FenderBender Award Runner Up: Helmuth Mayer

Sept. 1, 2021
A Maaco franchisee works to find the right niche.

Helmuth Mayer was supposed to be a doctor—he even got into medical school.

“I just decided not to attend,” says Mayer, a 2021 FenderBender Award runner-up whose varied career path has led him to excel as co-owner of five Dallas-Fort Worth-area Maaco locations, which last year generated $6.5 million in sales. 

He opened his first shop in 2017 and by this year had been awarded Maaco’s Syl Young Award, considered the brand’s highest recognition, named after one of its first franchisees.

Mayer has some 50 employees and along with his silent partner, a veteran of the copart world, plans to open up to 15 more shop locations.

And while the Maaco franchisee profile is varied, Mayer’s is unique. 

His med school path led him to an internship with GE Medical in Chicago, which turned into a job. Mayer says his next challenge was an MBA, which he completed while still with GE. With his master’s degree in hand, he landed a leadership role within the semiconductor industry; next was a nearly seven-year stint with Dave & Busters, the bar/arcade chain, in strategic leadership, a job he says he loved, though he eventually decided to make a go of it as his own boss.

‘We own our success.’

Mayer says he and his partner looked at many business models, but Maaco was the best fit for the sprawling DFW area, to which he’d relocated to be near family. He says they liked Maaco’s structure, as well as that of Driven Brands, on up to Driven’s holder, Roark Capital, which he says has a profile similar to other companies he’d followed.

“We own our own success at a franchisee level,” he says, “but it’s so much easier that it has a corporate structure that’s supportive of and aligned to the right mission.”

An admitted non-car guy who’s now half a decade into being an automotive business owner, Mayer says his strategic knowledge, skills, and ability honed in other industries would have served him well in any other field, and they’ve been effective in collision repair.

His strategy for his shops in the coming years, he says, is to be very closely aligned with electric vehicles, especially as fleets become electrified. He says he’s going to do so by leveling up the training at his stores, seeking out necessary certifications, and through targeted investment.

“I don’t want to touch any of it before we know we’re fully trained,” he says of the added complexities of working with high-voltage vehicles. “We want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the ability to repair.”

Mayer says he’s betting on a degree of specialization—being a string of Maaco franchises that have EVs cornered—for continued success.

“To run a successful business in the automotive world, sometimes it just takes a niche,” he says. “Understand the changing of trends, and if you can get ahead of the trend and be an expert, that can typically lead you to success.”