Bob Benjamin, a retired U.S. Army colonel, has been president of MAACO for nearly a year.
2018 was another flat year for sales growth at MAACO, the auto repair and paint franchise that also stayed flat the prior year, said Bob Benjamin, president for about 11 months. But he predicts growth will get going again in 2019.
He predicts about 2.5 to 3 percent growth in systemwide sales in 2019 compared to 2018, modest to be sure but an improvement from the numbers posted in the Franchise Times Top 200+, the exclusive ranking of the 500 largest franchise systems based on systemwide sales and published each October.
Ranked No. 141 on last year’s ranking, MAACO reported $518 million in systemwide sales, a decline of 0.1 percent from the prior year. No. 103 Carstar, by comparison, boosted sales by 13.5 percent to $847 million, and No. 226 Christian Bros. Automotive reported an 8.6 percent increase to $238 million.
Asked what contributed to MAACO’s relatively poor performance, Benjamin said on a conference call today they’ve spent the last year or two researching what matters most to customers and analyzing the stores in the system to get growth going again.
“We figured it out during 2018 and we’re moving forward. I think those were years of investment and determining what’s the product and where do we need to be taking the company. It was kind of, I don’t want to say hibernation," but a time of analysis. “We’ve learned lessons we needed to learn.”
He cited as fruitful a survey of customers to find what’s most important to them, a new certification program for technicians at the store level, and a revamped advertising campaign that will focus on digital and streaming rather than the cable television ads of the past.
In 2019 he expects sales growth to come primarily from existing franchisees, to help them push their store sales and counts higher, whereas in 2020 and beyond he expects to push growth from new operators coming into the system.