Thoughtful growth has fueled the Tire Pros franchise. Not only does it want to grow with more dealers across the US, but it also wants those dealers to be the right partners to grow with. Now with 400-plus dealer franchisees that together have more than 600 independent locations in 44 states, Tire Pros has goals to further its expansion efforts while focusing on bringing the dealers who are the right fit into the fold.
To hear more about where and how Tire Pros wants to grow its footprint, we caught up with Greg Bell, president of American Tire Distributor’s Tire Pros subsidiary, a few weeks ago at Tire Pros’ 2023 National Business Conference in San Diego, California. There, Greg filled us in on the geographic areas in which Tire Pros wants to grow, the training resources the franchise launched this year and the group’s priorities for 2023 in the latest episode of What’s Treading with Tire Review, presented by AAPEX.
- Geographic areas in which Tire Pros wants to grow (1:10)
- How Tire Pros is looking to help dealers with succession planning and keep dealer locations in the franchise (3:08)
- Tire Pros’ playbook its dealers are creating for various shop positions (6:35)
- Tire Pros’ priorities for 2023, including tire recycling (9:54)
Maddie Winer, Tire Review Editor: Currently, Tire Pros is in 44 of the 48 contiguous US states, and Greg Bell, president of the franchise, only sees the franchise’s footprint growing. He told us that the franchise has 623 locations and areas of opportunity for growth are in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.
Greg Bell, president of Tire Pros: We’ve actually had some really good positive conversations to start this year with several dealers in those markets.
I think if you stretch from the Dakotas through Minnesota, Illinois, down in Indianapolis, for us, those are opportunity areas. And while we have a footprint in the Northeast, I think just like I remarked with Texas and California, we can continue to expand from Maryland all the way through the New England market.
But I also think there’s a tremendous opportunity to add density to where we already are. So we’re grateful to be back here in California. We have more dealers in the state of California than we have anywhere else. We’d love to continue to add. We’ve brought several new franchisees in over the past year here in California and then followed by Texas. And so those are two focus areas that continue to grow brand awareness with Tire Pros. But obviously, for me, I want to fill in not just the lower 48, but would love to expand at some point to all 50 states.
With the pandemic and the way things have shaken out, we’re going to be patient, but it’s also about finding the right dealer and the right opportunity. And so the point here is that I want to bring value to Tire Pros by expanding our footprint and our growth, but I want to make sure we’re doing that strategically and with the right partner.
Winer: For Tire Pros, it’s not just a pure numbers game, Greg said. Tire Pros wants to focus on the quality of stores it brings into the fold. However, he said the franchise would love to hit 700 stores this year.
Bell: We’re going to be thoughtful about how we do that. That’ll come through organic growth inside. We’ve got a number of franchises that are expanding, but then also we’d love to add new opportunities and owners into the network as well. The strength here is really our dealers.
Winer: We also asked Bell about industry consolidation and private equity coming in, as well as big players getting bigger. Our question: How is Tire Pros trying to make sure the franchise doesn’t lose dealers with these outside factors at play?
Bell: It’s reality. We have a couple of things that we’re doing. First, I’ll share that while we certainly saw some of that last year, we had what I would consider a very successful year with retention. Over 50% of dealers that sold their business sold back into Tire Pros, so that could be a business transfer within on or a son or daughter buying the business. We had a number of opportunities where external ownership came in and retained as Tire Pros. So, we continue to see those trends of internal retention, which is foundational to our growth, obviously.
We at Tire Pros were looking at opportunities to provide resources for estate planning, for succession planning. So we partnered with Federated, and we actually brought in their experts to speak to our dealers in July of last year at about 20 of our regional events. We received a tremendous amount of feedback because honestly, at the end of the day, many don’t, right? So, we want to make sure that we’re providing the resources.
Winer: One additional resource that was formed last year is Tire Pros’ Franchise Council, a partnership between the franchise and nine of its dealers. Steven Moss, owner of Wilson Tire Pros in North Carolina and former chair of the National Tire Pros Dealer Council, is leading that effort.
Bell: It’s a passion of his, it’s a goal of his. And Steven and I collaborated on this a year ago, and he came off of the National Council and right into this franchise council. Steven and his wife Susan, own three stores now. They’ve seen growth over the last couple of years with their business as well. We’re in partnership with several external resources to think about how we can provide business valuation, real estate valuation, legal brokerage support, a number of things, and almost a playbook.
