TUPELO – Randy Groover puts a lot of pressure on himself.
But the pressure is one of the reasons Groover thinks his company, Pro Oil Shop, has become the state’s largest Texaco Xpress Lube franchise.
When he started the business in 1994, he pulled retirement money out of his 401(k) to build the first store in Tupelo, which focuses on oil changes.
“I took a lot of risk,” said Groover, who is president of Pro Oil Shop, which does business as Texaco Xpress Lube. “I couldn’t afford to lose. … When I got into this business, it wasn’t an option. You had to make it. There was no other option.”
And 16 years later, he now owns six stores and has 50 employees.
He’s gone from servicing 28 cars on his first day of business to about 300 to 400 vehicles a day now.
“You don’t know how much heart and soul I put into this for years,” he said.
Groover originally started in retail, working for Lowe’s for about 15 years. After years of travel, he and his family wanted to settle down. He and his wife, Lauren, were living in Ohio with their young twin boys and they wanted to go home to Northeast Mississippi.
Lauren Groover – who lost her battle with breast cancer this year – had a friend in Louisiana who had a quick-lube business, so the Groovers wanted to see if the industry would fit them.
“We bought a bottle of oil and got the 1-800 number on the back and called them,” Groover said. “Ain’t that crazy?”
After more research, the Groovers settled on the Havoline brand, which is owned by Texaco’s parent company, Chevron. They opened their first Texaco Xpress Lube on North Gloster Street in April 15, 1994.
“When I got in business, my mother was like, ‘You’re going to change oil for a living? Surely not,'” he said.
Employees drive success
Later that year, he added a store in Booneville. Now he has four locations in Tupelo, one in Booneville and a Pennzoil Service Center in Corinth. In Tupelo, he also has an Xpress Service Center behind the his North Gloster store.
“My success is from my employees,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without any of my people.”
Groover said that making a difference in the young people he hires part time has been rewarding. He calls it a life investment.
“They come up to me 15 years later and say ‘thank you,'” he said. “It really gives me a lot of pride when these kids come back and shake my hand as young men and young women.”
Sometimes, the young hires stay and grow within the company.
Stephen Cantrell is one example. He started when he was 17 and got paid $5 an hour. Now, he’s the operations manager, overseeing the operations of all the stores.
Groover also has four managers who have been with him for 15 years.
“Our jobs, you would think it’s easy, but it takes a lot of training and knowledge,” Groover said.
The majority of the employees are full time. Groover said he does his best to keep them happy with a good work environment, health insurance, paid vacations and retirement packages because he relies on them to keep the customers happy.
Vehicles “are people’s second- or third-biggest investment,” he said. “You just don’t go anywhere you don’t trust. … It’s the difference for us staying in business – the trust of the people in our service and in our company and the loyalty of the customer.”
“A customer’s experience – I don’t care if it’s a restaurant or what – determines if they are going to come back and I am well aware of that,” he said.
The company has racked up awards within the Texaco system, an accomplishment Groover divulges after some encouragement from Cantrell.
The company has been an Xpress Excellence Award winner, which means Pro Oil was one of 10 companies selected by Texaco for its dedication, hard work and outstanding service.
Groover has held several industry positions, including being an elected board member to the Automotive Oil Change Association, which represents about 3,500 auto maintenance centers worldwide.
Along with the business side, Groover said he thinks it is important to give back to the community. The hallway in his office is lined with pictures of sports teams his company has sponsored and charity events and fundraisers the stores have done.
In the next six months, Groover and Cantrell plan to roll out a new look for the stores. They will be rebranded as Havoline Xpress Lubes and the black awnings will be replaced by red ones.
Along with the new look, Groover said he’s staying on top of the new oils and new oil requirements for vehicles, something he said has made the business a lot more complicated since he started.
He’s also facing more competition from auto dealers, who are bulking up their marketing efforts about their oil change services.
But Groover said he’s going to keep pushing forward, with the goal of being on the cutting edge of his industry.
“We work every day like it’s the first day,” he said. “We can’t afford to fail.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARLIE KOLLATH / NEMS Daily Journal