LEADING FROM THE FRONT

Rapid Tune’s Chief Executive Officer is a hands-on leader and his passion and dedication are getting results

From humble beginnings in a small office of his first store in Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Rapid Tune Chief Executive Officer Mark Rippon developed his franchising vision for the future.
He grew up in a family that was always involved in the automotive industry and after completing his mechanical apprenticeship he joined an automotive brand and eventually ran his own multiple franchise business.
Having been a franchisee himself with other brands, Mark had personally witnessed the pitfalls of other franchise networks and intimately understood the needs of franchisees. He set out to create a franchise brand with a unique culture and high franchisee satisfaction.
His dedication has paid off, as late last year, Rapid Tune was awarded the Franchise Council of Australia’s Australian Established Franchisor of the Year award.
“Winning the FCA Australian Established Franchisor of the Year award is a great honour and testament to the amazing culture we have built together and are renowned for at Rapid Tune,” Mark said.
“Australian small business owners have demonstrated their ability to adjust and adapt during one of the most economically disruptive periods in history.
“It is a surreal feeling to be put up on a pedestal alongside some of Australia’s top franchisors including Chicken Treat, Couriers Please, Pirtek, and RAMS. I commend all of the award finalists and winners on their outstanding efforts and well-deserved recognition in 2021.”
Since its inception in 2003 Rapid Tune has steadily grown its brand, franchise footprint, customer and franchisee satisfaction scores and revenue. It has deliberately chosen to expand sustainably with an initial focus on Victoria and now Queensland. Following that it will turn its attention to New South Wales.
Rapid Tune is an innovative and rapidly growing franchise within the automotive aftermarket repair sector. Today it has 32 locations, 30 franchises and two company stores based in Victoria and Queensland, 22 of which were launched within the last five years.
It performs a wide range of mechanical repairs on all makes and models of vehicles including logbook servicing, brake repairs, air conditioning, management system diagnostics and a complete range of tyre fitting services.
“We see marketing as a vital tool to building brand recognition and consumer trust. In 2019, we saw an opportunity in the market to create brand differentiation from Rapid Tune to other organisations in the car servicing industry,” Mark said.
“Our ‘We’ll keep you moving’ campaign not only represents our strong customer service philosophy and range of products, it promotes the values and professionalism of our people who deliver those services every day.

“Throughout the last 12 months our first marketing priority has been to build brand awareness with the end customers to generate leads for our franchisees. Rapid Tune has invested in local area marketing, especially in Queensland which has a smaller group of franchisees and marketing budget.
“Our national marketing plan was developed by our senior leadership team and external suppliers including our digital marketing and website development agencies. We also involve our franchisees in the planning process, consulting them on our campaign approach and even including them in our creative (for example, some franchisees have starred in our advertisements).”
The multi-channel campaign, which initially ran for the duration of 2019/20, was extended into 2020/21 and now into 2022. This predominantly includes TV commercials on Channel 7 and Channel 9, supported by radio campaigns on MMM and 3AW.
“This campaign has had an excellent impact on brand recognition, building more trust and credibility for the Rapid Tune franchisees,” Mark said.
“The connectivity, TVC campaigns and social media presence have all had a knock-on effect to our online reviews, resulting in high levels of customer satisfaction reflected in our Google ratings.
“We undertake extensive research to inform and keep the business plan current. For example, research is undertaken to identify new store locations including demographic research from local councils and Commonwealth Government Census data.
“We always consult the Group and encourage our franchisees to share their ideas on new products, opportunities and best practices. To further encourage collaboration, we have provided cloud-based software and mobile apps for group-wide communication and to enable the sharing of technical information on the ever-changing industry standards. The same tools help us to capture customer feedback and deliver training for employees and business owners.
“Our cloud-based RMS system also enables the head office to undertake real-time analysis and provide immediate support as needed for all of our franchisees. The sophisticated software delivers valuable data analytics that enable us to pair customers’ most needed services with opportunities for franchisees to generate profit and repeat business.
“Our intranet also helps us to maintain communication and connection across the organisation. In 2020, we established a COVID-19 channel to quickly provide government updates and other forms of support.
“Fears and anxieties about business performance often stem from what’s happening in our personal lives. I’ve learned that you can’t focus on performance without taking into account the personal and emotional needs of the business owner.

