Grease Monkey owner has six stores and has plans for more
As a former airplane pilot, Steve Sessums knows a thing or two about having a plan. After weathering a merger and witnessing the dramatic industry changes that occurred after 9/11, Sessums and his wife decided a back-up retirement strategy was in order.
From becoming a single location Grease Monkey® owner in Sheridan, Wyoming, to winning the 2018 Franchisee of the Year at Grease Monkey, Sessums has turned automotive repair into a family affair, leveraging the know-how of Grease Monkey’s headquarters and a little friendly competition.
Keeping it in the Family
“When I started looking for business opportunities, Grease Monkey came to mind. My wife and I had church friends who owned a Grease Monkey in Grand Junction, Colorado. It was a nice, clean place you could always take your car to and be confident it was being taken care of,” Sessums says.
When the Sessums were looking for a new business, they saw that their son-in-law Chuck Eldridge was open to a career change. He and their daughter had small kids, and he didn’t want to spend quite so much time away from home. Now Sessums and his wife Gloria own their Grease Monkey locations in partnership with Chuck, also a former pilot, and daughter Rachel.
“Chuck and I operate the business together and work hand in hand. Gloria and Rachel provide guidance for us on a regular basis. Chuck and I talk every day, most often more than once a day,” Sessums says.
Sessums recalls the early days, shortly after he and his family acquired their first location, when he and Chuck spent hours in the store every day, familiarizing themselves with systems and processes, and learning a few things about cars and trucks.
“We often are asked whether this business can operate from an absentee owner standpoint. I don’t think it does as well. It requires involvement every day.”
Since the business’s exponential growth – Sessums owns six stores – he and Chuck have stepped into a more strategic role, relying on the commitment of their store managers to drive success.
It’s a commitment sometimes born of competition. With Grease Monkey stores in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, the Sessums family has gotten creative when it comes to communicating successes and ideas.
“Our stores are separated quite a bit by distance. Our managers watch each other and compete. Even though we are spread apart, we operate the business as a team. We often have managers visit other stores to see how their counterparts are managing their stores. It keeps us all connected,” Sessums says.
The family is planning to expand. They have purchased additional franchise agreements and are looking for locations.
Sessums says, “It has become quite an enterprise for our entire family. Now we are thinking about building it for our retirement, but also for some of our future generations.”
Automotive Experience Not Required
When first considering investing in a Grease Monkey franchise, Sessums worried that his limited experience with cars might prove detrimental. Instead, the opposite has been true. Thanks to Grease Monkey’s franchise support, Sessums can focus more on the intangibles.
“We don’t focus on an automotive background. Grease Monkey has a training and certification program for that. We like to find people who have a customer service attitude and who communicate well. You need a can-do attitude, a smile, and a willingness to learn. Those things are more important to us than knowing all the specifics about oil and filters and automotive services,” Sessums says.
“Grease Monkey’s “motto is ‘only what you need, guaranteed’ and they really do take that to heart, and they encourage franchisees to do the same thing.
“We bought a franchise — into a system — and decided we were going to do whatever Grease Monkey told us to do. We figured we paid for the franchise, we ought to maybe do things their way, and that has been one of our very best decisions. When Grease Monkey has an idea, it is usually a pretty good idea, and our stores have been successful.”