When Ned Vandiver joined Express Oil Change, he was told it would take him three to four years to make manager. Vandiver did it in nine months.
Vandiver used knowledge from more than 40 years in the automotive service industry, plus a keen business sense, to quickly move up the ladder. After managing one location in DeKalb County, Vandiver took advantage of an opportunity to become a franchisee and bought two Express stores in the county in 2006.
The 61-year-old Vandiver started his career with General Tire and spent 18 years with Firestone, doing everything from tire specialist to store manager. He traveled the country for Firestone, handling sales and management training, troubleshooting and customer relations.
By the time the opportunity came to become a franchise owner at Express Oil Change, Vandiver was more than ready. After becoming manager of the Express location on Candler Road in Decatur, he said he “turned the business around” in just six to eight weeks.
“I had always run the business as if I was the owner,” said Vandiver, who runs the two stores with his wife Mary Vandiver. “I told the owner of the store, if you ever get ready to sell my store, I want to buy it.”
Ned did just that nearly four years ago.
“It takes a total personal commitment; you have to run it like it’s yours,” Ned Vandiver said. “I was doing it already, so I didn’t have to really do anything different when I bought it.”
Ned Vandiver runs the Candler store and Mary runs the second store on the corner of Moreland Avenue and Memorial Drive. After 27 years in customer relation at BellSouth, Mary Vandiver was up to the challenge.
The husband-and-wife team rarely see each other during the day, but they catch up in the evening when they do all the accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and human resources from their home in Fayetteville.
“This was a natural fit for me,” Mary Vandiver said. “I was retired, but I’ve got to be moving and doing something, so this was a great opportunity for me to re-energize myself. It was a challenge, but it gave me something to be enthused about again.”
The couple places a big emphasis on customer service, and it has helped the business thrive even in a poor economy.
“I never thought my second career would be this,” Mary Vandiver said. “I love interacting with the customers and helping people.”
Says Ned: “Things have changed now. People are keeping their cars longer. We sell the business and sell ourselves; we have to take care of (our customers).”
Ned Vandiver learned about accountability at an early age from his mother, and he has maintained the characteristic as a business owner.
“My mother brought us up to be accountable and responsible,” Ned Vandiver said. “She taught me to put my heart and mind into it. And don’t give up on anything.”
When Vandiver’s father passed away when he was young, he was ready to go to work to help support the family. But his mother had other ideas.
“My mother wouldn’t have that,” Ned Vandiver said. “She took on a second job so she could take care of us.”
Express Oil Change offers a 10-minute, full service drive-through oil change that includes a 20-point inspection of each vehicle. All fluids are also topped off. In addition, a full-service mechanical department offers a wide range of maintenance and repair services.
Vandiver’s dedication to customer service mirrors that of the company. According to the company’s market position statement, “successful growth can be largely attributed to emphasizing integrity in every action, with the business built on the simple principle of superior customer service through convenience and trust …”
Started in 1979, Express Oil Change operates nearly 170 stores in 10 states.
The Vandivers are enjoying being a part of Express Oil Change, and Ned chuckles a bit when asked about retirement.
“I tell people when they back the black buggy up here and come and get me, then I’ll retire,” he said. “I like to stay busy too much to think about retiring.”