the franchise and the support it provides its franchisees, so I decided to move forward.
My day starts at 7:00 - 7:30 a.m. and end at about 6:30 - 7:00 p.m. I spend the week visiting one of my Cottman centers to ensure that my team feels supported; sometimes I work from home.
How do you spend a typical day?
I work closely with my team and mentor them on matters like customer service.
What's your passion in business?
To me, it's all about making sure that your team succeeds. I strive to give my team all of the resources and tools they need. I do as much as I can to ensure their success.
How do you balance life and work?
I am very passionate about my business and I spend most of my time managing my team, but in terms of balance, I manage my own schedule, set my own hours, and have the option to work from home in case my family needs me.
My philosophy is that the team comes first.
Management method or style:
I train my employees so they can be leaders and manage any challenges confidently.
It is challenging to find the best employees.
How close are you to operations?
ince I oversee all operations, I am very close.
How is social media affecting your business?
Social media plays a significant role, but word of mouth is still the biggest reason that customers find out about my shop.
How do you deal with problem employees?
All employees have ongoing training. Also, all of my managers have a conference call once a week to catch up and help each other with challenges they may be facing.
How do you measure your growth? I measure growth weekly and annually by sales per shop.
Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? In 5 years, I will want to establish 5 shops; In 10 years, I will be ready for retirement.
How is the current economy affecting you, your employees, and your customers?
Theoretically, when the economy is down, I have found that customers spend more money on fixing current cars rather than buying a new car. When new car sales are up, that slows business down. At the moment, we have found that the economy is at an uptick.
How do you forecast for your business?
I refer to historical data and that helps me understand where that quarter should go. They recently started researching customer demographics and how that affects the shops.
Where do you find capital for expansion?
I have a 15-year relationship with my bank and they have been instrumental in providing capital for my businesses.
What are you doing to take care of your employees?
I offer advancement training for technicians and I reward employees with performance-based raises and bonuses. My managers also have the ability to earn commission from their sales.
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