Valvoline Instant Oil Change


Valvoline Instant Oil Change has expanded rapidly,

and there is room for even more growth.

By Chris Kelsch

In 1866, Dr. John Ellis founded Valvoline when he discovered the lubricating properties of distilled crude oil, formulating the world’s first petroleum-based lubricant. Since that time, Valvoline has been first in many endeavors. It provided the oil for the winning car in America’s first auto race in 1895, and was the first to develop the first all-climate oil in 1959.

In 1986, it opened its first drive-thru oil change center. Thirty years and 200 million oil changes later, it has expanded that number to more than 1,000 centers throughout the United States.

Tony Puckett, president of Valvoline’s Quick Lubes business segment, which includes Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC), has been with Valvoline Fact BoxValvoline since 1986, and has watched it grow from the start. “Our employees certainly have a passion for the car,” Puckett says. “Our motto is: ‘People. Cars. Greatness.’”

And while having a passion for automobiles can certainly help in working at a VIOC center, Puckett is looking for another quality as well. “We’re hiring for people who enjoy serving others,” Puckett says. “We are more interested in what kind of person you are, because we can teach you the technical side.”

Franchise Partnership

When VIOC started in 1986, it was fortunate enough to come across a valuable partner. Don Smith, CEO of Henley Enterprises, is the first and largest VIOC franchisee, and has grown up along with VIOC. He now operates 218 stores with another 30 in development.

Smith remains a big believer in the strength of the Valvoline brand, as well as its support of franchisees. “They have invested so much in upgrading the stores,” Smith says. “From a new point-of-sale system, as well as bigger training and support mechanisms, they have really given franchisees all of the tools they need.”

And that relationship between VIOC and its franchisees goes both ways because Valvoline listens to feedback from franchise owners. “They really do value our input,” Smith says. “It’s a collaborative effort when it comes to making decisions.”

According to Smith, the recipe for success at the franchisee level remains easy to follow: “It comes down to, ‘If you believe in the system and follow it religiously, you will be successful.’”

And Valvoline has invested considerably in ensuring franchisees have all of the tools they need. In addition to the new POS system, there has been the implementation of the “Super-Pro System,” VIOC’s operating blueprint, ensuring that every customer has a high quality service, every time.  At the corporate level, a new IT team has been added to the executive team, ensuring all technology is supported correctly. A new call center has also been built, so the corporate team can monitor feedback from its customers.

Values Alignment

The support that Smith refers to can originate from multiple angles. According to Puckett, the VIOC team works with prospective franchisees to formulate goals. “The first thing we ask them is ‘What do you want to achieve?’” Puckett says. “Generally, we assume a potential owner will want to have multiple stores, so we want to steer them in that direction.”

If the Valvoline team likes a prospect, a coach is assigned and a five-week-long process ensues where basic training occurs, along with letting them meet with other store operators to gain insight into how operations are run.

For Puckett, complete transparency in the early stages of developing franchisees remains crucial. “We want them to have a transparent view and to know what is expected of them,” Puckett says. “We typically have an 18-month window where we help them get a team in place. We also have a real estate team that can help them select sites and build stores.”

Rapid Expansion

In addition to great relationships with its franchisees, Valvoline has ramped up its plans to expand. In early 2017, Valvoline acquired Time-It Lube, a regional chain of quick lube stores in eastern Texas and Louisiana. In late 2015, Valvoline acquired Oil Can Henry’s, based in Portland, Ore., marking Valvoline’s expansion into several markets throughout the Pacific Northwest.

According to Puckett, there is still even more room to grow. That comes from the knowledge that there are still many more regional chains that are ripe for acquisition, and it also comes from his faith in the team at Valvoline. “I’m not a gambler,” Puckett says. “I’ve never been good at betting on things. You have to realize that people are the ones that inspire you.”

As Valvoline has continued to grow, it has just moved into a brand new headquarters in Lexington, Ky. According to Puckett, the new building reflects Valvoline’s culture perfectly. “The structure is bright, transparent and cheerful,” Puckett says. “And there is a lot of technology, and areas where people can work collaboratively.”


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