Just read your column, "It’s Just a Numbers Game" in this month’s issue. I work in a small independent auto repair/tire dealer in a suburb of Cleveland. My father started a Shell gas station in 1969 when I was young and sold it in 1973 when the oil embargo scared him. Chances are if he had stayed in the business, I would probably own a chain of gas stations now, but that will never be known.
Years later when he saw this trend of which you speak happening in business, he asked me why I was so happy about the great deal I got at the new Super K-Mart in town instead of from the appliance guy down the street with whom we had been doing business for years.
I told him the price was a lot cheaper. He told me he was going to give me a lesson in business, and had me follow him out to his vegetable garden where he was growing zucchini.
I was skeptical about what "the gardener" could show his business major son about business, but I reluctantly listened. He said that if he failed to trim the plant and allowed the largest zucchini to continue growing, the smaller, budding zucchinis would shrivel up and die. What’s more, the giant zucchini would not have very good flavor at all, be loaded with seeds, would begin to rot from the inside out, and the plant as a whole would die off sooner and yield far fewer zucchinis over the summer.
He said this is what will happen to our appliance friend down the street. It did. My father never made it past third grade in war-torn Italy during the 1940s, but he was wise.
Unfortunately, for years independent manufacturers in nearly every industry are dying because of this sea change movement toward “bigger is better.” It is a change we must deal with. We must not curse the storm, but adjust our sails.
In our town, we have a 30-store chain that bills itself as a "family company,” but it acts just like a big-box chain. It’s tough to compete against a giant that pretends to be a "little guy.” But we must.
Perhaps we must to strive for Ken Blanchard’s "Raving Fans" ideology and give our customers a reason to stay with (or come back to) us when they grow weary of the blandness from the giant, faceless corporation.
It would be interesting to see you follow-up this article with one that presents the possible solution(s) to this problem.
Anyway, I enjoyed the article and look forward to every issue.
Lakewood Tire & Auto
I just finished reading your column entitled "It’’s Just a Numbers Game." As a services provider to independent tire dealers, I feel the sense of loss that you do.
In the last two years alone, we have lost Big 10 Tires, Kramer Tire, Tire Barn Warehouse and Ken Towery’s Tire as customers to the “Others” as you describe them. However, we lost more than that, which are the relationships that go with working with family-owned independents.
It is these relationships that bring me (and I assume you, too) to the office each day. Good article.
Jay B. Adams