Top Notch Oil Changes Brought To Your Door – A Q&A With Nomad Oil Founder, Eric Pearson

Top Notch Oil Changes Brought To Your Door - A Q&A With Nomad Oil FounderNomad is an innovative business that brings top-notch oil change services to your front door. Their goal is to make a stress free and easy way to pamper your car.

We sat down with founder Eric Pearson to learn more about how he got started with Nomad Oil, what struggles he’s had and how he’s found success.

What pain point does Nomad Oil solve?

“Most people don’t have a convenient way to fit car maintenance into their schedule, so Nomad takes bookings from your smartphone and brings top-quality oil changes right to your car. On the surface, it seems like a time optimization play, but if you look at our industry it’s so much more than that . . . when was the last time you heard someone say anything positive about taking their car to the shop?”

“We’ve built a driver-centric way to maintain your car . . . saving clients time and keeping up with scheduled maintenance better are 2 of the positive side effects.”

What do your friends and parents think or your career path?

“People like the Nomad concept (as much as they hate their past car maintenance experiences). But on a personal note I think it’s hard to wrap their heads around as a career step. I took two leaps that would be traditionally considered steps backwards in order to chase this dream.”

1) “I was billing my time at a high hourly rate as a brand strategist, so the monetary opportunity cost is enough to make my corporate friends (and my mom) scratch their heads.”

2) “I went white collar to blue . . . and I effing love it. If you want to sell something you need to live and breathe it and understand it, so I had to become a mechanic (more of a lube tech if we’re being honest) with guidance from our seasoned head of ops, Roberto. Although, I’m primarily handling business development and client service on a daily basis, I get my hands dirty in the field when that’s what the team needs.”

What was your first big break?

“It’s gratifying to answer this question by looking backwards. This month, we’re kicking off service on the campus of one of the Big Four accounting firms. It feels like a big deal. This year, we picked up a nice roster of mid-sized commercial and institutional fleet clients, and class-A office park programs. That felt like a big deal at the time.”

“Two years ago, we got fleet clients in rent-a-car and parcel delivery/ last mile . . . that felt like a big deal. But Three years ago, we did our first on-site service for a paying customer at an apartment complex and at the time, that felt humongous. Once you’ve been working on scaling your client base for a couple years it’s easy to forget how insane it feels to ‘ship’ a MVP, especially when your product is a physical one.”

“I think it’s a helpful reminder that ‘big break’ is relative, and it’s a sliding scale. If a new founder is reading this: beware “the success montage” in business stories, for us there was no confetti moment, no big champagne contract. Just keep clawing your way up.”

In the world of changing transportation methods, what does your business look like in 10 years? How about in 100?

“I feel good answering the first half of that! . . . The average vehicle on the road today is more than 10 years old. So 10 years from now, many of the cars that rolled off dealer lots this week will still be cruising around needing oil changes.”

“As electric vehicles rightfully take their place in the mainstream, and the efficiency of the internal combustion engine continues to rapidly improve, I think we’ll be looking at a tapestry of different propulsion types to meet our mobility needs.”

“As long as people are busy and use cars, they’ll need an easy and trustworthy way to maintain them. People used to want to interact with tech, now they want tech to handle things for them. We’re working on services that coordinate with our clients’ vehicles, requiring less interaction with the driver (both via IoT and good old fashioned human service).”

“I can’t go into too much detail there. At the longer timescale things get more unpredictable; it’s hard to map the impact autonomous vehicles and the changing physical shape of communities will have on vehicle maintenance. Maybe we can figure it out over beers with the right group of Propelify Insiders. We’re more nimble than a brick and mortar chain, so it will be fun to watch the horizon and see what’s next.”

What keeps you motivated?

“Cars are so cool . . . but owning cars sucks. That doesn’t make any sense to me. There’s this delta between how much fun cars should be, and the mundane reality. I also have some disdain for any industry that still uses triplicate forms and a customer service ethos from the 80s. The vehicle technology itself has gotten so good, but many — not all! — of the people selling and servicing these vehicles come across as complacent or worse. Fixing that is a huge personal passion for me and anyone who’s on the team doing this.”

