Tim and Laura Rodifer, who own a Milex/Mr. Transmission in Johnson City, Tennessee, were recently named Milex Complete Auto Care Franchisees of the Year for the second time. They have worked in several roles in the Moran Family of Brands system for almost 20 years and are one of the most successful franchise ownership teams in the system.
The Rodifers were selected for the award by their peers, which makes perfect sense given how much Tim has helped other franchisees over the years. In addition to running a successful business, Tim is one Moran’s most helpful and influential owners.
Here is the Rodifers’ story history with Moran.
Their journey with Moran Family of Brands
Tim and Laura bought a Mr. Transmission in Johnson City, Tennessee in September of 2001 and enjoyed immediate success in the market. They purchased another Mr. Transmission shop in nearby Kingsport a year and a half later with the idea that they would sell the latter store within five years, once the lease came up.
After building both stores up to very successful levels, Tim received a very attractive offer from someone wanting to purchase both stores. He decided to sell and went to work as a consultant for the Moran Family of Brands support center. He was so successful in that role in providing support to other franchisees that he was eventually named Vice President of Operations with Moran.
Going back into franchise ownership
Tim settled into his position with Moran, working remotely from Johnson City. During that time, the store’s new owner did not transition well into the role of operating the shop. Since the Rodifers remained landlords of the property, they transitioned back into franchise ownership of the Johnson City store in 2010, which was now a co-branded Milex Compete Auto Care and Mr. Transmission store.
Even though there was a lot of work involved and some initial risk in going back into franchise ownership, the couple was undeterred. Tim and Laura were quickly able to right the ship and return the store to a high level of performance.
“It is in his (Tim’s) blood,” said Laura. This is what he does, and he is so good at it. The easy thing would have been to walk away and just sell the property. Tim and I have never been known for easy. Even given the challenge in front of us, we never hesitated for a second. Not going back into it really wasn’t a consideration. It may have been discussed, but in reality, it wasn’t much of a choice. We were going to make Mr. Transmission what it once was, a good, honest repair shop.”
Additionally, the Rodifers like the co-branded concept of the store and the opportunities it could present for themselves and their customers.
“It is a lot better having a co-branded store because it is so much better for your customers, so they don’t have to go to multiple places for service. It also helps us be more profitable as business owners and build long-term relationships with our customers and community. If someone brings in their car for transmission repair and we happen to notice their brakes need to be replaced, we can do that as well and help save them on labor,” said Laura.
Helping other franchise owners
Through his near two-decade tenure with Moran Family of Brands and his previous role as Vice President of Operations, Tim’s experience in the industry has been a valuable resource to many other franchisees. He frequently posts instructional videos to assist others with any problems they may be facing with a certain aspect of auto repair. He also created a multi-faceted internal database that is used by many other owners throughout the system that tracks hours, monitors workflow and can send customers invoices, coupon offers and text messages.
The husband-wife team.
Tim is president of the company, and handles the day-to-day operations, while Laura is secretary, overseeing things such as administrative responsibilities, payroll, payables and receivables, taxes, bank reconciliation and vendor returns. During the workday, the busy schedules in each of their respective roles often prevent them from spending much time together.
“Since we both work together, one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that we talk all the time,” said Laura. “We hardly get the chance to talk to each other at all during work hours. We have our separate positions and responsibilities. The biggest challenge is finding time, which usually comes at home.”
The secret of their success as franchise owners.
The Rodifers have a recipe for running a successful business and earning the trust of their customers.
Be transparent. “I think the biggest thing is being honest,” said Laura. “There has been a stigma about auto repair shops and taking advantage of customers. Like everything else, the number of bad shops versus the good stores is very few. Unfortunately, people focus on the bad and that spills over to everybody since people naturally have a fear of others taking advantage of them.
“We are very open and upfront about what we do, and we welcome people to ask us questions or request their old parts back,” she said. “We will take customers back and break down what we found. We are very honest and transparent in our service and what we tell our customers.”
Connecting with the customer. Tim makes sure his customers know he always has their best interests in mind. “I operate with a handshake, a smile and a personal guarantee the job will be done right,” he said. He gives them a reassurance that he and his talented staff of ASE certified technicians can fix whatever problem with their car and treat them like family along the way.
Experiences like that are some of the reasons why their store’s Facebook page has over 10,000 Likes, more than any other automotive repair shop in the country. That is even more impressive given the smaller market of Johnson City. Tim credits this enormous following to the deep relationships they have built within their community. Their honest, caring service has led to increased customer engagement and a strong bond with many people in Johnson City.
Stay on top of your profession. The Rodifers don’t allow themselves to become complacent and assume that they have learned everything they need to know with auto repair.
“I think the automotive industry is the most evolving industry out there,” said Laura. “Cars today versus 10 or 20 years ago are so dramatically different. If you compare a car today with one from 20 years ago, you might as well compare it to the first car put out by Henry Ford. With all these changes, you are no longer a mechanic, but a technician. It is not just gear parts anymore, but now you need to be a computer programmer. Keeping educated and staying ahead of these changes is extremely important.”
To that end, Tim frequently attends seminars and is always learning about the business to ensure he is staying updated on the newest systems and technology.
Put the customers first. Tim once kept their store open until 11:00 p.m. so customers who were out of town could pick up their car and get home. He also once drove from Johnson City to outside of Washington, D.C. to pick up a customer and repair their car in an emergency situation.
Tim and Laura have experienced a lot during their two decades of Moran Family of Brands. They have established an outstanding reputation in the Johnson City community and their peers within the system. Their second time winning the Milex Franchisee of the Year Award is richly deserved.