Learning How to Run a Successful Business from From Father to Son
This Father’s Day presents a great opportunity to showcase two of the most successful franchise owners in the Mr. Transmission system and tell the story of how wisdom and understanding is passed down from father to son.
Scott Hester has owned the Mr. Transmission store in Decatur, Georgia since 2006. His father, Lowell, is the franchise owner of the same brand in nearby Sandy Springs. The business connections between the two were formed through caring communication, patient lessons and sage advice.
Like his father, Scott selected by his peers as the Mr. Transmission Franchisee of the Year in 2019; Lowell won the same honor twice before. But Lowell didn’t just give his son a franchise. Scott bought one on his own—after absorbing his dad’s teachings, sometimes begrudgingly.
After Scott’s parents separated when he was seven, he lived most of the time with his mother in Orlando. He would still frequently travel to Georgia and spend summers with Lowell, who was in the real estate business at the time. Ironically, neither Lowell nor Scott were mechanically inclined.
Scott said he did not even mow the grass when he was growing up, instead hiring a friend from the neighborhood. While Lowell was no handyman, he was an adept salesman, which led to his buying a Mr. Transmission franchise. His talents were in building relationships and trust with his customers.
After high school, Scott followed his father’s footsteps by going into the military. He served eight years in the U.S. Navy, working as an electronic technician aboard the USS Jack Williams. After leaving the service, he took an entry-level job at Lowell’s Mr. Transmission shop in Decatur. Success would not just be handed immediately from father to son. Slowly, Scott worked his way up to be manager.
The Learning Process
With any family-owned business, there are certain roles and boundaries that need to be established when differentiating between professional and personal relationships. That was also the case when Scott and Lowell worked together.
“He told me, ‘When you work here, you are not my son, you are my manager,” said Scott, who recalls that the two occasionally butted heads on certain issues while working together.
When Scott became an owner of his own store in 2006, he still had a lot to learn, and Lowell was happy to advise. That gave Scott some perspective of everything that is involved in owning and operating a store.
“I realized why my dad had made certain decisions with his shop,” said Scott. “If the phone isn’t ringing, you need to change what you are doing and figure it out. That was 15 years ago, and the lessons he taught me have served me well. It has definitely been a long road. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’ve learned from them.”
The Next Generation
Just as Lowell shared his wisdom with his son, Scott is doing the same with his 21-year old son Cameron, who has worked part-time in Scott’s Mr. Transmission store for the past year. While Cameron helps around the shop by answering phones and ordering supplies, Scott devotes time to teaching him about all aspects of the business.
In fact, Scott looks forward to sending Cameron to the management school at the Moran Family of Brands, which Scott also attended.
“I’m teaching him that we are selling more than just transmission repair,” Scott explains. “If someone calls for a quote, anyone can give them a price. You have to ask them about their car and what is wrong with it. When you talk to the customer, you build a relationship with them. I’ve heard other customers say, ‘You are the only store to ask to check out the car. Everyone else just gave me a price.’ That makes a difference.”
Cameron is picking up the Hester family business very quickly.
“When I went away for a week last year and returned to the shop, I received so many compliments about how nice he was and he much he made them feel comfortable,” said Scott. “That made me really proud. He’s a good boy.”
A Bond Stronger Than Ever
In addition to showing Cameron the ropes of the business, Scott stays connected to his own dad. The two talk a few times each week about family and business and manage to play golf together several times a month. At the end of the day, seniority still rules.
“He’s older than I am, but he usually beats me,” Scott admits. “He’s got a few years on me, but he’s been beating me pretty regularly for a while. He’s pretty good.”
The Hester determination never quits, though. Scott will take another crack at it this Father’s Day when they treat themselves to golf on one of the area’s higher-end courses.
“I try to beat him every Father’s Day,” said Scott. “Every time he plays, he says ‘I figured it out.’ Well, he’s figured it out for the past 50 years.”
Although Scott looks forward to competing with his father on the golf course, the love for his father and the impact he has made on his life is clear.
“I’m very proud of my dad, and I appreciate everything he has done for me,” said Scott. “He’s definitely helped me become the man I am and the businessman I’ve become. He’s made a lot of that possible. I’m very proud and love him so much.”