K&M Tire Dealers Go 'All In' at 2023 Conference & Trade Show

K&M Tire Dealers Go ‘All In’ at 2023 Conference & Trade Show

K&M Tire provided the fun, prizes and resources to dealers during its annual conference and trade show.

A far departure from last year‘s snowy conditions, this year’s K&M Tire 2023 Dealer Conference & Trade Show took place at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas from Feb. 1-2 amid the ringing of slot machines and bright lights of Sin City.

It is commonly said that what happens in Las Vegas stays there, yet K&M Tire’s conference theme of “All In” provided dealers with the tools to enhance their business operations–resources they’d bring back to the shop and implement in their businesses. Explore the complete details of the first day of this year’s conference below.

Winning the Talent War

Sherri Miller, the founder of business consulting firm Center for Extraordinary Success in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, kicked off K&M’s 2023 Dealer Conference & Trade Show. Miller discussed three big hurdles for the auto industry’s hiring and growth – acquiring talent, retaining talent and expanding the growth and development of your technicians. These three hurdles, coined A.R.E., can be solved with something Miller called a “talent optimization strategy.”

“The A in [your optimization strategy] should focus on hiring new talent,” suggests Miller. “We call that acquiring, we have to go out and hire the right person for a position. The second piece is R for retention. What are your strategies for retaining team members? And finally, expanding. This component really represents expanding, following, and developing your people – therefore making them better.”

Miller encouraged dealers to think of hiring in terms of speed. She used a fast vs. slow analogy, recommending dealers take time early in the interview process to really get to know who they’re potentially hiring.

SherriMiller KM Tire
Sherri Miller, the founder of business consulting firm Center for Extraordinary Success, delved into how dealers can tackle hiring challenges at the shop.

Retaining employees is as simple as keeping employees you consider very valuable in your business, says Miller. “If the thought of losing this person makes you sick to your stomach, you want to do whatever it takes to retain that employee.”

Miller says expanding the growth of your employee base is more important now than ever before. She used a Chinese Proverb to make her point:” If you want to create prosperity for a year, you grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, you grow trees. If you want a lifetime or a hundred years of prosperity, you invest in people.”

Keep Your Cash Financial Workshop

In a metaphor and whiteboard marking-filled presentation, Best-One Tire Chief Operating Officer Jon Zurcher shared his industry best practices when it comes to leading, managing and keeping adequate cash flow in your independent tire business.

Zurcher created a picture of how cash flow is generated and how it flows through your business. He broke it down into three sections: operating cash flow, financing cash flow and investing in cash flow. Operating cash flow is the amount of cash generated by normal business operations. Zurcher described investing in cash flow as assets you have coming out of your bank account. As for financing cash flow, these are monies used to fund the company and its capital.

“When you think of the cash flowing through your business, I want you to picture that cash like water flowing around through different parts of your business,” he explained.

Jon Zurcher KM Tire Best-One Tire

He also described the important distinction between making money as a business vs. making a gross profit. He said many shops may be leaving money on the table when offering road hazard and shop supply fees. Zurcher also highlighted the importance of managers showing an interest in their employees’ lives and needs.

“Best-performing stores have managers that go above and beyond for the team,” he said.

Trade Show, Games & Prizes

K&M’s vendor partners met with dealers to talk products, pricing and orders during the trade show portion of the show. Dealers were also entered to win prizes or compete for cash from various manufacturers.

Andy Leipold of Leipold’s Tire in Akron, OH, snags flying cash in Continental’s Cash Grab booth. On average, winners walk away with $5,000 from the various manufacturer games.
A K&M Tire dealer gets ready to play Pinko at the Hankook Tire booth and win money during the trade show.
A K&M tire dealer dressed as Elvis played Kumho Tire’s Sizzlin’ Slots and won big with a celebratory fist pump.

Day Two Coverage

Jeff Wallick, K&M Tire director of training and development, kicked off day two of K&M Tire’s 2023 Dealer Conference & Trade Show. Following the “all in” theme, Wallick presented his three keys (or C’s) of going “all in” with your business – Commitment, Capability and Courage.

He says his first “C”, for commitment, should mean more than just writing paychecks and coming to work. He says commitment takes a mission and objectives to accomplish it.

“When I talk about commitment, I mean dedicating yourselves to continuous improvement,” Jeff explains. “It’s something that means a heck of a lot to me, and all of our teammates at K&M Tire. It’s printed on our business cards, it’s on our website, it’s everywhere. But a continuous improvement in practice is complicated because it requires you to admit that you aren’t perfect, which helps to dedicate yourself to be better than before.”

