The Best Things in Life are Fleet
When you send a postcard in the mail, or click “checkout” while shopping online, the journey from your fingertips to that object’s destination has only just begun. It doesn’t matter if that postcard is going across the country or that online order is going straight to your doorstep. They both have something major in common: Transportation.
Fleet vehicles are responsible for a variety of important measures that people rely on every single day. From the mail truck to package delivery and more, many business models are contingent on the existence of these vehicles.
The team at Freedom Brands, LLC is reliant on fleet vehicles as well. That’s because their franchise portfolio includes a Maaco Fleet Solutions Center in Phoenix that caters specifically to vehicle fleet repair.
Co-presidents Jake Brown, Gene Boiseau and Jake Morrow each have a different segment focus at Freedom Brands. Morrow oversees the group’s four Meineke locations, Boiseau tackles administrative duties and Brown oversees the three Maaco franchises, including the fleet service center.
“Going into the fleet model was complete luck of the draw,” Brown says. “We found this site that was a resale from a previous franchisee of Maaco.”
There are several other states that carry Maaco Fleet Solutions Centers, including Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Michigan and there are three in Illinois. Freedom Brands opened the Phoenix Maaco Fleet Solutions center in July 2020, after which they went on to open the Meineke locations and Maaco retail locations. The co-presidents have a background in logistics, which Brown says lends itself well to the fleet service model.
“[We] fell into it not knowing exactly what we were getting into. Once we figured out it was the fleet center, we in a sense fell in love with it just because we are from the fleet side of things, being in logistics,” Brown says. “It was something that fit our background perfectly.”
That logistical mindset is something Chris Porcelli, senior vice president of strategy and franchise administration at Maaco, sees as an advantage for these fleet services.
“As long as you have that production mentality, it’s a great piece of the overall Maaco business,” Porcelli says.
Recognize the Distinction
Porcelli explains that the actual business structure of a Maaco Fleet Solutions Center isn’t drastically different from that of a retail center. But there are some important distinctions to keep in mind.
“The structure of the business itself doesn’t really change,” Porcelli says. “It’s really just a different customer that we’re servicing.”
Another key element is staffing. The Freedom Brands retail locations have about eight and 10 employees, while the fleet center has about 16 to 18.
This includes what the group describes as an intricate mix of team members: preppers, maskers, painters that handle oversized vehicles, porters that drive vehicles back and forth from their locations, detailers and estimators.
“The majority of our vehicles that come in aren’t scuff and shoots like our retail centers,” Brown says. “These are the Hertz, the rental car businesses, the Amazon, the USPS … the larger logistics vehicles of the world that have damages [and] need to upkeep a good view and image for their company.”
The larger staff is a useful component of the fleet service model, seeing as the turnaround time is expected to be much quicker than it would be at a retail center.
“The tradeoff is that we have that guaranteed business, and there’s as much business as we can handle,” Boiseau says. “If we tell them we’ll take 20 vehicles they’ll say, ‘How about 40?’ It’s unlimited vehicles, it’s just how fast we can get that stuff through right now.”
Supply chain disruptions and parts shortages can factor into the turnaround time as well by having the potential to add extra time onto a job. Morrow says that situations such as this can present a unique challenge for fleet repair services.
“It is very difficult to explain to a business owner, who makes money off a vehicle being on the road, that we are short on parts or short on staff or short on paint or materials … whatever the case may be,” Morrow says.
Brown says the goal for their fleet service is about 40 vehicles a week. But it’s worth noting that the customer base for fleet services looks a little different than a retail one.
“Instead of going out and finding 40 different retail customers, we deal with five different customers that can get us to that unit amount each week,” Brown says. “Obviously, there is a downside to that. If you lose one customer, you lose 10 to 15 units per week. There’s pros and cons to each side.”
In terms of fleet, Porcelli has seen customers that range from rental car companies to local fleets such as municipalities, local government, police departments and more.
“On the local fleet level, that’s where we encourage our franchisees to just be a part of the community,” Porcelli says. “If they’re sponsoring local little leagues or they’re just out in the community … things of that nature. The name gets out there.”
On a national level, Porcelli explains that Maaco has a dedicated team within their parent company of Driven Brands that seeks out business for their franchisees. Porcelli says they vet every potential partnership for profitability for the franchisee, and then they reach out to different franchisees to gauge interest in participating in those national partnerships. Porcelli also says that Maaco vendors such as Sherwin-Williams, Axalta and PPG help reel in some of those national customers as well.
Grow with Demand
Looking ahead, Brown says the amount of fleet service does not seem likely to slow down anytime soon.
“There are unlimited amounts of vehicles. There’s always going to be logistics around, [and] there’s always going to be deliveries,” Brown says. “It’s only growing from here. These vehicles are on the road seven days a week, so damage is bound to happen … it’s never-ending work for us.”
Porcelli agrees with the continued potential for growth. It’s a good thing, too, because Porcelli says the interest in Maaco Fleet Solutions Centers is apparent.
“We have a ton of interest from folks. More importantly, it’s about finding the right owner in the right location,” Porcelli says. “Ultimately, we rely on data to decide where it makes sense to put a location that is dedicated to fleet based on relationships that we have and the available business that’s there.”
Porcelli encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about the Maaco Fleet Solutions center model to visit maacofranchise.com and reach out to discuss opportunities.
“We absolutely love, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job, talking to potential franchisees and just showing them all of the value and benefits of becoming a Maaco,” Porcelli says.
The group at Freedom Brands has found success with this fleet model. It has taken dedication, hard work and an understanding of the customer. For Brown, it’s all been worth it, and he’s looking forward to the future.
“We are finally to the point where we are making it work. We figured out that special potion to make us move on a daily basis … this shop has been one of our biggest successes, and it’s only going to grow,” Brown says. “I believe, out of our three Maaco shops, this should be the No. 1 shop, and should push to the top of the state just with the amount of fleet work we can have.”