This is the 11th and final installment of Tire Review’s Dealer Diary, a year-long series showcasing a typical tire dealer, his business, how he runs it, the many issues he deals with, and his thoughts on the industry in general.
This year, our Dealer Diary series, written by Managing Editor Craig Gifford, featured two different tire dealers, alternating between one focused primarily on the retail side and another that handles mainly commercial accounts.
We’d love to hear your comments on this new series. Drop us a line using the reader feedback card in this issue, or send us an e-mail at [email protected].
This installment features Terry Sparks, owner of Sparks Commercial Tire in Findlay, Ohio.
Expansion is always a topic for any good tire dealer. Open a second location, the need to add on to an existing structure®€ƒthoughts like these can pray on a shop owner’s mind.
Granted, these aren’t always the thoughts on the forefront of a commercial dealer’s mind especially when most of his business is conducted off-site. But the time eventually comes for a commercial dealer to expand, if not through adding a second location then by physically adding on.
Or how about completely moving the existing location? Certainly a viable alternative. Sometimes a dealer just can’t expand a current location further and still needs more room. There are n’t any more logistical problems associated with moving a corporation than there are adding on or building a second site. It’s just a matter of what fits the needs of the dealer.
The moving of his corporate headquarters is exactly what Terry Sparks is currently in the middle of with Sparks Commercial Tire. His current 10,500-square-foot facility located on two acres is no longer suitable for his business needs.
“We just outgrew our present location,” said Sparks. ®€œWe outgrew it quite a long time ago, but in the last three years it’s been getting crowded.®€
So to help alleviate the space crunch that many successful dealers experience, Sparks is moving the entire operation lock, stock and barrel ®€“ to a brand new 25,000-square-foot facility on 10 acres.
“Knowing that someday we’d have to eventually move, we’ve been thinking about moving our location for 10 years now. It wasn’t until three years ago that we got serious,” Sparks said.
Sparks isn’t joking when he says the company has been thinking of moving for 10 years. But entertaining the idea and actually putting it into motion are two separate things entirely. “I probably just started talking to the contractors in January of this year,” he said. ®€œAnd about six months ago, we got serious about the construction.®€
Construction is obviously one alternative to finding new location. But buying an existing structure is another good one. Why not buy and get settled in sooner?
“We really wanted to design our own service bay area,” Sparks said. ®€œIn fact, what we did is take a rough draft of the new facility and then we posted it for the service guys.
“We put it on the wall behind plexi-glass and let them draw their own designs on it. Eventually, we came up with a design that we all liked. So, in essence, the building was designed by all the employees.”
And adding the employees to the design mix has made moving a pleasant and looked forward to ®€“ experience for them.
The shape of the building is one thing. The location of said building is quite another. Sparks’ current location is on a main thoroughfare in Findlay. The site Sparks is moving to is three miles east of the present location. Down the same road.
“When we looked for a location, we thought about getting out on Interstate 75, which is five miles west of us,” said Sparks about the major route the leads toward Detroit and much of his business. ®€œBut based on the location of core business and the truck bypasses going in on the east side, we decided that the east side was where we needed to be.®€
The major question with any kind of expansion especially one in which the entire corporate facility is moving ®€“ is how much will business be interrupted? That, if anything, is one of the major considerations when planning such a big move. Fortunately for him, Sparks doesn’t see any big hitches in business.
“The only business the move will interrupt is the heavy-duty truck alignments that we do here. We’ll be down about a week and won’t be able to perform any on-site work,” Sparks said.
It is helpful that most of his business is conducted by service trucks away from the corporate headquarters. One more thing that will help Sparks Commercial Tire is the phone number the lifeline to all of Sparks’ profits ®€“ will remain the same.
“Every time we talk to people, we’re always telling them about the move,” Sparks said. ®€œMost of the business is off the premises, so that helps. And we are only three miles down the same road.®€
The only hitch on the horizon right now is that construction is happening faster than Sparks anticipated. Faster because Sparks was planning a November move in, and now he’s being told he’ll probably take possession in September or October.
“November isn’t as busy, that’s what we were hoping for,” Sparks said. ®€œOctober is usually a very busy time for us.®€ Whichever month he does get the keys, Sparks is thinking he’ll take 60 days from start to finish to move in.
Even though he’s still in the middle of the process with arguably the toughest part still to come ®€“ Sparks believes this undertaking has been easier than he expected.
“Once we came to the decision to move, it’s been easier,” Sparks said. ®€œThere was a lot of agonizing over the making of the decision. The increased expense, the years of advertising this location. We had all those things to think through.
“But in the end, I think it’s going to be easier to move because we’re not going to lose business.” ®€′
Tire Review is deeply appreciative and indebted to Terry Sparks and the entire staff of Sparks Commercial Tire for their support, involvement, insights and openness in providing interviews and material for the Dealer Diary series. We wish everyone associated with Sparks Commercial Tire nothing but the best. And good luck with the move.