Takin’ Care of Business
There is an over-used, oft picked-on phrase that goes something like "TCB." Better known as "Takin’ Care of Business." It’s a business model for some, a laugh for others.
While the phrase is trite, it is still accurate in describing tire dealers that handle commercial accounts – especially time-sensitive mining and quarry businesses. Dealers need to stay on top of their commercial accounts in order to make sure everyone is satisfied and that the money keeps rolling in.
And handling customers and providing service is exactly what the London, Ky.-based Cook Tire Company Inc. is all about. Cook Tire has made service its top priority. Anyone can supply tires and perform basic functions. But providing superior service and meeting customer needs is critical for a dealer to stay in business.
"Our service is the one thing we offer that goes above and beyond," said owner Ted Cook, Sr. "Our service is critical because the downtime of the machines we work on is so expensive.
"We deal with equipment that costs $1 to $2 million. That’s very expense, and it’s costly when it goes down."
Cook is in tune to the desires of his customers – so much so that he’s able to predict their wants and needs. It’s one of the things he feels has kept his company in operation for so long.
From the Beginning
Cook Tire was founded 25 years ago by Cook and a partner. "I used to work for another tire company," Cook said "It wasn’t until after I left that I was talked into going into business for myself."
It proved to be a wise decision.
The specialty of the house are OTR tires and for that, Cook has carried the Firestone brand for as long as his dealership has been in business. The Bridgestone line was picked up 10 years ago.
Then last year, Cook made a change. The Yokohama brand was brought in, but not at Cook’s request. The brand was brought as a result of customer demand.
"It was a new product in the market and I had a lot of customers talking about it," he said. "We picked it up because of customer acceptance."
It’s that mentality – the willingness to give customers what they want – that has allowed Cook Tire to prosper over the years. So much in fact, that the company has steadily grown, and now employs 30, with 10-12 service techs that perform off-site service.
Service also played no small part in the advancement of Cook Tire. As he said, service is Cook’s pride and joy. And one of the best services that Cook feels he has is the Bridgestone tire tracking system that allows him to track the life of the tire, the surfaces it drives on, etc.
"We have the Bridgestone tire tracking system for all of our customers, and they really seem like that," Cook said. "Our services are a big benefit and we try to show our customers how and why we’re the cheapest and the best. We try to stay on top of our business."
Obviously, one of the main things a dealer can do to be successful in the commercial field is be able to handle any problem a customer will throw at them.
Of course, to really become irreplaceable, the dealer should be able to anticipate a problem before it even occurs – to take care of business.
As stated earlier, that’s Cook’s secret in a nutshell. Why wait on the customer? Head to them first.
"We’re always trying to foresee problems before they arise," Cook said. "The dealer needs to bring them up before the customer does.
"You can handle anything if you stay aware of the customer needs."
Another key part of remaining successful is doing the things that others don’t want to do. Handling the tough situations without complaint, and always being ready to go the extra mile. That’s what Cook expects, and that’s how he treats is customers.
"What’ll make you extra special is the willingness to do whatever it takes," Cook said. "Some people just want to leave at 5 p.m. and go home. But in this business, you can’t do that.
"You have got to work seven days a week to keep up with what’s going on with the customers. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job. You need to make every effort to stay on top of potential situations."
Cook is serious about working 24 hours a day. All of his service techs are on-call, whether in the shop or at home. Especially at night, an immediate response is expected, and that’s something Cook looks to deliver."
Remaining successful also means garnering trust from the customer – any dealer will tell you that. Any dealer will also tell you that the longer their relationship with the customer grows, the more decisions the dealer ends up making. It’s a simple matter of placing confidence. Cook concurs.
"The customers rely on the dealer to a certain extent because we know from other angles what problems they might run into," he said. "If they have enough confidence to give us their business, then they have enough confidence to trust our brands."
It’s easy to see why Cook Tire has survived over the years. A commitment to customers and to being the best. So what advice does he offer to other dealers who are looking to attract the type of business he already has? Just one simple statement.
"You have to be willing to do everything it takes to succeed."