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AASA Vision: Christian Brothers CEO Shares 6 Keys To Success


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With more than 250 locations across the country, Christian Brothers Automotive is one of the fastest-growing independent repair chains in the United States. But don’t expect to see that number multiply to 2,000 locations – or even 1,000 – anytime soon.

According to CEO Donnie Carr, the company’s goal is to have 350 shops by 2025. And between 2020 and 2025, Christian Brothers wants to donate $25 million to charities.

Carr’s father, Mark, co-founded Christian Brothers in 1982. During the “Voice of the End Customer” session at the AASA Vision Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, Carr provided a glimpse into the company’s people-first philosophy, which is anchored in “the desire to love our neighbor as ourself.”

“Automotive is not what gets me up in the morning,” Carr declared. “It’s not the thing that I’m most excited about, but I’m proud to be a part of it. The thing that gets me most excited is the opportunity to grow and develop people.

“And so at Christian Brothers Automotive, our passion, our desire, is that no matter how long you spend with the brand – whether it’s three days, three weeks, three years or three decades – that you leave better off than you came. We want you to be the best version of yourself. And that’s not just as a franchisee, a technician, a service writer. It’s as a parent, it’s as a spouse, it’s as a community member.”

With that as a backdrop, Carr shared his six keys to success in life. Carr said he shares these six principles twice a month during training sessions for service writers and technicians.  

He also shared: “I fail at these things on a regular basis. And one of the things that I love is talking about it, because it’s great accountability for me to attempt to do these things.”

1. Take action and follow through.

Carr referenced leadership guru John Maxwell, who has said that out of 100 people, 99 are problem spotters, and one is a problem solver. “In life, if we can be that problem solver, we will be that much more successful,” Carr added.

2. Come prepared.

Carr offered a couple great examples. One came from a documentary he saw about golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player practicing on the driving range in the wee morning hours prior to the start of the 2020 Masters Tournament. Nicklaus and Player were the honorary starters, meaning they each hit one tee shot to begin the tournament.

“So at 5:30 in the morning, 50 degrees out in a light drizzle, these gentlemen are on the driving range, hitting practice shots,” Carr said. “Now, mind you, this is in 2020. And in 1974, they were inducted into the [World Golf Hall of Fame]. What that says to me is that these gentlemen, who have achieved excellence and still reach for it, they come prepared. They spend that little bit of time to make that effort.”

3. Always look for the opportunity in a situation.

“One of the things that’s been tough for me in life is I have two close family members who are bipolar,” Carr explained. “And I love those people, but in life it has created some additional challenges. It’s been a little extra difficult at times, but my awareness, my empathy, my ability to handle those who struggle with anxiety or depression or those with mental illnesses is so much greater now. And I am thankful for that because I know that was an opportunity for me to grow and improve as a person.”

4. Own your financials.

“When you own your finances, you make the decisions and they don’t,” Carr said. “When your payments make your decisions, you’re going to make bad decisions.”

Carr also talked about the power of compound interest, asserting that “one of the greatest multipliers of wealth is time.” If you save $200 a month for 20 years, and earn a 10% annual return on that investment, you have $96,000, he explained. If you save the same amount for 40 years, and earn a 10% annual return, you have more than $1 million to show for it.

5. Surround yourself with amazing people.

“One of my favorite Proverbs is Proverbs 13:20: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. If you can surround yourself with fantastic people – people who are going to hold you accountable, speak truth and love to you – you are going to be that much more successful.”

6. Being intentional.

In life, your attitude and your time are among the few things “that you have close to 100% control over,” according to Carr.

“I don’t think we realize often enough the impact in life that we can have with a great attitude. I don’t think we realize that person sitting next to us or that random interaction that we had, if we can do that with grace and love and with a great attitude, we will be that much more successful in life.”

Regarding time, Carr has jettisoned the phrase “I didn’t have time” from his vocabulary. In its place, he says, “I didn’t make time.”

“When I look at my son, Hank, and I missed his basketball game, and I say, ‘Hey buddy, I didn’t have time for that,’ it’s an easy conversation. But what I say now is, ‘I didn’t make time for that,’ because I own my time. And when I have to have that same conversation with my 6-year-old son and I have to look him in the eyes and say, ‘Hey Hank, I missed your basketball game because I didn’t make time for that,’ that’s a different conversation.”

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      While technology might be a source of angst for some, “this unstoppable march of increasing vehicle content has been incredibly powerful for the aftermarket ticket,” McCarthy declared. “And we think that will continue.”
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      “We would argue that this is a global opportunity that the pandemic underscored to consumers around the world: the safety, the appeal of individual transport and the freedom that it brings. So we think we could look back in 2040, 2050, and say that this was the start of a new golden age of transportation. And we could say that we grabbed this opportunity and we created new ways forward.”
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