If you look around your trading area, you’ll see that your competition is often larger and better resourced than it was a decade ago. Today, it’s an uncomfortable fact of life in the tire business—you’re either growing or you’re dying.
There, I said it. Is your business growing? I hope so.
Now, growing your business doesn’t necessarily mean adding locations (although it could certainly include that). The pace of acquisitions among all segments of the aftermarket continues to accelerate. Within the tire dealer market, acquisitions of all sizes continue to occur: Private equity firms are taking a close look at the tire dealer market as a sound investment and other tire dealers, both private and public, are actively acquiring stores.
Even if you’re not adding locations, your business should still be growing—changing with the times and continually adding value.
When your business is growing, you are looking for opportunities to learn new ideas, improve how you do things, contribute to your community and, generally, make things a little bit better. Conversely, when you are not doing any of these things, you are stagnating, and, in effect, slowly becoming less valuable to your customers and community. Your business is dying.
These are challenging times and it could be easy to get complacent. Instead of taking that path, we suggest that all businesses (including our own!) use this time to take an outside-in look at the business. What parts of your business need improvement? Do you need to do any training for your employees? What do you need to do to promote your business? What else is necessary so you can thrive and flourish? What services can you add or promote? Are the brands you carry bringing value? Is your distribution network sound?
Another trap that prevents growth is accepting the status quo. When things are going well some people don’t want to change. That may be true for the short-term, but even if your business is profitable, it is important to look for ways to make improvements. It is also a time to make sure your business does not veer off course. Status quo thinking will always lead to stagnation, which can permanently and negatively impact your business.
Even though there is uncertainty in the market right now, this is precisely the time for innovative thinking and creative new ideas. We have come up with a few ideas to get the conversation at your business going:
- If you want to grow, network with people in the tire business. Talk to your peers and colleagues from the industry. Find out what is and isn’t working for other businesses. “Twenty Groups” can be a great way to do that. Twenty Groups are groups of like-minded businesses that meet on a regular basis to share best practices. They often hold each other accountable for the implementation of growth ideas.
- Work on your list of experts and advisors. Make sure you have access to smart people from various disciplines, including lawyers, CPAs, bankers and business insurance agents. Ask around and make sure you have a list of other people you may need to talk to from time to time to get advice (for example, IT professionals, real estate agents, payroll processing companies, and the like).
- Work on sales and marketing. What do you need to “tune up” marketing to your target customers? If you want to grow your business, you need to work on marketing every week.
- Take a half-hour out of every week to examine one part of your business and create a pro and con list of what is working and what needs improvement. What parts of your business need improvement or fine tuning?
- Take a realistic look at your staff and organizational chart. Do you have the right people on board and are they in the right positions where you need them in the next 12 months? If not, figure out what modifications are necessary.
- What are your one-, three- and five-year goals and objectives for your business? What about your personal goals and objectives? Growth is about plotting a course of action to achieve your goals. What are you doing to get your goals on paper, so you can prepare a gameplan to thrive?
Like it or not, your business is either growing or dying. However, don’t accept the status quo and don’t fall victim to circumstances. Be proactive and take responsibility for finding ways to grow and flourish. If you reach out to your colleagues in the industry and learn from leaders and peers, you won’t need to recreate the wheel to find ways to improve your business.