Third-generation tire dealer John Quirk has made several major changes to his family business since taking over as president and CEO. Under his care, Quirk Tire, a two-location full-service commercial dealer in Watertown, Mass., grew to become VIP Tires & Service, a retail dealership with 56 locations across Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
In 1975 while in high school, Quirk started working at his family’s business. Over the years he worked in several positions, including truck tire service, retread shop technician, commercial service manager, as well as retail store manager and director of sales.
Despite always knowing he wanted to go into the family business, and getting a start at a young age, Quirk spent some time working outside the tire industry.
“My dad had an unwritten rule that before you could go in the family business you had to work for someone outside the family business for a minimum of five years,” Quirk shares.
“It’s always good to have to earn it yourself… Not rely on a family business,” he continues. “When you’re out on your own you have to fend for yourself and make it happen.”
When Quirk took over Quirk Tire as president in 1985, he was working as director of sales at Autographix, a computer business in Manhattan. In that role he was overseeing more than 65 sales representatives selling computer systems across the U.S.
The experience taught him a lot about business, he says.
“You learn a lot from seeing other business, what you felt they did well and where there are some opportunities for improvement,” he shares.
One of the most significant moments in Quirk’s career is when he helped to engineer the acquisition of VIP Tire, he says. The deal closed just two weeks after 9/11. At the time, Quick Tire had just two locations and VIP operated 43 retail stores.
Quirk notes his ability to successfully take over VIP was through the help of a newly established board.
“At the time, the financial markets went into a tailspin,” he shares. “But, VIP had a solid business and had a lot of great employees and we hit the ground running. We were fortunate to get through that tough period without too much bloodshed.”
Quirk says he made changes to his family’s business after recognizing that roughly 85% of Quirk Tire’s revenue was tied to the fate of the construction industry. The giant tire market is also very seasonal so, when he took over, Quirk wanted to move to more year-round business, he notes.
This year marks 90 years of Quirk’s family being involved in the tire business. And despite many changes, Quirk still operates a retail tire store in Watertown at the same location his grandfather Edward Quick Sr. established Quirk Tire in 1926.
“Our business touches thousands and thousands of families. Certainly our own employees, we have about 500 employees, but we also service over 30,000 vehicles a month,” he says. “It’s our job is to build a relationship with our customers and earn their trust. When you’re successful in building that relationship, we become part of their family. And they become part of our family.
“I don’t think there are many business that have the opportunity to make that kind of an impact on families as the way tire dealers do. The car is such an integral part of daily life today, and that vehicle is a personal connection to people,” he continues.