Wallick’s second “C”, for capability, touched on the ongoing training and advancement opportunities for your employees. He says capability includes investing in your employees to remind them that they have a vital role in your shop. He explains how inadequate advancement opportunities are a reason there is a percentage of employees who come to work for you and then leave a short time after.

“It goes deeper than money,” Jeff says. “If your people don’t feel their business owner, manager or someone else in leadership is investing in them as people, they may be more inclined to leave. This speaks to the importance of investing in the continued capability of your people. In order to go all in your business this year, you must be capable.”

Jeff Wallick K&M Tire
Jeff Wallick, director of training and development at K&M Tire, goes over the three C’s of Excellence: Committed, Capable and Courage.

The third “C” stands for courage. Wallick says whether you choose to admit it to yourselves or not, you all have a formula that brought you to this place in your life.

“This is the challenge,” says Wallick. “The formula that brought you to this place is unlikely to be the exact formula you’ll need to get you to where you’re going next. Do you have the courage to put on a fresh pair of glasses and look at your business with a critical lens? Ask yourself – would you send your mother, wife or daughter to get tire service at your shop?”

Controlling Your Legacy

Following Wallicks introduction, Derek Daly– former Formula One and Indycar racer and current racing broadcaster– walked the audience through his life experiences with leadership, leaving a legacy and going “all in” with your business to make it extraordinary.

Daly made his F1 debut in 1978 with the Ensign Racing team and later raced for Tyrrell Racing, Williams, Arrows and more. Aside from his F1 career, Daly was also successful in CART and IndyCar, where he won several races and achieved multiple podium finishes.

Derek Daly
Derek Daly, former F1 and Indycar racer and current racing broadcaster, walked the audience through his life experiences with leadership, leaving a legacy and going “all in” with your business.

In September 1984, Daly faced a nearly fatal crash at the CART PPG Detroit News Grand Prix 200 at Michigan International Speedway. The impact of the crash sheared off the front end of his car and left him with multiple injuries, including a crushed left ankle, a double compound fracture to his left tibia and fibula, a broken left hand, third-degree burns on his left arm, internal bleeding and more.

“This was actually measured as the hardest crash impact a driver had managed to survive at that time during the accident,” he explains. “I’m sure everybody’s here had a bad day. Maybe not as bad of a day as this, but the point is: how do you process stuff like this when you have a bad day or week or something bad happens to you or your business?”

He continued with a racing analogy. When you look at a race track before the race, you see teams and their cars lined up. In the front row, usually are the most organized, best looking and most prepared teams. As you move towards the back of the line, you find less prepared teams.

He said to think of your business like this – where do you think you are in line at the start of the race? If you aren’t right up there with the competition, Daly says you have some work to do.

What Does it Mean to Go All In?

Gene Bova, regional sales manager of K&M Tire, talked about what it means to go “all in” with your business this year and how the Mr. Tire and Big 3 Tire programs can help tire dealer businesses. He detailed four areas the programs could help: marketing, selling benefits, business development and sell-out benefits.

K&M’s Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Dealer Program has an in-house marketing team to support dealers’ needs with tailored marketing packages, mailers, social media ads, signage, boosted rebate ads and SEO/SEM marketing options. Bova says the program empowers dealers to boost their shop’s branding and level the competition in their local market.

“A tire program could help you a lot with marketing,” he says. “Really one of the most important steps is turning a stranger into a visitor to your store. Now visitors could find you one of a couple of different ways. That could be an email that came through your website, a phone call to your counter-selling staff or it could be a physical appointment.”

Gene Bova JR Mr Tire K&M Tire
Gene Bova, regional sales manager of K&M Tire, talked about how the Mr. Tire and Big 3 Tire programs can help tire dealer businesses succeed.

Bova says K&M also provides exclusive selling benefit programs to enhance member profitability. K&M Tire/Big 3 Tire dealers benefit from several exclusive rebates and incentives aimed at leveling the playing field.

“These incentives are easily one of the most recognized aspects of our Mr. Tire program and, as you can see, are massively profitable for our dealers,” explains Bova. “In 2022, our customers earned over $500,000 in total benefits paid just on purpose incentives last year. Now for 2023, we would love for you guys to knock this number out of the park.”

Business development and sell-out benefits are also key features of the Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire dealer programs. This includes an emphasis on its tire programs, a Mr. Tire parts rebate, business technology upgrades and more. Bova says the K&M parts and oil programs cover it all—OE wheels, custom wheels, TPMS, batteries, oil, tire registration—and the list goes on. The Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire dealer program is equipped with resources to optimize your location’s profitability – from information on advanced POS systems, credit availability, national discounts on office supplies and more.

