LAS VEGAS-Len Lewin hadn't planned on leaving Michelin after 24 years to join American Car Care Centers. But when the tire maker offered him a job that meant relocating overseas, it caused him to reflect on his future.
``I've worked in six different countries over the last 24 years,'' said the former vice president of sales for Michelin Americas Small Tires. ``For the first time in 24 years, I stepped back a little bit and said, if I'm going to make another move is there something else outthere that might be of interest.''
That something quickly became the opportunity to serve as president and chief operating officer of Memphis, Tenn.-based American Car Care Centers, the largest marketing/buying group in North America with 18 member distributors and 832 retail outlets.
Mr. Lewin, 43, sees his joining ACCC as fulfilling his own needs as well as those of the company.
``Mine was to look at something different for myself, and American Car Care was at a stage where it was looking for someone to provide full-time direction and guidance,'' he said in an interview at the recent SEMA/AI show in Las Vegas.
Having been on the job less than a week, Mr. Lewin was reluctant to discuss specific plans for ACCC.
But he did talk about ``obvious'' needs. One is to ensure ACCC has complete dealership coverage across the U.S.; another is to upgrade the overall standard of the ACCC dealer.
Regarding coverage, ACCC still has a few spotty areas primarily in the Midwest where it is not represented, he said. ``The next logical step is to get complete coverage where we can be out there and ensure the customer base that anywhere they are they can find an America Car Care dealer.''
ACCC also is at a point, after five years of successful growth, where it is logical to ``stop and take stock of what you have and say `is this where we want to be,' '' he explained.
Part of this process involves reconfirming and redefining the company's standards for dealers, he said.
In general, Mr. Lewin wants greater consistency among ACCC dealers and in how member distributors deal and work with their dealers.
``You know when you start up any organization, such as the originators of American Car Care did, your first interest is to get your name out there, to get people on board to start to generate that interest and to grow,'' he said. ``Obviously, at that point, you're being driven by something a little bit different than when you get to a certain size and you say, `wait a minute, we now have people knocking at our door wanting to join.' And you can start to be more selective than maybe you were initially.''
For participating ACCC dealerships, Mr. Lewin aims to improve the identification and look so that customers throughout the U.S. can immediately recognize an outlet as an ACCC center.
He also would like to see consistency in the programs the group offers-from advertising to merchandising.
Growth for its own sake is not part of ACCC's plan. With dealers now knocking on ACCC's door, the company has the opportunity of being more selective to ensure new members ``are precisely what we are looking for and the type of operations we need for the future,'' Mr. Lewin said.
In leading ACCC, Mr. Lewin will report to the 18 member distributors in the organization.
Previously, ACCC had been run by committees that got together and addressed particular situations. These committees were overseen by Chairman Larry Nicholls, an ACCC member distributor and owner of Wholesale Tire & Distributors Inc., in Logan, Utah, who has provided the necessary direction for the past 18 months.
But ACCC, Mr. Lewin added, has gotten so large it's become too cumbersome and time consuming for the member distributors to run the company and still manage their own businesses.
Mr. Lewin said the board will provide direction and then allow him to run the company.
Mr. Lewin expects to receive a lot of help from Dennis DeLeonard, general manager, who recently added the title of vice president. ``He's been involved from the very beginning and done a fantastic job,'' Mr. Lewin said, noting Mr. DeLeonard will continue to be ``very involved with the day-to-day operations of many of the things he's done in the past.''
Running ACCC will be a big change for Mr. Lewin in one obvious way-size of the organization. At Michelin, he worked for a huge corporation with hundreds of employees. ACCC has just five.
``Yes, it will be different,'' he said. ``But that, in a way, is part of the attraction-to be involved in every single aspect and getting the enjoyment and fulfillment out of watching it from scratch to the finish.''