To form a great team at your shop, it helps to first to stand in their shoes, to get your hands dirty before you take on a shop of your own. At least that’s what Bill Bender believes. He’s been there and done that. After years of working at various shops and creating businesses of his own across the country, Bill moved to Denver and served as a Master Technician at a Nissan car dealership. In 1983, he decided to set out on his own and do things differently.
“The dealership I worked at was so bottom-line conscious. Every single thing was run that way,” recalls Bill, owner of Independent Motors, an auto repair shop that would later take on the name Boulder Tire. “When I opened up, I said ‘whatever (the dealership) was doing, I’m going to do the exact opposite,’ the way you treat employees, the way you deal with suppliers, etc. What I tried to do is take the best of the dealership world and merge it with best of the independent repair shop world. That’s how I run the company.”
Since the day he first opened, he’s made sure he offered group health and dental insurance to all employees along with matching IRAs. He pays service writers on salary instead of commission – that way they don’t have any incentive to sell customers unneeded repairs to increase their paychecks. The result, Bill says, has been greater employee loyalty.
“I have people (employees) looking out for the business and our customers as opposed to just doing their job,” he says. “They’re focused on the bigger picture.”
About nine years ago, Bill began to branch out and started selling tires and tire repair services
That’s when he acquired the rights to the name Boulder Tire – a move he said has helped the shop with its digital marketing.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about Google. I hate to give the big behemoth conglomerate that power by recognizing it, but it’s the obvious elephant in the room… I think your Google presence is huge. As more millennials come into buying power, it’s even more so.”
In 2013, Boulder Tire moved into a 14-bay building and dedicated four bays strictly for tires. This year, Bill also combined forces with another Boulder store, Tires Inc., when it went out of business. He negotiated with the shop’s owner, Nick Hardy, to buy all of his equipment, inventory and even his customer list, which Bill said has helped his business expand locally and keep the shop’s customer base with an independent tire dealer.
“I think one of the unique things about Boulder is that people like the idea of family owned,” Bill says.
To handle the influx of customers, Bill hired a couple of Nick’s employees, bringing his total team to 19 at the shop and counting. But despite an increase in customers, Bill stresses to his team the importance of quality customer service.
“We like to become partners of the customer for the life of their vehicle,” Bill says. “So, we like to put it out there that we’re in this together. We structure our pricing that way. We say, ‘hey, if you can’t afford this, let’s do this’ as opposed to the harder sell.”