Gem City Tire’s Jeff Lecklider: Finding Solutions is Key to Success

Gem City Tire’s Jeff Lecklider: Finding Solutions is Key to Success

While Jeff says he’s lucky to have the opportunities he’s had in this industry, he’s also put in the elbow grease early on to truly understand the commercial tire business.

Jeff Lecklider is always looking for pain points–not only his business, but also in the fleet businesses he serves. As founder of Gem City Tire, a commercial tire dealer and retreader headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, Jeff relishes the opportunity to find solutions and tackle problems head-on. Not only does this make his business stand out, but it’s one of the reasons the business has grown to seven commercial tire stores and one retread plant with locations stretching from northern Ohio to Indiana and Illinois.

“We try to increase our capabilities to where we can say yes to the customer more times than not,” Jeff says. “In my career, I’ve been at the right place and the right time and just capitalized on opportunities.”

Fleets having an issue keeping up with DOT inspections? Jeff and his team formed Gem City Tire’s mobile tire service branch to ease the burden and keep track of what inspections are due when. Rising fuel costs an issue? Jeff and his team are investigating electric service trucks to see how they could serve the business.

While Jeff says he’s lucky to have the opportunities he’s had in this industry, he’s also put in the elbow grease early on to truly understand the commercial tire business. In 1984, he started out as a commercial tire technician with a Goodyear store in Dayton, working his way up to service manager and then salesman.

“I went to every training seminar Goodyear had and just tried to learn as much as I could as a young guy who had never sold truck tires before,” he says.

In 1989, he left that store and went to a larger Goodyear store in the area, where he worked his way up from a salesman to general manager and eventually a partner in the business, which covered all segments of the tire industry. Yet, he yearned to own his own business one day, and in 2000, he set out on his own to do just that, at times fulfilling multiple roles in the business.

“I always had a change of clothes in the back office if they needed help in sales or in the retread plant. I never asked anyone to do something I hadn’t done, and I think that is a big reason for our success,” he says.

Jeff also credits the business’s relationship with Goodyear, including Jim Burr, one of the company’s commercial sales managers, for helping it grow, as well as his relationships with loyal customers and tenured employees. Although his number one hurdle was securing the capital to grow, Jeff says Gem City Tire did it rapidly: Soon after opening the first store in Cincinnati, an opportunity to add a second came about, and the acquisition was made. Over the years, the business has added more locations and one retread facility in Dayton, which pumps out nearly 400 retreaded tires per day.

“It wasn’t exactly the plan [to grow] when we started out with one location, but we’ve just grown because of our great customers and good opportunities,” Jeff says.

While Jeff has his eyes on continuing to grow the business, there have been some challenges along the way. “The single biggest hurdle that’s hindering our growth is personnel,” he admits. “We have 170 employees and need about 20 more.” In addition to working with tech schools and evaluating compensation regularly, the business has also increased starting wages and pay buckets to keep and retain employees. It also provides a rigorous new hire training program and frequent Goodyear training to its staff.

To help generate new ideas like this, Jeff also keeps up with his own continuing education. For 25 years, he’s been on Goodyear’s commercial tire dealer council and is also a part of a group of Goodyear retreaders that meets twice a year to discuss new technology, best practices and equipment. In addition, Jeff attends industry trade shows and seminars to further his education.

For Jeff and his team, expanding Gem City Tire’s services and footprint is always on the brain, yet keeping customers and employees first is top priority.

“A big part of our success is working with great customers, great employees and having great relationships with Goodyear folks,” he says. “We’ve had great support from many of our key vendors and couldn’t have done it without them. This is a crazy business, it’s not easy, but I’ve always loved the challenge of helping customers.”

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