The EV Landscape

As the show continued, Continental Tire’s Product Manager Joe Maher and Development Engineer Nate Dodds reviewed the EV tire market, the effects of EV tires on vehicles and dealers and Continental’s overall EV strategy.

Maher detailed how EVs differ from ICE vehicles and how dealers should soon expect more EVs on the road. He says EV vehicles are more efficient than ICE vehicles because EVs don’t use an engine, transmission, drive train, differential and axles, or have a big grille in the front to move air inside.

“All of those things rob energy from a gallon of fuel,” explains Maher. “An electric vehicle has closed nodes, the engine or the motor is at the wheel, and it doesn’t have a drive train. So really, an electric vehicle is more efficient for turning raw power into wheel power.”

With today’s estimations and more government benefits coming for EV consumers, Maher says by 2030, there will be 8 million EVs in use. That would be about 15% of vehicles in operation.

Continental Tire Product Manager Joe Maher delves into Conti’s EV strategy.

It may seem like a low number, but Maher says to consider where your shop is – are you in a location where EVs are more popular? If so, he says that number could jump even higher by 2030. He says shops should be EV-ready regardless. In order to do so, Dodds talked about knowing the weight of the vehicle and how that affects the tire’s torque, range and noise – and how it relates to rolling resistance.

“Rolling resistance is not a new phenomenon specific to EVs,” Dodds says. “The technology has evolved over time, and the name of the game is reducing rolling resistance. This trend comes from our OEM counterparts, who try to hit fuel economy standards and require tire manufacturers to reduce rolling resistance. That started in the ’90s with silica technology, it evolved in the 2000s with different polymer types, and now in the 2020s, it’s all about new materials.”

Maher wrapped up by discussing why Continental Tire is “EV ready.”

“We work with most of the major OEMs,” Maher says. “We know the EV market. We’re on seven of 10 top EV vehicles as OE. We understand that market. An OE tire has to have a high focus on efficiency and low noise, just as it always has. We have expansive coverage tires that fit EV vehicles and ICEs – it’s not about the vehicle needing something different, it’s about a consumer that may want something different.”

Technician Training Resources

Garage Guru’s Technical Product Specialist Mike Hinderer walked through the technician training resources Garage Guru’s offers, including continually updated training and how it works.

“It’s all about addressing the skills gap,” says Hinderer. “There is such a big gap. You got the guy that’s just getting into the field, you one who’s been there for a while and the guy that’s somewhere in between. That’s really what Garage Guru’s are about. We want to address all of those gaps. But not only just for technicians, we have products and training for service writers as well.”

Hinderer detailed Garage Guru’s training options around the country, including its own training locations, on-site training at the shop, mobile training completed in one of two state-of-the-art trailers and even virtual training options.

He also announced the fourth year of Garage Guru’s scholarship program – in which the company will give 12 $2,500 scholarships to a tech going to an automotive trade or tech school.

“It’s not just about getting the guys that are coming up in the industry trained, but it’s also what we do for those people to show them our support,” Hinderer says. “How do we engage them? How can we bring them in?”

Profit Opportunities in the Ag Tire Industry

The tire industry may still be grappling with supply chain constraints, but ag tire dealers don’t have to be worried about replacing the exact tire size on their customer’s front-wheel drive tractors thanks to a few simple size conversion calculations. Chris Neidert, marketing, training and development manager for Trelleborg, presented to ag dealers how they can add profit to their businesses by doing tire substitutions with a bit of math and creativity.

“The ag business is competitive so anything you can do to differentiate yourself while still selling ag tires will help you win in today’s market,” Neidert said.

Neidert and Loudon Hammersmith, K&M Tire’s national ag tire sales manager, reviewed what conditions should be present in order for ag tire dealers to offer their customers a size conversion. First, the tire has to be the right tire for the application. Next, it has to be able to support the load and finally, the machine should be ballasted properly.

Ag tire seminar KM tire dealer conference
Loudan Hammersmith, national ag sales manager for K&M, and Chris Neidert, marketing, training and development manager at Trelleborg Wheel Systems North America, discuss profit opportunities in ag tire sales.

Then, dealers who might not have a customer’s tire size for their tractor can do a few calculations to determine if they have another size that fits the customer’s needs. To do this, they need to calculate the lead and lag of a front-wheel drive tractor’s front and rear tires.

