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Franchise Players: There's No One Path to Becoming a Franchisee

Prior to becoming an auto care franchisee, Nick Carpinello worked as a CPA, an equity investor and a controller of a software development company. Here's what he's learned.
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Franchise Players  is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. After last week's franchisees under 30, this week we're profiling baby boomer franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email

Nick Carpinello's career has included being a CPA, working for a public company that manufactured and sold armored vehicles for personal protection and the U.S. military, and acting as an equity investor in a computer training facilities company. What do these positions have to do with auto care? According to Carpinello, plenty. With experience in finance, production, human resources, vendor relationships and more, Carpinello was able to focus on making sales as a Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care franchisee when he joined the franchise almost 10 years ago. Here's what he's learned in the last decade.

Name:  Nick Carpinello

Franchise owned: Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care Center

How long you have owned the franchise?

Nine years and six months.

Related: Franchise Players: This Franchisee Caught the Business Bug in High School

Why franchising? 

Franchising provided brand awareness, proven business model, other franchisee support and exit value.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner? 

My previous jobs include being CPA with Arthur Andersen & Co, Controller Treasurer of public company that manufactured and sold armored vehicles, equity investor in a computer training facilities franchisor and controller of a software development company in the retail pricing segment.

Why did you choose this particular franchise? 

For a long time had interest in auto repair. I believe there is a continuous supply of customers who are looking for a reputable auto service center. My thought was I would need reliable technicians/employees, great customer service approach and the wild card make a profit. 

I chose Cottman over other transmission franchises because they had recently been acquired by a financial investor and rebranded. I knew as a financial investment the company was well vetted for profit potential and there would be a healthy pressure to perform which I viewed as translating into focus on a strong franchise group.

How did entering franchising later in life shape your experience? 

I have extensive knowledge and experience in basic business areas such as financing, production, human resources, vendor relations, understanding contracts, etc. This knowledge and experience was gained over the years and allowed me to work on marketing, customer relations and sales (which were not my strongest areas) instead of getting bogged down is these other matters.    

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

Franchise license and deposits $40,000

Initial admin and legal fees $7,000

Shop equipment $85,000

Office equipment $12,000

Initial advertising/marketing $6,000

Total - $150,000

Related: Franchise Players: From Piloting Planes to Fro-Yo Franchising

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research? 

Franchise broker, drive around talk to other repair shops, internet, franchisor.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise? 

Finding a suitable building, there were just none in the areas of the city I was focused on, as well as the mean time from signing a lease to opening the doors. Of course I was quite anxious to open so one day was too long, much less four months.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?  

Be certain exactly what the support from the franchisor will be by talking to other franchisees who have been in the chain for different periods of time. Be careful on what you spend your initial capital, there is a fine line between essential and non-essential but desirable. Such as appearance related investments. For example, one new franchisee spent $40,000 to pave a parking lot that was acceptable the way it was. He sure could have used that money later on, but it was gone.

What’s next for you and your business? 

I recently became a customer exhaust dealer which along with our general auto repair services provides a broader base from which to operate and attract new customers. The internet is a phenomenal source of leads, so we, Cottman HQ marketing in the lead and I, are intensely working on mining the internet for all we can. 

Related: Franchise Players: From Technician to 'All In' as a Car Care Franchisee