Mark Carr | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mark Carr

Background:  

Christian Brothers Automotive is a Houston-based auto care franchise that opened in 1982 and has 155 locations nationwide. 

The Mistake:

In 1982 when I first started Christian Brothers I had a partner that I ended up having to buy out because he was doing detrimental things to the business. 

At the time I was 28 and working for a company and doing pretty well,  but I was basically an order taker. A mechanic in my Bible studies class wanted to open his own garage and so I said, ‘Sure, let’s give it a whirl.’ I borrowed money, bought land and built a building. I figured if the business went south at least I’d have the real estate.

I wanted to be fair and split the business 50/50. My attorney at the time — who is still with the company today — advised me against that because I was putting all the money in. In the end he convinced me to divide the partnership 51/49, so I would be majority owner.

I still had another job so I was able to provide for my family. My father worked for me for a while and ran the business side and my partner ran the mechanical side. My father and my partner did not get along. I had lunch meetings with my father and partner at least once a week and I tried to help them work out their differences.

It got to a point where my partner was doing detrimental things to the business. For example, he would sell a product or service for half the price it was supposed to be. Eventually, I had to end the relationship and I ended up buying him out to gain full ownership of the company. 

If someone owns stock in the company and gets lazy and doesn’t want to pull their weight, you’re kind of in a bind. 

The Lesson:

Instead of giving stock away I could have structured the business so my partner received 50 percent of the profits. That’s fine. If someone owns stock in the company and gets lazy and doesn’t want to pull their weight, you’re kind of in a bind.

In all the things I’ve done, I’ve learned you have to be careful to investigate a person through and throughout. If you’re going to get into a relationship with someone do your due diligence. Dig in as deep as you can. If that person you get into business with is resistant to doing things formally and with proper documentation, then back up.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. My attorney was my first friend in Houston and we’ve now known each other 35 years. In the beginning, when you’re starting a business you don’t have any money. You’re just broke. Finding a good lawyer in the beginning is tough to do. If you have friends that are attorneys ask for their help or ask other successful business people for advice.

Follow Christian Brothers on Twitter @ChristianBros.

Photo courtesy of Christian Brothers Automotive.

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