When William “Chip” Wood opened his first tire shop in 1976 in Cincinnati, Ohio, right out of college, he never imagined it would grow into the company it is today, with over 110 locations across the nation.
“The first store was so run down and in such bad shape that the only thing I could do was get the customers in and out as fast as I could because I was so embarrassed to have them waiting in the so-called waiting area,” said Chip, CEO and founder of Tire Discounters. “Over the years, we did what we could to fix it up, but it was all driven by available resources, so it was hard. Eventually, we got to the point where we could build a store from the ground up, and that was when we really evolved.”
Chip and his family have been embedded in the tire industry for generations. His grandfather worked for General Tire and his uncle owned a tire shop in Akron, Ohio. Following in their footsteps, Chip also worked for General and at his uncle’s shop on the weekends while in college. When he moved back to Cincinnati after college, he used what he learned to start his own one-bay shop.
Back when Chip first started, he envisioned a shop where customers could be treated fairly and have all their needs addressed. In the beginning, each tire purchased included balancing for the life of that tire. That offer grew to also include an alignment with the purchase of four tires, all for one price. His initial customer-centric instinct to offer additional services set his business apart from the competition. It also showed that he valued something different – transparency.
“Transparency has been a guiding principle from day one. As we get bigger, it’s still a best practice when handling coworkers, staff and customers,” he said.
That original vision with its emphasis on transparency has held true over the years as Tire Discounters has grown across the nation. It’s why glass replaces many of the walls, including the one that divides the showroom and work areas. It’s why cameras are installed throughout the bays that can be viewed in the waiting room. Each shop built is well thought out, and those meaningful design choices, Chip says, help build trust as customers monitor the work being performed.
Steven Wood, director of operations and Chip’s oldest son, said the company is always working to develop features to improve the customer and employee experience at each of their stores.
“We’re continually tweaking the stores,” Steven said. “They might look the same, but no two are alike when you think about the details.”
In Chip’s mind, a great shop begins to take shape by first selecting a prime property location, then come all the details to create a bright, open and comfortable space for everyone to work in and enjoy.
Steven said that the company has added customer conveniences like WiFi, workstations with USB ports, charging outlets and play areas with coloring stations and TVs for parents and their children. Meanwhile, technicians use new Hunter Engineering alignment machines and wheel balancers within a well-lit and clean service area.
Chip believes that the main driver for Tire Discounters’ constant improvement is based on one factor — the customer.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything that the customer expects and needs,” Chip said. “So if the customer wants or needs it, that’s something that needs to be changed and needs to be improved.”
As changes are made, they are rolled out and retrofitted to all of the stores, or those locations that require the updates. As a result of this constant evolution, Chip said the company has been successful, and he has high hopes that his children will eventually run the company and carry on that vision of excellence.
“I want to grow the company as best I can and continue to provide excellent customer service along the way,” his son, Steven, said. “I’ve been learning a lot over the years from my dad, and I just want to continue to stay true to our roots in the future.”