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2008 Top Shop Finalist: Lex Brodie’s Tire, Wheel & Brake

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“My job and the job of each of our 94 full-time employees is to relieve the stress of the day for each of our customes,” says Scott Williams, co-owner of Lex Brodie’s Tire, Wheel & Brake in Oahu, Hawaii. Along with his mentor, 95-year-old Lex Brodie, who formed his enterprise in Hawaii, the pair has established a business foundation that seems too simple to be believed.

It’s four simple words: “Thank You Very Much.”

That’s it, that’s the plan. Every customer who purchases anything at Lex Brodie’s hears those four little words.

And Lex Brodie’s laser-like attention to the customer is one of the reasons it was selected as a Tire Review Top Shop finalist.

With five tire locations on the island of Oahu pulling in more than $22 million a year, plus all the diversions of this tropical paradise only a block or two away, how did Williams – who runs the day-to-day operation – make it happen?

“In a word, ‘focus,’” he says. But how do you teach your employees to focus in one of the most beautiful places on earth? “To me it’s simple,” says Williams. “My people need jobs, they want a home, they want a living wage and food on the table. I take care of them and they take care of me.

“First we take care of the customer, second we take care of our employees and third we take care of our communities. This is our marketing plan – all of it. The other day we fixed a flat tire for a customer and didn’t charge her a cent. Result: That customer wrote us back and told us she will never buy a tire or permit her vehicle to be serviced by anyone other than Lex Brodie’s.”

Besides a full offering of tires from Michelin, BFGoodrich, Uniroyal, Riken, Cavalier, Falken and Goodyear, Lex Brodie’s also offers complete auto service coverage and a comprehensive wheel selection.

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So ardent is this tire man that he advertises in 10 languages about vehicle and tire service, on the Web site (lexbrodies.com) and through community involvement. “That’s how we communicate,” says Williams, “along with our always-present ‘thank you very much.’

“When I pull into a fast food restaurant, the clerk at the money-taking window simply dumps my food and change into my hand and I automatically say, ‘Thank you very much,’ to which the clerk says, ‘No problem.’ That’s utterly backwards. I’m the customer and I should be thanked. How and when did we forget this basic principle?

“That’s why I take care of our employees and see to it that they are well trained. We are simply not going to have mistakes like that taking place at Lex Brodie’s Tire. It’s our job to ‘Thank the customer very much,’ not the other way around. We take care of our customers because we understand that if we don’t, we aren’t going to have any customers.”

To that end, Williams takes full advantage of Michelin Alliance dealer training programs as well as Tire Industry Association tire service certification training programs. “We also send our techs to Hunter Alignment Technician training sessions.

“Additionally, we hold weekly managers and sales meetings to discuss changes, concerns, customer feedback, successes and safety,” says Williams. “If we discover that a customer is unsatisfied for any reason, I will call that customer personally to find out what we can do to make it right. We aren’t going to lose a customer because we failed to follow up. It might happen at some dealerships, but not at Lex Brodie’s.”

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While the dealership doesn’t suffer from employee retention problems, Williams and his team are always on the lookout for the next great Brodie’s teammate. “We look first for a positive attitude, and second for someone who can do the job. These are the kinds of upbeat people we want to work here,” he says. “It matters and the customers can feel it. That’s what makes Lex Brodie’s the institution it has become in Hawaii and the belief system that will carry it far into the future.”

Williams is dead serious about his uncomplicated business plan, and firmly believes that the customer’s experience is central to the dealership’s current and future success.

“We have codified what we believe are the basic elements of each customer’s experience when dealing with any Lex Brodie’s employee. We call this the Lex Brodie’s Customer Bill of Rights, which is displayed in each store and handed out via a brochure to each customer.”

That Customer Bill of Rights is clearly on display on seven-foot-tall banners in each of the five stores.

“Our belief is that the service our customers receive with the tires they buy is as important as the quality of the tires they buy. Our Bill of Rights is aimed at supporting our mission by letting each customer know how important their positive experience is to our company and what they should expect at a minimum from our employees,” he says.

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“Our employee’s pride in workmanship and upholding the legacy of customer service by our founder has resulted in AAA awarding us a 99% customer satisfaction rating. Our aim then, now and forever, will always be to strive for 100% total customer satisfaction. Anything less would be a failure to upholding the standard our customers have grown to expect from us.”

Eggs Not All in One Basket

That said, Williams markets the way a good chef makes an award-winning omelet.

“Not all of our advertising is focused strictly on generating sales. We spend a great deal of time and funds for public service announcements and consumer education regarding our ‘green initiatives,’ support of our public school system and our local troops,” says Williams.

