Six companies have been on our Franchise 500 list for at least 38 of the 40 years we've produced the ranking. Here are their secrets.
Since the Franchise 500 was created in 1980 -- yes, that cover you see above was our very first list -- entire industries have bloomed and then busted (like video stores, which we touted back then as having “incredible potential”), and new ones have emerged that no one saw coming (poke bowls!). But while you can learn a lot by watching what fails, you can learn even more by looking at the brands that have thrived for the past four decades.
So we looked, and only five brands have been on our list all 40 years -- and two of them, McDonald’s and Dunkin’, are in our top 10 this year, too. (The others are Subway, Lawn Doctor, and Martinizing.) Meanwhile, 12 brands made it very close to a 40-year streak, missing by only a year or two: Baskin-Robbins, Chem-Dry, Dairy Queen, Fantastic Sams, Jiffy Lube, Maaco, Meineke, Minuteman Press, 7-Eleven, Servpro, Super 8, and Ziebart.
What are these brands doing right? What are their secrets to a long and healthy life? On the following pages, we ask those questions to six of our long-lasting brands. Here’s what they have to say.
Focus on What’s Profitable / Ziebart
Image credit: Courtesy of Ziebart
Founded / 1959 Franchised / 1962 Years on Franchise 500 / 38
Ziebart’s services were once very focused. Then it expanded, stumbled, and refocused—a path many brands take as they become tempted by new opportunities and drift away from their core mission.
The company began in 1959 with a dedication to one task: rust protection. But in 1980, it transitioned into automobile accessories, which it saw as a bigger opportunity to become a one-stop shop for all things cars. It started selling running boards, sunroofs, keyless entries, and other hard goods, and even changed its name to Ziebart Tidy Car to reflect its new mission. But many of these products offered slim profit margins, which made them duds for franchisees.
When Thomas Wolfe rose to CEO in 1994, he took Ziebart back to basics. The company stopped trying to sell low-margin accessories and shifted back to its protection services. It also changed its name back to Ziebart—just Ziebart.
Now, Wolfe says, it approaches its services straightforwardly. “Each year,” he says, “when the new vehicles come out, we take a look, and, based on those types of vehicles, we recommend to each customer what they need.” That typically means rust protection, high-end detailing to clean and protect the car’s interior, and film protection such as window tinting. It’s simple, clear, and, he says, a “philosophy that has worked very well for us.”
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Ziebart International Corporation is headquartered in Troy, MI, representing a global franchise network of vehicle protection and appearance services for nearly 60 years. The company was founded on its signature service, Genuine Ziebart Rust Protection, in 1959 and operates approximately 400 licensed locations with 950 service centers in 34 countries. Ziebart is the world’s leading name in automotive services that renew, protect, preserve, and enhance the appearance of cars and trucks. Ziebart offers a full line of appearance and protection services for both the interior and exterior of vehicles, including Professional Detailing, Ceramic Z-Gloss® Paint Coating, Window Tint, Z-Shield® Paint Protection Film, Vehicle Wraps, Genuine Ziebart Rust Protection, and Undercoating, Rhino-Linings® Sprayed-on Bed Liners, Truck Accessories, and much more. Visit www.ziebart.com for more information.
Ziebart International Corporation