And on the Ninth Day... - Tire Review Magazine

And on the Ninth Day…

Great farm tire dealers can control their own destinies - and those of their customers.

The year was 1870. The world population was somewhere around 1.4 billion people, and about 75% of all Americans made their living in the agricultural industry.

Fast forward 143 years to 2013. The global population has increased more than five-fold to around 7.1 billion. And a mere 2% of all Americans currently make their living in the agricultural industry.

Yet with fewer farmers, the ag business has become far more complicated. Gridlock in Washington has led to major uncertainties about the pending Farm Bill, volatile foreign exchange markets make navigating the import/export world a true art form, and input costs like feed, seed and equipment (among many others) are at an all-time high.

I’m a firm believer in controlling your own destiny – taking the reins and commanding your own economy. Farmers today are expected to do much more with much less. They are expected to feed a ballooning global population on less farm acreage than ever in the history of mankind, all while absorbing huge input costs and trying to maintain enough profits to feed their own families.

If Paul Harvey was right and God did, in fact, create a farmer on the eighth day, the farm tire dealer came along on day number nine.

Put very simply: the demands placed on today’s farm tire dealer also are greater than they have ever been. From maintaining profitability and proper inventory to keeping up with the challenges of on-the-farm service, farm tire dealers shoulder the weight of an entire global industry while working tirelessly in the fields of America’s heartland.

With all of the demands placed on the modern farm tire dealer in today’s difficult economic climate, it can be challenging to maintain profitability while remaining at the forefront of industry trends. There is no clear-cut formula for success; the farm tire business is not one-size-fits-all, so not all solutions work in all circumstances.

While there may not be a definitive formula for success in today’s farm tire business, I think the case can be made for the following five strategic points.

• Develop and Live Your Mission Statement
Operating your business without a solid mission statement is a little like going through your day with no finite agenda and no specific goals. If you haven’t taken the time and put in the effort to determine what is most important to you and your business, how can you expect your team of employees to live up to your expectations?

• Brand Your Business
Most of the major tire manufacturers provide a myriad of tools to independent tire retailers to help them grow their businesses – and boost the manufacturers’ own brands.

Some of the most widely recognized logos and slogans are directly attributed to the tremendous resources that major tiremakers invest into growing their own brands. How many times have you turned on the TV or tuned in to the radio to hear phrases like “Because so much is riding on your tires,” “It’s Bridgestone or nothing,” or “The best tires in the world have Goodyear written all over them”?

Your brand is your reputation. It’s what keeps that customer coming back to you time and time again. Your brand represents a level of mutual respect, trust and admiration that exists between you and your customer.

Simply put: Your brand is the single most important asset of your business. What are you known for around town? Are you the place with the big sign out front that promises one thing and does another? Or are you known as a reputable, honest tire dealer who treats customers fairly and provides the highest levels of customer service and satisfaction around?

Before you put that big tire company sign out front, perhaps you ought to first take a look at your own brand. After all, manufacturer programs, specials and promotions come and go; if not with you, then with someone else. Only you can invest in you, your business and your brand. That is what’s going to keep customers coming back to you time and time again, not some giant sign.

And remember, appearance is important. Today’s consumer – whether it’s retail or commercial – has more options than ever before. Give them a reason to come back and see you again next time.

• Work on Your Business and Develop it Dynamically
How many times have you had to pick up the slack to keep your operation as lean as possible? You’re not afraid to do the work, but when was the last time you lifted the hood on your business and took a look around?

What if you spent just one day evaluating how you conduct your business? Do you think you’d like what you find? The point is this: It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but while you’re nose deep in the daily operations, you may be losing sight of the big picture.

Think of it as preventative maintenance, but for your business. To borrow one from automotive repair specialists, it’s much less expensive to maintain your vehicle than it is to repair it. So don’t be afraid to take a step back and look for opportunities to improve efficiencies and streamline your operations.

• Leverage Marketing and Technology Tools and Resources
Last year was a big one for technology. Twitter reached 500 million users, Facebook surpassed the one-billion-user mark, and 2012 marked the first year when the number of cell phones in service outnumbered people in the world. It isn’t important to know that more people are tweeting now than ever before or that somebody “liked” something on Facebook. The important thing is that more people are communicating in more ways than ever before.

Never before have we had the ability to communicate more effectively and efficiently, but what does that mean to the farm tire dealer? The customer who left your store angry five or six years ago went home and might have told a few of his friends. Today when a customer is angry at your business, they likely post their disdain on Facebook and tweet about it – and their friends retweet it to their followers. Somebody took a picture of your dirty bathroom or beat-up service truck and shared it on Instagram.

With more forms of interaction gaining in popularity, your customers are communicating with you before, during and after the sale. The only question is: Are you there to communicate back with them?

Farmers themselves are enjoying the fruits of technology, which have allowed users to become even more successful in their own operations. Mobile technology allows farmers to check crop prices and commodity indexes in real time. GPS-enabled soil mapping allows them to maximize crop yield, while hybrid seed and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) allow farmers to increase their total output.

Your farm customers are certainly technology savvy. Don’t you think that extends to communications and relationships?

• Invest in Your Business and in Your Team
Arguably, the single most important function any successful leader or manager serves is to provide his team with the necessary resources to get the job done. To some, that may mean having the right safety equipment and training. To others, that might mean keeping the right products in stock and empowering your salespeople to take care of the customer – no matter what.

The bottom line is this: The success of any great organization is in direct correlation with their leaders’ willingness to invest in their own team.

Do your people feel empowered to take care of the customer? Are they well-trained and working with the latest equipment? Do you have the right tires in stock?

Invest in your business and in your people and it will pay dividends in the form of engaged and well-trained employees, more repeat business and a genuine mutual respect between your customers, your employees and your business.

To borrow a few words from the late Paul Harvey, today’s farm tire dealer must be a caretaker of the equipment that helps to feed the world. They must be willing to get up before dawn and stay past midnight.

Today’s farm tire dealers must be willing to finish the 40-hour work week by Tuesday at noon, wipe the sweat from their brows, then put in another 72 hours. They must be strong enough to lift a 480/80R46, but gentle enough to explain to the farmer’s wife why she should have her cooling system flushed.

Today’s farm tire dealers must be willing to plow deep and straight into their in-the-field service and not cut corners in their customer service.

Because, like today’s farmer, today’s farm tire dealer must be everything to everybody. 

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