ENGLEWOOD, Colo.-Consumers equate a few principles with the name J.D. Power and Associates: Trust. Integrity. Excellence. Big O Tires Inc. hopes its potential franchisees equate those same principles with the Englewood-based tire retailer-not by coincidence-but by design, according to Ron Lautzenheiser, Big O vice president of business development.
Mr. Lautzenheiser oversees new market development for the Englewood-based tire retailer. His new program to entice potential small business owners to sign Big O's 17-page franchise agreement strongly links the company with a recent J.D. Power replacement tire survey that found the Big O private brand best in terms of consumer satisfaction.
Obviously, praise like that is a confidence builder for a businessman trying to decide whether or not to take the franchise leap with Big O. But the logic behind using a consumer award to attract franchisees doesn't become as clear as the glass J.D. Power award is itself until Mr. Lautzenheiser explains just who Big O wants to attract for its business partners.
The majority of the firm's new franchisees are first-time business owners who have little exposure to the tire industry. Chances are, however, that they have been tire consumers themselves.
Since 1990, the company has seen its expansion come from new franchise, rather than existing franchise, owners, Mr. Lautzenheiser said. The trend is partly a result of corporate downsizing, which has typically displaced male middle managers between the ages of 45 and 55, he explained.
Realizing that large corporations are not hiring, they decide to go into business for themselves, relishing, in some cases, the security provided by a franchised operation.
Shunning the overpopulated fast-food field, the potential businessmen tend to look at automotive-related fields.
``The automotive aftermarket business may be questionable (integrity-wise) in the eyes of a consumer, but they think `I'm not like that,' '' Mr. Lautzenheiser said.
The J.D. Power award can provide a ``credible'' source that tells potential franchisees that Big O is a trustworthy organization with an upstanding image among consumers.
It's the kind of endorsement that can turn a potential Big O franchisee into an actual Big O franchisee, Mr. Lautzenheiser said.
The survey, as reported earlier in TIRE BUSINESS, found 89 percent of those who purchased Big O-brand replacement tires ``definitely'' or ``probably'' would buy the same brand again. The survey placed the national loyalty-level at 37 percent.
The study explored issues including safety/traction, problems encountered by consumers, their retail experience, wearability/durability, quality of ride, style, traction under special conditions and price selection.
Big O, which operates 389 franchised and company-owned stores, has been focusing its expansion up the Interstate 5 corridor toward Seattle, Mr. Lautzenheiser said.
The company hopes to add about 20 to 25 franchises in 1996.