Known as someone who doesn’t beat around the bush, Keith Hyde truly believes that honesty is the best policy, and that’s the motto he has instilled at Fairfield Tire and Service in Fairfield, Iowa, since 2003.
“One thing I have been accused of is being blunt,” Keith jokes. “I’m honest with people. I tell them what I think, and I don’t sugar-coat it. Customers really appreciate that.”
Keith learned the importance of honesty in the tire business at his first gig working as a tire tech at a Goodyear store after attending technical college. From there, he worked his way up to become the store’s service manager. Finally, he was promoted to manager at a Goodyear store in Mason City, Iowa.
While grateful for these opportunities, Keith didn’t want to climb the corporate ladder. That’s how Fairfield Tire & Service came to be.
“After Mason City, I wanted to make a change,” Keith says. “Eventually, I got a new opportunity. The owners of Mount Pleasant Tire [in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa] wanted to expand to Fairfield, and they gave me free rein to find a property and hire employees.”
With financial backing from the Mt. Pleasant Tire investors, Keith started Fairfield Tire in 1990 with three employees and four bays. In 2003, Keith bought his partners out to become the sole owner of the shop.
Today, Fairfield Tire and Service has 10 employees and boasts seven service bays. The company’s tire/service mix is 55% tires and 45% service. When it comes to training, the shop and its employees frequently take part in various seminars and courses. The dealership is also a part of the Midwest Auto Care Alliance, an association that promotes professionalism within the independent automotive service industry through education and mentorship.
As for customer service, Fairfield Tire and Service believes in the importance of showing the customer what’s going on with their vehicle and providing them with all possible repair options, so that they don’t feel pressured to choose one or the other. Customers value the staff’s honesty and integrity.
“One thing we have noticed is that customers don’t know a lot about their vehicles anymore, so we really work on informing and educating them,” Keith says. “It helps them feel a lot more comfortable when you explain things to them and show them what’s going on. Telling them ‘why’ goes a very long way.”
With the growth and success of the shop, Keith maintains that fostering relationships with customers and engaging with the community is key. In fact, word of mouth is Fairfield Tire and Service’s most effective means of marketing.
“We don’t want anybody to feel like they’re just a number,” he says. “We want to treat everyone equally and how we would want to be treated.”
With that in mind, Fairfield Tire and Service takes its commitment to community far beyond its own customer reach. The shop’s community outreach includes sponsoring a little league team for over 30 years, contributing to local school districts and sponsoring trophies at the Jefferson County fair and local car show.
“It’s always nice to contribute to the community, and getting your name out there helps too,” Keith adds.
Overall, Keith says the best advice he could give to succeed as an independent tire dealer is to be fully transparent with the customer.
“You can’t always focus on the dollar,” Keith says. “Sometimes you’re not going to make as much or even lose some money helping a customer. Overall, the goodwill and the word of mouth that you took good care of a customer will help you grow.”