Marc and Karen Hayden of Express Oil Change

Shifting Gears
A retired couple’s leap into an oil change franchise on Ambassador Caffery fares far better than expected.
By Andrea Gallo

The economy was dropping, their 401K was tanking and the future of social security was unpredictable. Those circumstances led Marc and Karen Hayden, a married couple both aged 56, away from retiring and into the unknown tools, garages and tires of opening Express Oil Change and Service Center.

The Haydens are not alone in suffering from retirement anxiety among their baby boomer peers. Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America found in March that 35 percent of baby boomers felt “totally unprepared” financially for retirement. A recent Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll reveals only 11 percent of people are assured they are financially poised for retirement. The jitters are being felt thousands of miles away, as newspapers in Montreal, England, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand have reported the trend as well.

“It was very scary to change careers at our age,” Karen says. “It still is.”
Despite the risky career change, the Haydens are happy in their new field, which they researched extensively. Both carry marine industry sales backgrounds where they lived in Slidell, but their sales jobs demanded frequent travel, leaving them less time to spend together. That’s when the couple began thinking about opening a franchise. Hurricane Katrina hit and further inspired them to start a venture in Lafayette.

Karen and Marc say research and not being afraid to step out of their box were two important parts of starting their business. They took a class from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and perused opening coffee shops, post offices and Subways. Oil changes, they discovered, are pretty recession-proof since vehicles are necessities in today’s society.

The Haydens liked the Express Oil Change and Service Center franchise because it offered both oil change and service shop components. Marc says customers can sit in their cars, drive through a bay and have their oil changed within 10 minutes.

That and high-touch customer service are what will set apart Express Oil Change, the Haydens say. Customers are greeted within 15 seconds of arriving on the lot, where they are thanked for coming and told the cost and time of whatever work their car needs. Workers service the car by checking fluids, filters, tires and more, while a safety check on headlights, tail lights, break lights and the horn wraps up an appointment.

If anything from a maintenance standpoint needs to be addressed, the Haydens say they will show the customer the problem, and if he or she chooses, they can take care of it. Express Oil Change can provide most car maintenance except for re-building transmissions and engines.

Express Oil Change and Service Center charges $39 for an oil change that includes up to five quarts of oil. Each additional quart costs $6.

Business has been taking off thus far, which the Haydens attribute to their location, 3735 Ambassador Caffery Parkway next to Home Depot. The first week, Marc says, they serviced 180 cars — about 26 cars per day — and the franchisor told them the average opening car count was between seven and 10 cars per day.

Marc and Karen have been working together for years, giving them the comfort of knowing how the other operates in the workplace.

“We lean on each other,” Karen says. Their combined confidence convinced them they could abandon retirement in favor of a new career, and they hope to open another Express Oil Change in Lafayette.

“We said, we can rely on ourselves, even in a new venture,” Marc says. “We needed to have control over our destiny, which we do have now.”

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