“It may surprise many if I were to say that most of our sales are generated by activities for which I don’t pay one red cent,” says Williams. “We are involved with the police, fire and military installations at each of our locations. In fact, we receive nearly as much value from community programs we didn’t pay for as those we did.

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“We’ve been pleased with the radio stations that have come and joined us at community events. The parents and kids see what we do and know that we are genuine in everything we do. They have learned that if they have a problem they go to see the people at Lex Brodie’s. They have spent their weekend to support us, the least we can do is support them.

“I’ve watched time and time again how an immature manager grows into a strong, knowledgeable leader who knows not only our mantra, but how to take care of his customers, employees and community.

“All of this seems so simple to me that I can’t understand how other business people don’t get it,” says Williams. “When it comes to customer service, everyone at Lex Brodie’s cannot afford to stumble. It is an unforgiving program set up to favor the customer who, in turn, returns to us as repeat business.

That repeat business makes up at least 85% to 90% of the company’s business, mostly people who then tell their friends about Lex Brodie’s Tire. In return, the company enjoys a 65% to 75% gain in its new customer base from referrals. “Because we work so hard at pleasing our customers, the advantage of focusing on our business falls to us,” says Williams.

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“When I see a repeat customer on one of our busier days I wonder if that customer feels as good about his experience this time as he did the last time.”  Williams is both a worrier and a warrior.

Born in Indiana, the Williams family moved to Hawaii early in Scott’s life. “I’m a proud graduate of Roosevelt High School here in Honolulu,” he said. “What I’ve learned growing up here is that I must communicate constantly with my employees. They want to know how our business is doing, how they are doing and how I feel about their performance. Most important is that I let them know how important all of them are to me, our business and how we are building our business together.”

A Community Leader

“Truthfully, I enjoy strong community projects as much as I do selling tires. Customers know who we are and they follow our good example through the simple act of buying tires from us and having their vehicles serviced here. A lot of it starts with kids and people in need,” Williams says.

“We are involved with our schools through a program we call ‘Thank You Very Much.’ We present an award for students in grades 4-12 who submit a letter expressing their appreciation to someone who has influenced their life in a positive way. And we ask students to think of others by choosing a charity or non-profit organization that will receive a donation in the winning student’s name.

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“Then, the winning students read their letters in front of the person who has inspired them. This is in front of their classmates, and on radio and television. This has been an incredibly popular program,” he says.

Another community program getting Lex Brodie’s support is the Above and Beyond Award, which recognizes someone in uniform who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. “Past recipients have been men and women in our armed forces, in addition to local uniformed officers who have exhibited exemplary attitudes and selflessness in aiding those in our community,” he says.

Additional support for the military comes through Brodie’s Operation Homefront, where the tire dealership has volunteered as a collection center for donations directed to troops deployed abroad.

“We have also focused on our troops in our community, sponsoring the Kaneohe BayFest, the biggest entertainment event in the state of Hawaii. Bayfest is an annual event organized by the Marine Corps Community Services, and proceeds from this event enhance the quality of life for Marines and sailors and their family members stationed in Hawaii.”

Not nearly as visible, but perhaps of even greater importance, has been Lex Brodie’s involvement in protecting the fragile environment of Hawaii.

“Our ‘green initiatives’ have encompassed statewide campaigns to get each resident to do their part,” he says. The program reaches out to residents of all ages – from children through adults – and Lex Brodie’s Web site is a clearinghouse for a wealth of information and encouragement to help others develop green thinking.

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For their green efforts, Williams and Lex Brodie were awarded the 2007 Good Business Award from the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Service.

Finally, Lex Brodie’s Tire continues to support agencies with such important missions as the Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Honolulu and the American Cancer Society.

No Reason to Change

Williams is obsessed by the business, by customers and serving their needs, by the local community and especially children. And he is obsessed with reaching out to all of them, particularly through Lex Brodie’s multi-dimensional Web site.

One part consumer tire- and service-classroom (complete with a sharp series of videos and ProCare 101 articles written by dealership employees), one part promotion and advertising (with numerous coupons, special offers and gas card giveaways), one part product bulletin (with extensive info on the tires carried and services offered), and one part community bulletin board (with lists of local activities and information about Brodie’s-led initiatives like those described above), the Web site is a gem, perhaps one of the best in the industry.

As Williams puts it, “I am an observer. I drive by the competition, I look at the homes people live in and the cars they drive, and I miss very little. Then I look at our stores to see what we are doing and compare the two. This is an obsession I can’t seem to break and it’s working for us. I see no reason to stop what I’m doing.”

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