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5 Small Businesses with Ethics

3. Christian Brothers Automotive
Like Chick-fil-A, auto repair franchise Christian Brothers Automotive considers itself "faith-based" with a priority on making sure employees, franchise owners and customers are as happy as possible.

Christian Brothers' locations are unlike typical auto repair stores. Service staff wear slacks and pressed shirts. Customers are greeted warmly when they enter a repair shop. And waiting areas look more like doctors' offices -- quite the opposite from the stereotypical oil-soaked, grungy waiting areas for car repair and inspection.

"At the heart of our company as a faith-based organization is to glorify God through our work," says Josh Wall, vice president of franchise and strategic development for Christian Brothers Automotive. "It doesn't mean we're outwardly prophesying to our customers or vendors, but just by giving us an opportunity to serve them they're able to see how it's not just about building a profitable company ... It's about taking care of [customers] like we want to be taken care of."

Franchisees at the Houston-based company also have annual salary packages of at least $60,000, including comprehensive family health insurance and a 50% share of in-store profits, which is unusually high for franchise agreements.

"We're only making a royalty if that business is profitable. It puts the onus on us in coaching them or consulting with them toward success," Wall says. (Christian Brother's franchisees have a zero default rate with the SBA. The company is experiencing 20% average unit growth over the past three years.)

Most importantly though, the company closes its 100 stores -- a milestone it says will be hit next month -- on weekends to ensure employees get rest and family time. (The exception is a new franchise. Stores stay open on weekends while they building a customer base, but after about six months can start closing on weekends.)

Wall acknowledges when the company implemented the policy, revenue dropped, since there is a certain type of customer that makes time for auto service only on weekends. But Wall says it only took about six weeks to get revenue back on track even with the lost sales.

"The short answer is yes, it's one of those things that is challenging for us. We understand that there are certain customers that only want to do business on Saturdays," he says. "We had to make a decision: What's really the best thing for our organization and for our teams. We feel like it's something that's been honored [by customers] as well. In many of our markets that are more mature, we're next to larger-named automotive repair companies and they're open six days a week, sometimes seven days a week, and our stores have opportunity to do more in revenue than those stores."

More importantly though, employees are happier -- a great recruiting tool for top-level technicians, Wall adds.

"When they're getting rest and time to spend with their families, they're happier and working harder Monday through Friday to press out that work by Friday night," Wall says. "It's rare that [franchisees] are not open maybe a little earlier or staying later" during the week.
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