When I ask successful tire dealers what they do, I hear things like, “We try to make someone’s day better,” and “We keep families safe,” and “Whatever it takes to serve the customer,” or “We set an example, to make a positive impact on our community.”
Rarely does selling tires come up first. So this begs the question: If they’re such great tire dealers, why don’t they just focus on selling tires?
The most successful shops know that there’s much more to having a successful tire business than just moving rubber. It goes far beyond a sales conversation on price and tread life (which inadvertently positions your offering to be perceived as a commodity, but that’s a topic for another day). The best shops seem to create and sell an experience that’s so valuable and so appreciated within their communities that consumers find them indispensable. In my view, that’s the essence of what makes a good shop great.
This month we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Tire Review’s Top Shop Award, presented by Coats. For the past decade, this publication has recognized and honored some of the very best independent tire businesses in North America. These hard-working owners and their employees set the standard, in many cases defining best practices for our evolving industry.
I’d also like to send a warm thank you to Hennessy Industries for supporting the award as its presenting sponsor since its inception in 2006.
The Tire Review Top Shop competition evaluates independent dealers of all sizes and types across North America, honoring those that best epitomize the attributes and values of being the best in our industry. This is based on things like customer service and retention; employee training and education; marketing and promotion; professional standards and conduct; shop appearance; business management; community involvement; business growth; and so much more. With a record-setting number of shops entering this year, the competition was of the highest quality. That means the group of finalists and the winner truly represent the best of the best, based on the opinion of a diverse group of independent judges.
In the pages that follow, you’ll find details on our 2016 Top Shop Finalists and Winners. Finalists this year are Dunn Tire, McMahon’s Best-One Tire, and Bud’s Tire Pros. The Top Shop X highest honor goes to the renowned Lex Brodie’s Tire, Brake & Service Co.
While the official award ceremony will take place at the Tire Industry Honors event in Las Vegas on Oct. 31, we kicked things off earlier with a September event in Nashville celebrating the 10 years of the award. We also had a special dedication to its founder, the late Jim Smith. It was there that I was lucky to spend a few days with members of our Top Shop family, many of whom run the some of the best tire businesses in the country.
I admit it – I’m a people watcher. As a journalist and marketer, I’m fascinated by people’s behaviors, motivations and attitudes – why one person is inspired to do great things while someone from seemingly identical circumstances and background seems to never lift off the ground. So when you gather together some of the best and brightest tire retailers, you begin to notice some similarities between them.
In honor of “Top Shop X,” here is my personal Top 10 Top Shop Qualities observed in the owners, leaders and managers I had the privilege of spending time with in Nashville. See if you agree:
1. A love of people – These are definitely “people people.” Each in their own way expressed a true fondness and affection for those around them and for those within their organizations.
2. Part of something bigger – As I mentioned earlier, each person seemed to see themselves as part of a greater good, be it safety or stress relief or simply a helping hand within the community. They saw their work as providing a service and contribution to both their customers and their communities – something bigger than just “selling tires.”
3. Selflessness – Most Top Shop folks had what I call a “servant mentality” in their approach to business – it’s not about them; it’s about serving the customer. You get the sense they’d do just about anything for anyone without a need for recognition.
4. True concern – They care. From being on the phone helping a technician facing foreclosure to raising awareness of needs in the community, you notice a heartfelt empathy toward others and a higher level of emotional intelligence.
5. Dedication to employees – A common theme was the weight of responsibility each carried, making sure every one of their employees and their families were properly provided for. Part of their drive seems fueled by the importance of supporting those who work for them. Taking care of their people is how they take care of business.
6. Grounded optimism – No one seemed to be a cockeyed optimist, but each Top Shop leader seemed to have an air of positivity in the way they carried themselves, spoke and shared opinions. Even on topics regarding industry challenges, there was no sense of defeat, only talk of opportunities yet to be explored.
7. Eschew mediocrity – Many expressed a real distain for the status quo, “the way we’ve always done it here,” and especially for employees who were unwilling to strive for personal growth and excellence. In other words, average is not an option.
8. Innovation – To a fault, each Top Shop leader did their best to embrace change and find ways to make trends work to their benefit. Many were not afraid to try new things and to shake things up a bit with a goal of continuous improvement, making what’s already working even better.
9. Integrity – In an industry experiencing a crisis of trust between consumers and shops, these top tire dealers placed a heavy emphasis on doing right for the customer, keeping their word and conducting business with a high level of integrity, which perhaps explains how each is so well respected amongst their peers and within their communities.
10. Enthusiasm – When you love what you do, it shows. These leaders of some of the country’s best shops expressed a bubbling enthusiasm for the business, a passion for what they do and the difference they make in the day-to-day of their customers and their employees. Get them in the room together and the positivity and energy was remarkable.
At each step of the Tire Review Top Shop process – from reviewing award submissions to interviews for articles and sharing ideas – I continue to be inspired by the strength of the independent tire dealer, which is truly a reflection on the people and teams behind them.
Enjoy the stories that follow, and I look forward to seeing your shop’s entry in our Top Shop contests to come.