Rich Hoffman started Hoffman Tire Pros after a successful career with Uniroyal Tire. “I’d been telling everybody for the previous 13 years how to go into the tire business, and how to make money in the tire business, so I decided to try it myself,” he says.
In January 1976, Hoffman opened his shop in Fayetteville, Ga., outside Atlanta. “It was myself and one mechanic, and 39 years later, I’m still here,” he says.
Hoffman has done expansions over the years but decided to stay in a single shop, rather than starting multiple locations.
Today the eight-bay shop does a mix of tires and service. “We do everything to a vehicle, other than we don’t do major engine overhauls, and we don’t do air conditioning work,” he says. “But we do everything else.”
Some of the tire brands Hoffman Tire Pros stocks include Michelin, BFGoodrich, Uniroyal, Continental, and General tires, to name a few.
Hoffman says recently they started a special “hybrid shop” within the business. “There’s a lot of hybrid cars on the road and, unfortunately, up until The Hybrid Shop started in June 2013, there was no other place for a hybrid owner to go other than the car dealership,” Hoffman explains.
Hoffman says he’s not afraid to try something new and credits the implementation of new services and equipment for helping him stay ahead of competition.
“Everyone has the same products and everyone has the same price so the big difference is the type of service you offer,” he says.
He says he was the first shop in his area to provide nitrogen tire inflation, and he is continuously updating equipment and learning new trends to provide top-notch service.
“Automobiles are becoming more and more complicated, with lane change notification and automatic stopping in the front, he says. “Today, with some cars, if you touch anything on the alignment, you have to re-set the computers that do all the sensing on that car.”
Hoffman says keeping up with equipment for all of the different brands can get expensive, so he’s worked out an information and equipment sharing program with neighboring shops.
“I’ve found that the best way to handle that is to network with other shops in the area so that we can each use the technology that one has learned so we can help each other in a time of need,” he says. “One of us will buy this piece of equipment and another will buy a different piece of equipment, so we’re not duplicating efforts.”
While Hoffman has some helpful neighbors, he also has a lot of local competition.
Despite the pressures, he still thinks there is a market and a need for the independent tire dealer. “More people are tired of going to a place and seeing somebody one week and not seeing that same person two months later,” he says.
Hoffman has a dedicated team of 10 employees, which includes a manager, assistant manager, and sales associate.
He says employees enjoy working for him because they know the shop has a good reputation. “If I have to replace an employee, I’ve found one that works out better,” he says.
Marketing to Win
Hoffman says he still does heavy marketing and promotion, which includes traditional print and broadcast advertisements as well as web and social media.
“You have to have a little bit of everything,” he says. “We have a website, you have to have banner ads on other business’ websites, you have to have social media. You have to be there so that he consumer can get a look at your business in any shape or form that they want to.”
He says today’s customers are looking for the best deal. “They depend a lot on reviews and social media so it’s a very important part of marketing today and if you don’t have that presence and if you’re not on there, you’re being overlooked by a good percentage of the market.”
Hoffman has been member of the Tire Pros program for a while now and was previously part of the American Car Care Centers program.
“I felt like I had to offer my customers the ability, if they had a problem on the road, to get something done to the car so they didn’t have to throw the tire in the back, buy a tire on the road, and haul it back.”
He says customers have responded positively to the warranties that Tire Pros offers. “We have the ability to act just like a big box store because we can offer the same warranties nationwide, just like anyone else can,” he says.
With nearly four decades in business Hoffman has begun to take steps back from overseeing the day-to-day operations of the business to spend more time at home, but says he still keeps tabs on what’s going on at the shop.
“I have technology where I can see what’s going on,” he says. “I can come and go as I please. I feel like it’s operating in the way I’d like it to operate.”
He says he enjoys hanging out in his “retirement man cave,” a 1,700-square-foot office and workshop in his backyard.
He and his wife are avid and knowledgeable rock and mineral collectors. The wise businessman also enjoys helping the new generation of tire dealers.
“I’m happy to help a younger tire dealer figure out a problem or help them decide something to do or not do,” he says of his mentoring.
The years have been good to the ex-tire salesman and he’s happy to give a little back.