Throughout history, humans have turned tragedy into triumph. We mourn and move forward, learning from our missteps and finding better, safer results.
The Hindenberg disaster gave us safer air travel and a new industry – airlines. Titanic’s fate gave us safety procedures employed on cruise ships to this day. 9/11 has tightened travel security.
Yes, sometimes we openly danced with the devil, but happenstance, more often, is to blame.
The greater issue is how we choose to bounce back.
Over the last two years we’ve seen many changes in the tire industry, from how manufacturers operate to how you conduct your everyday business.
Some say it’s because of that pesky little TREAD Act (long past due, by the way). But the TREAD Act is a result, not a cause. And since we still don’t have most TREAD Act regulations, there’s no basis for that argument.
The recalls? They were the real catalysts, the instigators of changes we see today, and of those still on the horizon.
"The recalls had a negative impact on consumer perceptions of the tire industry, from the products we sell to the people who sell them," said Steve Disney, former TIA president. Very true, indeed. More importantly, those recalls were probably the best thing that ever happened to this industry.
Humankind has two unique qualities. First, we can get too comfortable (and sometimes too complacent) with our worlds. If nothing’s broke, why fix it? It’s not laziness but compensation; our lives are so complex that we try to find normalcy and routine anywhere we can. Many say they love change, but in reality we hate anything that knocks us off the few straight lines we’re allowed.
In a strange juxtaposition, we can also be quite introspective, searching for any chinks in our armor, questioning the basic tenants we hold dear. Looking for ways to improve. Change!
When tire performance was called into question by those recalls, we all began reviewing everything we did – how we sold tires, how we mounted tires, how we repaired tires, how we treated our customers. It all changed.
During the recent ITE/SEMA Show, TIA announced the completion of its strategic plan, the first for the newly merged association and likely the first ever for any industry association.
Without digressing from the intent of this column, the issues addressed in the strat plan are extremely important and must be successfully implemented. They strike a chord with our nature to seek comfort yet be introspective. Reaching the plan’s goals will take a cooperative effort by everyone in this industry – manufacturer and dealer, member and non-member alike.
I have two suggestions for everyone: First, if you’re not a TIA member, join right now. Second, get a copy of the strat plan, read it carefully, and see how you can help make it a reality. All our businesses will be better for it.
That said, I want to focus on one forward-thinking aspect of the plan – the concept of certification.
TIA proposes a "certified tire store" concept, which would include certification of dealership managers and service employees. In short, through education, testing and on-going compliance, a tire dealer and his/her service employees can earn certified status, a cross between ISO9000 and the Good Housekeeping seal.
Certified dealers will earn a "trust mark," a seal of approval TIA plans to heavily promote to tire buyers – consumer and commercial alike. Think of the advantage you can gain over mass merchants, price clubs, discounters and those dealers who choose to not participate. Think of the comfort and confidence customers will have in your business, and the new customers you can gain by being a clear leader.
Think of how others will begin to view our industry – lawyers, insurance companies, news organizations, automakers, lawmakers and so on.
This is an ambitious goal, an enormous proposition to be sure, and will take a lot of time and money. But the benefits to all – at every level – are equally enormous.
The certified store concept should be no vision quest, no pie-in-the-sky proposition, but a major priority for manufacturers, marketers, allied suppliers and dealers.
TIA fully understands that perception is reality, and you should, too. That’s why the certified tire store concept works. Yes, it will take effort on your part. But if you truly contemplate the issue, you will come to the conclusion that we have no choice.
It’s change now, or watch as our products and services sink further into commodity oblivion. It’s your call.