“That was especially the case throughout the pandemic when we really needed to provide both professional and personal reassurance for our people.
“Business performance is often measured within spreadsheets, business systems and KPIs, but what’s often overlooked are the personal needs of the business owner.”
The past few years have provided unique challenges for all businesses and Rapid Tune has been no different, but Mark says it was important to get on the front foot and work with his franchisees so everyone could come out the other side safely.
“The onset of COVID-19 enabled us to uncover several opportunities to modify our business planning process and adapt accordingly,” Mark said.
“For example, during Melbourne’s second lockdown our services were reduced to emergency repairs only, which put an enormous strain on Melbourne franchisees. We intervened to lessen the impacts and protect franchisees from the financial fallout out.”
These measures included negotiating rent relief on behalf of franchisees; royalty relief; supporting franchisees to apply for government subsidies and support, financing assistance and loan deferrals.
“These measures not only helped franchisees weather the storm, they also helped us build integrity and bolster our franchisee relationships, demonstrating our proposition of being one of the most supportive franchise systems in the country,” Mark said.
“We realised early on that aspiring franchisees with great potential didn’t always have access to the capital required to attain business ownership.
“This not only restricted individuals from achieving the personal goals and career advancement, but also robbed the Rapid Tune network of highly skilled and experienced business operators. This led us to create Rapid Tune’s financing arm to make business ownership more accessible to the right people.
“Through our vendor’s finance product, we have opened doors to deserving franchisees to achieve their dreams of becoming business owners. This has also supported the wider Group’s successful growth and expansion objectives by retaining highly accomplished and dedicated professionals within our network.”
The automotive aftermarket industry regularly confronts two consistent challenges. Firstly, the ever-changing land scape of vehicle innovation and technology and secondly, the recruitment and training of Automotive Technicians.
“Through the support of the AAAA, we as an industry have the ability to address these issues and enjoy continued success well into the exciting future of the automotive industry,” Mark said.

Mark is convinced team culture is one of the main ingredients in developing a successful automotive business.
“We have a high-performing, adaptable and all-hands-on-deck team culture. Our employees have a shared sense of purpose, ownership and love of the brand which shines through in everything they do,” he enthused.
There are not many other businesses where the Chief Executive Officer is as hands on as Mark, who regularly meets with staff one-on-one to offer mentoring and support.
“Staff are given the opportunity to contribute to other functional areas, take on work outside of their comfort zone, undertake extensive training and take on more responsibility to contribute to their professional development,” Mark said.
He is a strong advocate of the mantra that no team member is more or less important than any other, including the franchise owners themselves and their employees.
“We work hard to build trusted relationships, with open and honest communication, with our franchisees. This enables us to have the tough conversations when needed and encourage accountability in order to help our franchisees succeed,” Mark said.
“We’ve planned for further national expansion without compromising the quality of our franchise network.
“We will never succumb to expanding for expansions sake, selecting the right franchisees for the network always comes first.
“We have a structured step-by-step franchisee recruitment process and are particular when selecting franchisees. We carefully screen candidates to assess suitability and alignment with our business model and culture.
“This is achieved via detailed information gathering in the application phase followed by one-to-one meetings with either our GM or myself as CEO.
“Over 90 percent of franchisee candidates come from within. The rest are attracted via social media campaigns and word of mouth. Candidates are attracted by our extensive franchisee support and personal touch.”
So, with Victoria and Queensland well on the way to being conquered, Australia’s most populated state, New South Wales, is Rapid Tune’s next frontier. There’s no doubt some well-established automotive repair and servicing brands in the Emerald City and its surrounding regions are currently feeling just a little nervous about the prospects of taking on the new player about to enter their territory.

For more information, visit www.rapidtune.com.au