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Editor's Notebook

Lesson Learned

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It was probably a good thing there was traffic when the woman pulled out of Tire World. The vehicle was going slow enough that when the wheel came off a few hundred feet later, she was able to stop safely.

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Of course, the Colorado Springs police had to do their thing and make a report. Tire World reattached the wheel and smoothed things over with the shaken-but-unhurt woman, and as there was no damage she really didn’t press the matter.

Human error happens. More often than we’d like to admit, I suspect. At least in this case, it didn’t lead to unfortunate tragedy.

If you subscribe to the theory that things happen for a reason, this story is for you. Even if you don’t, read on.

Some months later, Scott Blair was at Tire World conducting a tire and wheel technical training seminar for the company’s five store managers, tire techs and salespeople.

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In the training work he does, Scott (who writes the monthly Wheel Turnings column for Tire Review) focuses on real-world situations and solutions. He gets down and dirty with torque specs and sticks, load capacities and capacity variations and all manner of real-life tire and wheel tips.

As Scott told me, the training session was an eye opener for the Tire World folks. But it proved to be something much more.

While Scott was there, Tire World GM Terry Hoadley got the bad news. Tire World had renewed its business insurance, but the carrier bumped the dealer’s deductible from $1,000 per incident to $5,000. Without warning. Not even a phone call from the rep.

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Remember that little wheel-off incident? It had come back to bite Tire World squarely in the behind.

“We’ll make a claim when necessary,” Hoadley told me, “but it’s never been enough to cause them to raise our premiums or deductible. We’ve had a $1,000 deductible for years.

“We went to battle with them over it because we’d been with that insurance company for years,” he said. “We asked them why, and they said it was because of a wheel-off incident that happened. Now it shouldn’t have happened, and, thankfully, no one was hurt. But that’s just it – no one was hurt, except us.”

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That incident increased its exposure. A little human error meant a greater chance for an injury claim. A momentary lapse meant bigger risk. And no injuries, no claim, no citation meant no margin for any future mistakes.

Indeed, Tire World fought back. They went to the insurance company, armed with all of the training materials Scott left behind – his training manual, videos, booklets, a copy of the SEMA wheel tech certification test the dealership’s managers, tire techs and salespeople were to pass, invoices for all of the ASE training it had paid for, and detailed plans for all of the training it was going to do in the coming months. They literally drowned the poor insurance guy in paper.

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Did all of that help? Hoadley doesn’t know because the insurance guy wouldn’t tell him. Probably couldn’t get out from under the deluge. But Tire World’s deductible was restored to its previous $1,000.

The lesson Terry and his folks learned, though, ran deeper than any insurance bill. “The liability we have in our business is flat-out scary,” he said, “and our people now understand what is at stake.”

With a $2 million payout cap, “if someone got hurt, we’d all be gone tomorrow,” Hoadley said. “We’re jeopardizing our livelihoods if we don’t get proper training.”

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Do things happen for a reason? We’ll let you be the judge…while you’re lining up training sessions for your staff.

* * * * * *

2004 has been a very busy, but very fulfilling year for Tire Review. I would be quite remiss if I did not send special holiday greetings to everyone in the industry who helped us to help you. Thank you, one and all!

I am also most personally grateful to be associated with such an outstanding staff, experts all, in John Rogers, Asa Sharp, Larry Carley, Scott Blair, Steve LaFerre and, most especially, Mary Aichlmayr. They work very hard to deliver the kind of information that will help you flourish in a tough competitive environment.

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Most of all, I want to thank all of you for making Tire Review part of your business. I know we have to earn your valuable time each and every month. I promise that we won’t let you down.

Peace to you and yours this season. And have a happy, fulfilling and successful 2005!

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