GLENDALE, Ariz.-In 1980, Dave Denman opened a Big O Tire Stores Inc. franchise in Glendale. For four years he struggled until, in 1984, he decided he would be better off on his own as an independent tire dealer. Not so. Despite working 70-hour weeks, Dave's Tire & Auto Corral continued to post loss after loss. It was apparent, three years after going it on his own, that he would have to make some radical changes or get out of the business, he said.
Not quite sure how to ``put the fun'' back into his operation, he started reading business management books and called a consulting firm to help revamp his dealership.
It was a good plan, he said, until he learned that the consulting fees would cost him $25,000.
Using collective ideas from his 14-employee staff, Mr. Denman created a series of management and operating procedures that ``brought consistency and quality to the operation.''
Dave's Tire & Auto grew from $656,000 in sales in 1987 to two outlets posting $1.5 million in sales at the end of 1994. More importantly, he notes, the business now has a 98-percent customer satisfaction rating and a 22-percent bottom line.
The changes were so effective Mr. Denman turned his procedures into manuals, called the Automotive Management Systems (AMS) program, that he began marketing in 1994. About 30 auto repair facilities across the country are using AMS.
``The biggest problem we have in our industry today is we are unprofessional,'' Mr. Denman said in an interview. ``We give (our employees) no training whatsoever. We hire them and throw them out there, and then we wonder why they fail.''
AMS is a set of five manuals covering the management, sales, service, personnel and marketing aspects of running an automotive repair shop, complete with checklists designed and tested by Dave's Tire's employees.
The checklists enable employees to complete their daily tasks in a consistent and quantifiable manner, Mr. Denman said. For example, sets of checklists allow service technicians to perform inspection routines and repair procedures that result in consistent customer recommendations.
``Too many independent shops are run on emotion and not on logic and facts,'' Mr. Denman said.
Although Mr. Denman said a business college has estimated AMS's worth at more than $3,000, he is selling the system for $795.
``I just want to get it out to give people some tools that they can use,'' he said. ``I'm not interested in making a fortune off of this. It's kind of rewarding that I'm even getting something back.''
The cost includes consulting and training, Mr. Denman added.