A U.S. Navy Veteran and Take 5 Oil Change franchise owner shares what he’s learned about leadership

November 11, 2022

In honor of Veterans Day on November 11, we spoke with U.S. Navy veteran and Take 5 Oil Change franchisee Kelly Mayer about how his training as a naval officer shaped his philosophy of working with others.

When 17-year-old Kelly Mayer arrived at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for his freshman year – or plebe year as the Midshipmen call it – he knew he was in a completely different world to his home in Kansas City. As a high school graduate, he envisioned his time at the Academy as an opportunity to serve his country and explore the world beyond his Midwest roots.

Mayer’s father served as a U.S. Marine for a short time. “A healthy respect for the military was a part of our family values,” Mayer recalls. “I spent many nights watching war movies with my father,” he remembers fondly. “That gave me a favorable disposition towards the military, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Naval Academy.”

Amidst the academic courses and military training of his four years at Annapolis, Mayer credits the Academy with teaching him crucial lessons about everything from leadership to time management and giving him opportunities to practice those lessons before joining the regular Navy.

After graduating from the Naval Academy and being commissioned as a Naval Officer, Mayer attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida for just over a year, before finishing his training as a Naval Flight Officer – a “back seater” as he refers to it – in Sacramento, California. He then served with a P-3C Orion squadron in Jacksonville, Florida for three years which included deployments to the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, and South America. The P-3C was a land-based aircraft primarily tasked with searching for and tracking (at the time) Soviet submarines. He would later be stationed in Washington, D.C., at the Navy’s Recruiting Command, for three years prior to leaving the service in 1992.

“Through my experiences in the Fleet, I learned that the core of being a good naval officer revolved around leading and motivating sailors,” he says. “The most important component of good leadership was looking after the people under my responsibility…supporting their training and career advancement, getting the best ones promoted, and celebrating their successes.” These basic principles shaped how Mayer approached leadership and management roles in the business world over the next 30 years of his career.

Upon his honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy, Mayer worked with a recruiter who matched veterans with companies looking to hire former military personnel. He found his niche in the financial services industry, where he worked as an investment consultant and later as a capital fundraiser with two large, international private equity investment firms based in Dallas and London. The second firm, which Mayer was part of forming, focused on investing behind strong consumer brands, a strategy that would impact his decision to join the Take 5 Oil Change family.

In 2017, Mayer decided to take a professional sabbatical and explore opportunities to become a business owner and operator. “During my time raising capital for investment in a variety of different businesses, I became curious about how businesses operate and drive successful growth and profitability,” Mayer notes.

In 2019, he came across the Take 5 Oil Change franchise opportunity. He found it appealing for its uniquely attractive consumer proposition and strong financial profile. “As a Take 5 franchisee, I am regularly drawing on many of those leadership lessons I learned in the Navy over 30 years ago,” he says.

Mayer, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, has been a Take 5 Oil Change franchisee now for two years, with an exclusive territory that runs across the Colorado Front Range from Golden to Fort Collins. He opened his first Take 5 location in February 2021 and his second in April 2022. He hopes to open new stores in 2023. “I can’t overstate how much I enjoy this business,” he says. “I am happier in my work now than I have ever been.”

The best part of his job? Building relationships and looking after the people who work for him – the essential lesson from Mayer’s military career. “I have a unique opportunity in this business to have a meaningful impact on the professional and personal lives of my employees,” he says. “When I first saw it, I immediately adopted Take 5’s mantra of Changing Oil, Changing Lives which we’ve put on the back of our company tee-shirts,” he says proudly. “Seeing that motto at a Take 5 corporate rally, I knew that I had chosen the right place to continue my business career.”

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