Neidert explained that since the front tires are smaller than the rear ones on a mechanical front-wheel drive tractor, the front tires have to rotate faster to cover the same distance as the rear tires. These types of tractors are designed with a specific ratio between the front- and rear wheel axles called the interaxle ratio, which helps the machine avoid excess front tire wear, excess slippage and transmission and axle damage when changing tire sizes.

Neidert said it is critical to change the front and rear in the same percentage when changing tire sizes so that the ratio of wheel revolutions between the front and back tires remains consistent with OE calculations.

To determine this, a dealer should look at the rolling circumference (RC) on the tire currently fitted on the tractor as well as the RC on the proposed new tire size, Neidert said. From there, dealers can calculate the lead-lag ratio between the two RCs. If the new ratio is within +/-1% of the old ratio, the new size is acceptable.

Top Shop Panel

Tire Review Editor Maddie Winer hosted a panel discussion between two members of past K&M Tire Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shops. Keegen Wentz, president of McMahon’s Best-One’s automotive technology center, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Clayton Van Kleeck, president and owner of Van Kleeck’s Tire based in Lake Katrine, New York provided their expertise. The panel discussed how they are dealing with hiring qualified talent, the importance of a good customer experience, how they use technology in the shop, what training they supply and how they handle marketing.

Wentz says it’s important to build the people that you already have and attract potential technicians to get them trained in the business. He says it’s important for younger employees to really know the field so that they can contribute and feel like they belong.

“We offer paid certifications as part of McMahon’s tech center which is the actual training of our technicians,” Wentz says. “So for instance, a tire and load technician hired new into the company will spend the first two weeks just paid training. That’s a big draw for a lot of younger guys trying to get in.”

Van Kleeck says that though his shop is smaller, it doesn’t skimp out on training for its technicians. He says an effective strategy for them has been having new technicians shadow others who have been around.

“Some of our best people are ones who joined us at the lower level and worked their way through the company,” explains Van Kleeck. “What’s very important for us is not as much the technician’s technical ability at first, but it’s the ability for that employee to know what our moral compass is and to figure out what their compass is to see if we’re on the same page.”

Van Kleeck also mentions the importance of giving the customer a good experience and encourages sales managers and technicians to get to know their customers.

“We want people to have a sense that when they come into Van Kleeck’s Tire, it’s a special thing,” says Van Kleeck. “We will do simple things like tell the customers it’s not all just about tires, but we also have the best free cup of coffee on the planet. That joke has been the thing that’s calmed people down when they come in. We try to take the stress level down and try to help them.”

At McMahon’s Best-One, Wentz says part of a great customer experience is transparency.

“We are really trying to pull back the curtain for the customer to see how we operate,” says Wentz. “We are not trying to hide anything. Our digital vehicle inspections are a huge part of that. The big thing really is just saying hello to customers. It’s a simple thing, but when technicians do that, it’s huge.”

Tire Review Editor Maddie Winer delves into tire dealer shop operations topics with Keegan Wentz, president of McMahon’s Best-One’s automotive tech center, and Clayton Van Kleeck, owner of Van Kleeck’s Tire.

Wentz also talked about how McMahon’s Best-One utilizes technology in its shop. He says it’s imperative that companies who plan on being around for the long term really step their game up and adapt to technology that’s coming out. He says as technology moves forward, your shop staff should all be caught up on it, not just technicians.

“Everybody in the shop environment, including service writers and technicians for example, need to have a really good grasp on what they’re doing so that you can then translate that to the customer,” Wentz explains.

Like Van Kleeck, Wentz looks at training as an investment for your staff that he says has paid off for McMahon’s Best-One. He says the more time you spend training, the more your customer will feel valued and your employees will feel like they belong.

Both spoke about the importance of marketing and spreading the word about your business through the most popular marketing tactic–word of mouth. At Van Kleeck’s Tire, Van Kleeck says word of mouth is tantamount to its business success, but fun radio spots and social videos help build a fun environment.

“It’s all about humor,” he explains. “Almost all of our commercials will either have a humorous tone or some sort of information. In one commercial, I explained the difference between an all-season tire and a snow tire – people love that. I just try to build a fun, entertaining, comfortable environment.”

According to Wentz, McMahon’s Best-One uses a lot of similar advertising tactics to build its community presence. However, he says it’s the business’s philanthropic efforts that help build that.

“It really shows our customers and the community as a whole that we care more about them as a person other than just their vehicle,” says Wentz. “They’re not a license plate number or something like that. We really pride ourselves on our outreach in that aspect.”

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