Auto Service World
Feature   December 10, 2013   by Allan Janssen

Gearing for change

Mister Transmission has new owner, new vision, and ambitious goals for the future.




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Mister Transmission is gearing up for some big changes.

The company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has a new owner and is getting ready to unveil plans for a new look, a new focus on technology, and a new commitment to grow the business.

“You’re going to see the look and feel of the stores change,” the company’s long-serving president and CEO Randy Moore told Canadian Technician. “We’re keeping the same colour themes but updating things a bit. We’re modernizing. And on the stores it will say, ‘Mister Transmission: Transmission and Technology Experts.’ That’s where we’re headed.”

Moore said a cornerstone of the new strategy will be to equip all of the company’s 68 stores with J2534 pass-through devices that will allow them to offer advanced diagnostics and download services to its aftermarket clients.

“We’re doing it now. We’ve got some test projects running. We’re offering reflashing to automotive guys who can’t get the training, don’t know how to do it, or who are sending cars out to the dealerships,” Moore said. “We’re used to providing support for these guys. And our experience so far indicates that we are getting new customers as a result of providing even better technical support.”

In addition, franchisees will soon have access to a greater array of tools and resources, including management training, to help them run their businesses.

Moore will preside over the changes, with the help of a new chief operating officer, Doug Wallace, and the company’s new owner, Canadian entrepreneur Paul Craven.

Responsive Brands purchased Mister Transmission (International) on Nov. 8, though the deal was only announced last week. No dollar figure was disclosed.

Mister Transmission (International) had been in the same family hands since its late founder, Bruce Brillinger, opened the first store in 1963. Earlier this year, nearly three years after his death, Brillinger’s widow, Gayle, asked Moore to head up the search for a new owner.

Moore met with many companies – both American and Canadian – before he found the right fit in Responsive Brands. By a quirk of serendipity, he first met Craven at the annual Mister Transmission golf tournament in August. They hit it off and negotiations with Craven’s team began almost immediately, culminating in the Nov. 8 sale.

The team included Doug Wallace, whose family has been involved with Canadian Tire Corporation for years.

Craven’s background includes his own holding company, Craven Capital, and a software start-up, Solarsoft Business Systems, which offered enterprise resource planning (ERP) services for Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturing suppliers to the automotive industry. He ultimately sold the company to Epicor.

“They’re good guys. And they’re Canadian, which made Gayle very happy,” Moore said. “Responsive Brands had the missing ingredient that we wanted. It had the same kind of value system that we’ve always had – and that was critically important to Mrs. Brillinger.”

All agreed that they didn’t want to detract from an ambitious Ford Mustang giveaway contest and the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations with the announcement of the sale.

“We wanted to keep it low key,” he says. “But we’re excited now to discuss some of the neat stuff we’ve been working on in the background. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but it’s all good activity.”

Franchisees have already received several communications about the sale and will get additional details about future plans for the company at the annual spring meeting in March.

Craven says his role in the company will be to help lock in the strategy and then get out of the way so the management team can execute it.

“I’ll be looking to Randy and Doug to run the company,” he said. “Right now we’re making sure we’re all on the same page. We’ve got a lot of things planned to help continue to build this company.”

He said he is focused on increasing value for the company’s existing franchisee base, increasing same-store sales, and growing the number of stores in Canada. He believes there’s room in the market for at least 100 Mister Transmission stores in Canada.

“We come to work every day with those three pillars in mind,” he said. “It involves everything from improving what you’re doing now, to finding new things that you haven’t been doing that will make you more successful. In every case, it’s all about improving salesmanship, finding new customers, and finding new ways to serve your existing customers.”

“We’re very excited about what lies ahead,” said Moore. “We’ve got a great team in place and we’ll be working closely with our franchisees to grow the business.”

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