“I think it’s impossible to fake that, and doing things the right way is one of our operating principles. I know Nomad hasn’t transformed the industry, but we HAVE created happy clients that rave about their last oil change at parties, online, at meetings. I mean, who raves about an oil change? It’s so cool, it fires me up.”

What would be your advice to a first time entrepreneur?

“This isn’t going to be the anthemic rallying cry everyone wants, but for real: find a source of stable, predictable income before you make the leap. You probably won’t hit it out the park the first time, so be sure you get more than one swing at it! Side hustle, consulting, sensible spouse, etc. When I started Nomad I thought we had a generous war chest and a plan to self-fund our growth spending.”

“I was way off. I had a stream of predictable consulting work to supplement Nomad, and a brilliant wife whose job helped keep things stable at home (with 2 young daughters). Nomad would have fizzled out multiple times over if I hadn’t given myself that air supply. If you’re starting something up and you’re in existential crisis the whole time, you won’t make good decisions or enjoy the ride. It’s crazy enough already.”

What advice do you wish someone gave you?

“I wish someone — or maybe everyone — had been more open and embracing of the emotional vulnerability of being a founder. I think it’s easy to be drawn to the ‘take on super-hard challenge / face failure / triumph through grit and wit’ arc of the founder story, and easy to miss the high incidence of anxiety, depression, and mental/physical strain in our community.”

“Self-care is important. Finding other entrepreneurs to talk to, outside of a selling environment, is important. Identifying your stressors — including the ones you manufacture internally — is important. I’m much better equipped to navigate that part of being a founder now, but yeah I would have gladly skipped that part of the ride.”

All entrepreneurs have to juggle a ton of priorities? How do you stay organized and focused? What tools do you use?

“Google Calendar runs my life, because it’s so adaptable. I have my own personal calendar and my wife’s. But thanks to a somewhat unique integration with our res system, I can also see and edit a huge amount of Nomad’s operational info in real time right alongside what’s for dinner and who’s picking up the kids. And I’m amazed how valuable it is just knowing that your team (at work and at home) is seeing the same info you’re seeing.”

“The one caveat, based on how I think, is when it comes to keeping tasks focused and prioritized . . . I went fully digital, and after mediocre self-management using multiple apps I recently switched back to paper. I use a small Moleskine-style notebook, pocket-sized. I capture thoughts differently when using paper, and nothing has been as effective as a physical, cross-it-off list for ensuring things get done.”

“On the same page together, I keep parallel to-do lists for each compartment of my life, so I can juggle priorities across “Church and State”.”

Whats the least utilized channel for customer acquisition?

“As someone who spent their prior career in traditional and digital brand marketing, this one hurts to say: it’s your face and your right hand. We take our reservations through an app-like mobile web experience. We have paperless receipts, secure customer profiles and automatic next-service reminders.”

“We built all this awesome stuff, but most clients still meet us in real life or get a referral from someone who has used us before handing over their keys. If your start-up is a service business, or an experience in the physical world, or a B2B play, a big piece of the purchase decision is based on how your prospect feels about you. I was so ready to have this be a digital brand, but we see time and again that our clients — from individuals up to multi-hundred-truck fleets — hire us because they think, “I trust these guys”.”

“We’re careful that our technology enhances our human service rather than replacing it, and we are easy to contact. Make your business a cyborg, not a robot!”

What are you absolutely determined to achieve?

“Our key metrics at this stage are A) volume and B) customer reviews. We’re here to sell the best oil change you’ve ever had, and do that for many people every day. Revenue and profit are promising, but the focus is absolutely on creating a vibrant brand experience with enduring value.”

“Without quoting numbers, I’ll sum it up this way: We have 100% 5-star reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google. We can’t really go up from there; the field ops are dialed in! However our customer acquisition process is not yet at 5/5. I’m still tinkering with a client acquisition recipe that yields predictable, repeatable, and scalable results.”

“My role at Nomad is to grow our bookings as fast as possible, because I know the field team is going to come through and deliver 5-star service for every appointment.”

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