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Editor's Notebook

Welcoming 2021: Don’t Look Back, Look Forward

If the snap of a finger could catapult 2020 into our rearview mirror, the cheers would likely echo across the country for days on end. Call it what you want, the year to be remembered is the year most would like to forget. After maneuvering through the twists and turns of doing business during a pandemic, the new year and a fresh start couldn’t come quickly enough. 


Operating in what has become the “new normal” way of doing business has made us stronger, wiser, more creative, more innovative and more hopeful of better things to come. Our industry, in particular, has demonstrated its resilience in many ways, turning challenges into opportunities to better serve consumers with an even deeper commitment to ensure an optimal service experience. Using lessons learned from 2020 as a springboard, we are ready to embrace the new year. With success stories and silver linings as the foundation, and ample amounts of insight and intuition for good measure, you’re on the road to a better tomorrow. 


What better way to help pave the way than to tap this year’s Top Shop winner Waukegan Tire and its principals, Gerald “Jerry” Nerheim, president and CEO, and his son Steve, vice president and COO, to share some insights that carried them through this year.

When asked to comment on the biggest takeaways in learning to adapt to a new way of doing business during the pandemic, Jerry and Steve stressed the importance of effective and regular communication among both employees and customers.

“Improving our communication skills worked best; to our customer base using effective social media across all platforms, as well as describing to our customers our heightened protocols for cleanliness and the guidelines we implemented, are critical to protecting our business,” explained Steve. “In addition, communicating honestly and regularly with our team employees, and cultivating that safe and trustworthy environment for our employees both at work and home. We physically separated our work spaces to ensure if there was a diagnosis or symptoms among our team, we could respond and communicate effectively.”


Turning to what they learned most about their processes and their team that served to sustain their business through the pandemic, better than they might have imagined, they concurred that teamwork helped keep the Waukegan Tire team strong and poised to overcome challenges together.

“The greatest lesson we learned was how well everyone worked together, from the initial spread and fear of the virus, to the day-to-day operations and coverage when we had employees out; whether to care for ill family members or waiting for test results,” noted Jerry. “We have truly made this a team effort. We talked to employees individually to address their concerns regarding the virus. Employees felt we were doing everything we could to keep them, their families and our customers safe.”


And, finally, Jerry and Steve offered this food for thought as inspiration to embrace the new year:

“We are fortunate in that the automotive industry has seen an increase in business throughout this pandemic, as families struggle to make ends meet. It is important that we continue to appreciate and service our customers in the same caring and dedicated way we have for 53 years.” They suggested that dealers can also do that “by developing unique and new strategies to build trust and loyalty in new year.”

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