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K&M Top Shop: Integrity Drives Smetz’s Tire & Service Center

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Smetz’s Tire & Service Center is truly in the business of taking care of the customer. Their slogan “Where integrity meets the road,” isn’t just something they say. The staff at Smetz’s Tire & Service Center live this out in each and every interaction with customers–and with each other.

That’s why Smetz’s Tire & Service Center was K&M Tire’s Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shop Winner this year. Each year, K&M Tire, in partnership with Hankook Tire & O’Reilly Auto Parts, crowns one Top Shop Winner that represents the best of what the industry has to offer. This shop is dedicated to continuous improvement and serving their customers and communities with excellence.

At K&M’s 2022 Dealer Conference in February, Tire Review sat down with Troy Smetzer, a third-generation tire dealer and owner of Smetz’s Tire & Service Center in Ashland, Ohio, to dive into what makes his business a Top Shop and how K&M has helped him grow his business (and continues to do so) into what it is today.

Tire Review: Troy, thanks for talking with us today. I know you come from a long line of tire dealers. You’re a third-generation dealer. So, tell me about what you learned from your father and your grandfather to create a successful tire business today.

Troy Smetzer: Well, integrity is number one, just to treat all people–whether it’s the customer or the employee–the way you’d want to be treated. We talk about it a lot. We always try to go above and beyond every time for the customer to wow them because you want them to come back.

TR: And your slogan has to do with integrity. Is that right?

TS: Yes, it’s “Where integrity meets the road.”

TR: That’s awesome. Now, you’ve been working with K&M for a while now. Tell me about your relationship with them and how they’ve helped your business.

TS: They’re one of the most dependable, as far as deliveries come, and most consistent. They’re here every day at about the same time. On the paperwork side of it, we do a lot of national government sales with them and they’re always very timely. That’s important because that’s no different than waiting for a check from a customer. It’s cash flow. With tires coming in so consistently, it makes our business run smoother and makes sure our customers are taken care of.

TR: So, like K&M, I know that you value your employees just as you do your customers, and you’re a firm believer that how you treat your employees translates to how you treat your customer. So, what are some ways you’ve been able to successfully recruit and retain employees? I know it’s a tough landscape out there.

TS: Right. Communication with our employees is key. We talk to them a lot about why we ask them to do stuff that maybe they don’t want to do. Just not that long ago, we had one of my employees who had to go on a service call. He wanted help because he probably should have had help, but we were down a truck and down a guy and he was getting ready to leave. I just knew that if I let him leave on that call, by the time he got back, he’d be mad. So, I called him in my office, and I explained what was going on, and he understood. He’s been with me for 20-something years. Taking the time to pull him in and talk to him and explain the situation helped or he’d have been a grump the rest of the day

TR: So, communication is key obviously with your current employees and can you maybe talk about recruiting employees. How have you had luck with recruiting new employees?

TS: It’s been mainly word of mouth. We have a sign out front and when they come in, I tell them that there should be a sense of pride to come to work for us. I hope that doesn’t come across as cocky because that’s the last thing we are. But I think all the time about not only do I want someone good to walk through the door, but I want somebody that’s going to fit because we have 17 of us and we get along really well.

TR: So, you want someone who is not only a hard worker but fits in with your culture. Can you describe what you feel your atmosphere, your culture, is like at Smetz’s Tire?

TS: Well, we like to pick on each other [laughs]. Daily. In front of customers, too, and get the customers involved and get them laughing with us. I mean we’ve had customers come in and sit at the front counter with us and literally are cracking up and laughing. If it’s a first-time customer, they’re usually like, ‘I can’t wait to come back in here again.’

Not to say it’s always that way, obviously, it’s like anything else, you have your days, especially when it’s snowing and everybody’s busy and everybody’s running–there’s not a whole lot of joking going on then. You know, we always try to get it right. We just stay in communication with each other so that we can get the customers taken care of.

TR: It’s apparent that you look at your business and constantly see the ways you can improve it. Can you describe some things that you’ve improved in your business over the last five years?

TS: Well, a lot of equipment lately. The main thing we did–the last five or six years have really been crazy business wise and busy. We had a time where some snow came and it was three days of around 100 tires per day trying to get customers out, and all we had were these three little tire changers in the corner and one balancer. So, we built onto the back of the building and now we have five tire changers and two balancers, and it was just because customers were waiting too long. I wanted to improve that.

We’ve bought all new post racks. We had to bust out all the concrete in the back to do that because it wasn’t thick enough. Then we put two new balancers and two new changers in the back truck center, too. We also just took the delivery of a brand-new service truck. That’ll leave us with four over-the-road trucks. I ran a 5500 with a Stellar bed.

TR: You spoke a bit about this earlier, but for those that don’t know, you do a pretty booming commercial tire business as well. Can you describe how the shop is set to accommodate all the work you do (commercial, PLT, industrial, etc.)?

TS: So, if you come into our building, in the front is just basically one big door that goes into seven bays, but it’s in an L-shape. Behind it sits the truck center, which is what my stepson [Riley Harpster] helps run. It has four drive-through truck bays where semis can come through. We’re really close to I-71, so we do a lot of off-the-highway as well as our local truckers and fleets around our area.

TR: Nice. So, along the lines of improving your business… In the next five years, are there any improvements that you have on your mind or any operational things that you want done as you look at the business today?

TS: Not a lot right now. You know, five years from now, I’ll be close to 60, so I’ll be slowing down and he’ll [Riley] be taking over. With having the extra boom truck now, we may get into some more OTR stuff and maybe some industrial as well. It’s been tough for us. We’ve always wanted to get deeper into it, but again, manpower. Keeping enough employees. If I get more manpower, I will probably look more at it because there’s good money in industrial tires.

TR: You said with your stepson, Riley, you’re grooming him to take over the business. What are some certain things that you want to teach the next generation, whether it’s him or others in the shop?

TS: You know, basically just taking care of people. Going above and beyond. I told you before that we had my employees and a lot of the management and even some of the guys in the back read that book, “Raving Fans.” Yeah. And it’s kind of a joke now. One employee in particular comes up to me and he goes, “I made a raving fan today.” It’s neat to watch because I think even Riley at times early on would question, “Why are we doing this? Because we do some things that really don’t make us any extra money at the time, but if it makes the customer feel good, they’re going to come back again.

TR: That’s great. One last question for you, Troy: After being named the 2022 K&M Tire Top Shop Winner and seeing others at K&M’s conferences in the past honored with this award, what do you think makes a top shop in this industry?

TS: Just going back to taking great care of your customer. Also, I always tell people: take the good with the bad. There are some things you’re going to do better than others. Financially, there’s some jobs that you don’t really make a lot of money on at all, but you can get a couple extra customers through

TR: Troy, from speaking with you, you guys serve your community–your customers aren’t just customers that come into the shop. You look at it as serving your community, which is really great. Thank you so much for your time today.

TS: Thank you. When I heard we were in the top final 10 [for the K&M Top Shop award], it was crazy to me. I think of us just as little Smetz’s Tire in Ashland, Ohio.

Think you have what it takes to be a Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shop? Visit mrtiretopshop.com today and nominate an independent tire dealership that’s a K&M Tire customer.

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