One of the things that we’re near development of is almost an end-to-end solution of if I’m looking to come up with an exit strategy to sell my business, what are the steps that I need to think about? What are the things that I need to make sure and in tune with, and how can Tire Pros help support me there? So those are the things that we’re doing and have continued to do and will continue throughout the year to bring value and support to make sure that those are looking for an exit strategy we can help them put in place, but then also create a conduit back into the Tire Pros ownership group for those that are looking to expand. And not just within Tire Pros, but externally as well.
We have a large number of our owners or single location owners, and sometimes they need some guidance in terms of where do I get started. We can connect them internally with our partners that have done that, but we also want to make sure that we’re creating a pipeline to clearly spell out the steps and the resources, tools and support that we can help provide them as well.
Winer: Also at the Tire Pros Conference this year, the franchise revealed its working on a playbook for how each position in the shop should operate.
Bell: I think it’s a broader conversation with respect to how you even think about recruiting for talent. There are several things that I’ll lay out here, but they’re not siloed initiatives. They really all need to work in tandem, and that really starts with the opportunity to bring talent into a Tire Pros retail location. We’re doing some things on that front. We’re excited to announce and launch our partnership with WyoTech this year at the conference. In 2021, we introduced our partnership with CareerPlug and Transitive to help broadcast opportunities to each Tire Pros location for recruiting. But that’s step one. Step two is then once you find that talent, regardless of role, how do you onboard them?
That’s where the Training and Customer Experience Council came together and said, we really need to develop a consistent turnkey playbook that’s across the Tire Pros organization that says, here are the things that you need to be thinking about. That was truly created and led by our dealer group because it was recognized that everybody does it a little bit differently, but in some cases, there wasn’t a process. And so it was Shadow Sally or Shadow Bob, and that was kind of the training regimen. We wanted to ensure that there was consistency and there was depth from an onboarding perspective, and it was comprehensive.
Winer: The next step was to think about training. This year, the group launched Tire Pros University at the conference and Greg said the goal is for the online training to serve as a comprehensive learning and development platform for Tire Pros locations.
Bell: It really starts with some foundational micro-learning through our partnership with ATD and our learning and development team to generate and curate content for three to five minutes of daily learning and reinforcement to the things that matter most to our dealers. It’s really role specific. They [a Tire Pros location employee] can go in, they don’t have to take hours away and get into a virtual environment. They don’t have to put their folks on a plane and travel and be out of the business for several hours. That goes back to some of the recruiting pieces and staffing, but that’s not an end all be all either. So we’re really… Tire Pro University is going to be more of a comprehensive, learning, development and onboarding. How do you show career path and progression?
There’s leadership development, there’s a curriculum in there, there’s going to be modules. We have reinforced content for products and services. And so it’s really going to be much more of a comprehensive solution.
Winer: Aside from the new initiatives and products launched at the conference, Greg also gave us an overview of some of Tire Pros’ priorities for 2023. One of those includes ramping up tire recycling efforts.
Bell: I’ll be honest, a lot of the things that we do is because of our relationship with American Tire Distributors and the things that we’re going to be able to continue to do moving forward is because of that relationship as well. ATD has brought forward a thoughtful tire recycling program that we’re privileged to be able to bring, obviously then to Tire Pros. We had several early adopters and pilot users inside of Tire Pros that provided that same feedback on the program and the process to help refine and reshape that.
We’re going to continue it moving forward. There was a tremendous amount of excitement on the floor yesterday as I was going around talking to people, because it’s a behind-the-curtain pain point that dealers have to face, whether they’re storing tires in the back, whether they’re renting storage trailers. Regardless of the current process and relationships that they have, we want to make sure that we’re bringing a refined, simplistic, easy and environmentally friendly solution to the table. And I hope that message does not just resonate with our dealers, but with their customers as well at the end of the day from a sustainability perspective.
It’s not just ATD is picking tires up from a Tire Pros location and then doing whatever with them. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we’re getting them out of landfills, we’re properly recycling, and eventually putting them back into working with manufacturers on new products as well.
Winer: Greg said ATD has rolled out the tire recycling program in 23 markets, and Tire Pros dealers served in some of the focus groups to provide feedback on the program.
Lastly, Bell said that he hopes that the industry and Tire Pros dealers know that the franchise is able to contribute to dealer success through their feedback.
Bell: We are here for them and we’re listening. Feedback’s a gift.