Spin Cycle

Training Wheels

Making owners out of managers.

By Elaine W. Teague

For Newport Beach, California-based Econo Lube 'N Tune, rewarding longtime managers of company-owned stores with franchise ownership is the name of the game. Econo Lube's Dealer Development Program is based on the company's belief that successful business managers will make successful business owners.

This gutsy move is making a difference in the lives of some key former employees. Case in point: Independence, Missouri, franchisees Calvin and Patricia McMechan. For five years before becoming owners of two Econo Lube franchises, the McMechans put in more than 60 hours a week as Econo Lube store managers.

The couple's dedication and hard work paid off. The Dealer Development Program enabled them to become franchise owners with no investment. No capital investment, that is. Calvin is modest about the investment of time and talent that caught the eye of his franchisor. "I try to give it all I can," he says.

Qualifying for the program isn't easy. Selection is based on proven track records in customer service and sales. Six months of intensive training help smooth the transition to ownership.

Not surprisingly, the McMechans, 18-year veterans of the automotive repair industry, have a philosophy similar to Econo Lube's. "[Econo Lube] financed everything up front. It didn't cost us a cent," says Calvin. "[Now,] we try to take care of our employees."

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Spin Cycle.

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