After being without power for 10 days, Tire Systems Inc. owner Darryl Burker and his handful of employees got back to work as quickly as possible and were one of the first businesses able to reopen in Lakewood, N.J.
The town, just miles from the New Jersey coast, was severely hit by the storm and required heavy-duty cleanup.
“We saw people from Ohio and Texas, just huge crews, coming in here and cleaning everything up just to make the roadways passable,” explains Burker.
He adds that the shop was able to assist the crews by fixing up vehicles that were damaged, such as nails in tires, during the cleanup process.
More than half a year later, Burker says business is, for the most part, “back to normal,” although each day is different.
Tire Systems Inc. was established in 1979 as a tires-only store; Burker worked there as a tire changer during summer breaks from college.
By 1987, the area was changing, new housing developments were underway and there was an obvious change in demand for more vehicle service. So Burker bought the store from the original owner and added automotive service by 1990.
“I went from just doing car tires to eventually moving up to light truck and medium truck tires, and with that I was able to progress up to sales and still do tire work at the same time,” says Burker, who added that he held an exclusively sales role before transitioning to manager and owner.
The three-bay shop sees the usual passenger cars and light trucks, as well as some “earthmover” trucks and the occasional marina vehicle.
Even with six employees, Burker can still regularly be found out in the garage as opposed to being behind a desk.
“I enjoy getting out of the office and going back in the shop and taking my mind off of things,” he says.
Last year the shop signed up to be a Goodyear dealer, which Burker says has been a great opportunity. “We try and take advantage of their marketing programs and Goodyear is a brand that really needs no introduction,” says Burker. “That’s worked out pretty well for us.”
He says other popular tire brands are General and Continental “a major brand with good value to it” as well as Michelin, but the shop has access to almost every tire brand.
Employees and Customers
When it comes to his staff, Burker says he looks for people who are honest and possess a versatile skill set.
“In a business like this, you really try to look for versatility,” he says. “It’s difficult to have a specialization area. There’s just about every make and model car available out there, so we don’t specialize in anything in particular.”
Staying on top of the latest technology and techniques also is important to Burker. “We push our training because of ever-changing vehicle dynamics, so we try and stay current on just about everything that we can,” he says.
When it comes down to doing business with customers, Burker says Tire Systems has a family-oriented approach. “We work as a family,” he says. “Customers like to come to a shop where there’s familiarity.”
To show extra appreciation, the company regularly thanks its customers in a personalized way.
“We’ll call them and thank them and then we send them a note if they spent over $350 in one visit,” says Burker, who adds that the follow-ups have been well received. “We see how they’re doing and most of the time they can’t believe we’re calling them to thank them for their business.”
Within a two-mile radius of the store, Burker says there is plenty of competition. Although Tire Systems has a solid reputation that has lasted for three decades, the shop doesn’t take any customer for granted and is always looking for new ways to go the extra mile.
About a year ago, Burker partnered with the Automotive Training Institute (ATI), which he says has really helped with Tire Systems’ marketing efforts. As part of the program, business owners are assigned a coach, who they talk to weekly about their business strategies.
“It’s fun for business owners because there isn’t always somebody pushing you, but you push your employees,” says Burker. “So now I actually feel accountable to someone.”
He says the program made him realize that one of the areas in which the shop was failing was providing courtesy checks to every customer. “So we made a 30-point inspection that we stick to and it’s really helped grow our business,” says Burker.
He adds that Tire Systems sends out reminder cards to customers when it’s time for certain services.
“Our job is to make you aware of what is wrong with your car, or potentially wrong with your car, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to fix it,” he says.
Over the years, Burker and his staff have gotten to know many families and regularly sponsor little league teams and charitable organizations that benefit the community, such as the Oceans of Love charity for children with cancer. Burker also is an active soccer coach.
“It has to be a win-win situation,” says Burker. “They’re winning because they’re getting advertising and we’re winning because we receive good word of mouth and exposure; you have someone out there trumpeting your services.”
The company also has started to embrace social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
Despite a rough patch during Hurricane Sandy, Burker says business has been strong and he’s expecting an up year.
Concerning further growth, the dealership’s showroom recently received a makeover after 20 years; the shop also is currently undergoing construction of a fourth bay.