RENO, Nev.-Nope. There's just no other way to describe him short of a real ``live wire.'' Even that's woefully inadequate to depict this 75-year-old spark plug who started in the business almost a half-century ago as a car mechanic, and still unabashedly exults his love for the tire and automotive service industry.
That he does in the first nanoseconds of a conversation.
Like the character in the old Cheers TV series, Bill Dimalanta goes by and fondly answers to his moniker, ``The Coach.'' But there, similarities between the two ``characters'' end.
Ernie the Cheers bartender and former major league baseball coach exhibited a wry, sage-like ``voice of experience'' buried in layers of dumbness from taking one too many beanballs on the noggin.
Bill Dimalanta's perceptiveness hasn't been dampened a bit by years of turning wrenches, training-and helping turn around businesses with astute advice grounded in common sense.
When this guy bounds into a room, he really bounds, arms flapping, voice rising an octave.
He prods responses from astounded listeners probably expecting this kind of zing from someone half his age.
Studying his expressive face, crow's feet around the eyes and grandfatherly appearance, one wonders if he's either found the fountain of youth, or tapped some secret energy source.
In a way, he has.
Maybe it comes from the car battery and set of jumper cables he lugs around. He intrigues and amuses audiences with promises to ``get everybody all charged up.''
Beseeching all to hold hands, he connects the cables to a conference room table then instructs, ``Jump up when I touch this end to the positive.''
And you know what? You'd better believe they jump.
The septuagenarian works them like a ringmaster. No one dozes through a Dimalanta seminar.
But within moments the audience realizes his secret energy source is perhaps nothing more than a simple love for his job as a ``success'' consultant to a number of tire dealerships. His curriculum vitae includes Hawaii's popular-and profitable-Lex Brodie's Tire Co., where the Coach regularly conducts training sessions.
``You want to wake up your customers?'' Mr. Dimalanta bellows energetically. ``Show some action. I want you to grab your clipboard and run out there to the parking lot and greet them.''
Heads nod affirmatively.
``Customers don't care how much you know until they know how much you care!''
He's full of one-line witticisms.
``I get excited every time I go to a tire dealer meeting,'' he admits, ``because I know it's going to be `tire-rific.' ''
You want to groan, but you see the eagerness in his eyes and realize he really means it.
Mr. Dimalanta, of San Mateo, Calif., began his 56-year tire industry career with Goodyear. He worked his way from mechanic to store manager to eventually western regional training manager. He chose early retirement in 1974 in order to share his knowledge industrywide.
This time around, he was talking with dealers at a convention earlier this year of the Western States Tire & Automotive Service Association in Reno. Most months he's on the road, regularly visiting dealerships to continually update their training efforts.
With frustration comes boredom, he tells listeners. ``That `another day, 'nother dollar' attitude will help sink your business. If you don't think this is a good business, then get the hell out and make room for those who care!''
Do not for an instance get the impression that this man simply mouths platitudes and spouts feel-good advice. Nothing's further from the truth.
As he ``powers up'' his audience to maximize their businesses, they gain a how-to primer on successful managing and retailing.
``Do all the ordinary things extraordinarily well, like answering the phone, selling a tire, meeting a customer-I'm not asking for supernatural things,'' he insisted.
His miracle word: ``Teamwork.''
``You can't do it alone. What's your vision as tire dealers?'' he asked. ``Give your team a vision of what you want to accomplish-a goal. If you're not sharing it with your tire busters, your mechanics, everyone, your team will lose.''
A dealer with 10 employees should make certain each one can handle a complaint. ``Not one, but all 10,'' Mr. Dimalanta shouted. ``Tell the customer: `All we want to do is handle things fairly.' ''
He said businesses-people, in general-spend 70 percent of their time in communications, and ``needless damage is caused by poor communication.''
Last March, the Coach met with each of an unnamed tire dealership's 13 tire changers. He listened as they came up with a total of 78 ideas to improve their jobs and the business. With his help, the company narrowed them down to 10 key suggestions, then began implementing them.
His point? Everyone has ideas-not just the people at the top.
``Get away from the term `store manager,' and teach people to be `business managers,' '' he urged.
Owners and managers fall into three distinct management styles, according to Mr. Dimalanta:
The autocratic ``do it my way'' type of individual-that style works best on hostile employees;
The democratic kind who ``praises and thanks you-he's the leader. Everyone likes him;'' and
The free-rein person who leaves much decision making and direction up to employees.
``Get to know your people,'' he said, and develop good judgment on how to use all three styles.
The functions of a manager, Mr. Dimalanta said, are planning, getting things organized and put in perspective, and delegating responsibilities, based on employees' strengths and weaknesses.
Other duties include staffing-``have the right people, stretch them, and have fun doing it''-directing those employees by providing leadership, then regularly following up on all of the above.
Selling anything, from auto ser-vice to lollipops, isn't that difficult.
``If you do it right, you're in,'' Mr. Dimalanta tells audiences.
However, a business must ``establish a professional buying atmosphere,'' the Coach stressed, by maintaining a neat, clean store free of old displays and banners and replaced by new ones.
``I want your restroom to be clean and immaculate every time-cleaner than the one you have at home,'' he said. ``Women won't come back to a store that has a dirty restroom, because they realize you don't care.''
He said he learned a long time ago that ``merchandise well-displayed is half-sold.''
When Mr. Dimalanta first began in the business, his boss told him to visit a Sears, Roebuck and Co. store to observe merchandising, then write a report about it. He has never forgotten that lesson, and advises dealers to make periodic scouting trips to retailers known for merchandising savvy.
Another key is increasing individual productivity. ``There are two kinds of people you have to take care of: the external person-your customer-and the internal, your employee. People are our most important asset.''
Mr. Dimalanta said no one should ever be hired until their references are checked, ``or you'll get stung. Obtain good people and train them. Remember, we're in the `people business.' ''
Analyze personnel ``through the eyes of a customer,'' he said, observing attitude, appearance, conduct, efficiency and results.
If a dealership has a troubled employee, ``step up to the problem, document it, talk it over with the employee, then do something about it,'' he said, cautioning: ``But don't try to make a square-peg (employee) fit a round hole.''
A company needs to put ``seed money'' into individuals in order for them to produce, he said. While there is no convenient time to train, ``you must find the time-otherwise your competitors will gain on you.''
The Coach left his dealer audience with the suggestion that 15 to 20 minutes of ongoing training daily will ``assure better performance-and better profits.''