What started with dismantling cars in a salvage yard, coupled with an engineer’s mind, eventually led Ed Kiekover to a career as a tire dealer. From a very young age, he’s been driven to be his best at everything he does.
With that drive, he pushed himself away from desk jobs to instead take on a job with OK Tire Stores as a front-end car tech. And after nearly 12 years of working for OK Tire, Kiekover had the chance to buy into the business. Deciding this was the career he wanted, he soon became one of the current four partners who own the four OK Tire Stores, Inc. plus one Holland Tire & Automotive Service Center in western Michigan.
The business places a strong focus on the customer, both those outside the building as well as the team members he works with each day.
“Our mission statement is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is biblical,” Kiekover says. “That was our mission statement before we even knew what a mission statement was.”
At OK Tire, Kiekover says the shop works to build a culture of honesty and trust not only with their customers but also with their employees. He says his co-workers often refer to each other as family, which is important to him.
“They say to us that, ‘I like working here because it’s like a family. If I have a problem, I have somebody I can turn to,’” Kiekover says. “ It’s more than just a paycheck. It’s a culture, and it’s a way of life. A family – you don’t get to pick [your family members], but here you do.”
At 59, Kiekover, who is now an award-winning ASE Master Technician, still takes training seriously and reads up on new industry knowledge at night. He says he is driven to be his best at everything he does. In fact, the question, “how do we get better today?” is something he has made part of the shop’s philosophy.
A big focus now for Kiekover is making sure to pass along his knowledge by mentoring young technicians.
“The clock’s ticking for me; I’m not going to live to be 120,” Kiekover says. “What our goal is now is to take this lifetime of knowledge, those 40 years, and mentor good, young people how to make a good living in this job. When you empower people, when you feed that learning craving that they have, that builds a lot of loyalty into the team.”
His advice to other dealers looking to be more successful? Keep doing the things that make you successful and don’t stop doing them.
“We keep doing things the same way because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” he says. “The secret is to have the discipline to implement it and keep it going because usually what happens [is] we do things, we get successful, and we stop doing them.”
Kiekover says you need to have the passion to implement good policy, just as he tells his kids to find their passion as he has, instead of chasing money.
“I really believe that when you do things with the utmost integrity and honesty, you’re going to be blessed,” Kiekover says. “Things will work out. It’s going to be hard, but there’s an old saying, ‘God puts the food on the table but he doesn’t put the fork in your mouth.’”