It's a situation seemingly ripe for conflict. The only sister among five siblings serves as president of a two-outlet dealership in northeastern Ohio, working alongside her three brothers.
It's not your traditional succession in a family business, which more typically would have the eldest son taking over for his father.
But instead of creating animosity and an uncomfortable work environment, the election of D.D. Coley as president of Consumer Tire Inc. in Mentor, Ohio, works well.
``There are no problems with her as president,'' said Ms. Coley's brother, Al Almasi, who serves as secretary-treasurer and co-owns the business with three of his siblings and non-family member Robert Watson. ``She does a good job running the company.''
This type of management hierarchy, with a daughter succeeding her father, is becoming less un-usual in today's retail tire environment.
At more and more dealerships, particularly those that are family-owned, daughters are joining their brothers in making careers out of the tire and automotive service business. And in some cases, the daughters are taking over, even if their brothers work in the business as well.
But in becoming leaders of family-owned dealerships, women face a double whammy. They must prove themselves not only to other family members, including possibly skeptical fathers and brothers, but to the company's customers, many of whom prefer to talk to a man about their tire and automotive service needs.
At Jeff Clay & Sons Tire, a single-location retail tire dealership in Kissim-mee, Fla., Sher-ry Clay Marcoe serves as president.
She and her three brothers own equal stakes in the dealership, but it is Ms. Marcoe who heads the firm.
Her brothers, she said, have less interest in the financial and sales aspects of the business, choosing instead to work in the shop. Still, major decisions about the dealership, such as buying equipment, are made jointly by the four siblings.
It is this arrangement, with the sister preferring to run the business operations and the brothers, the service area, that seems to be a trend among second-generation family dealerships with women as the top executive.
At Consumer Tire, for instance, it made more sense to everyone involved that Ms. Coley run the business while her brothers worked in the shop.
But it didn't start out that way.
Following their father's retirement, Ms. Coley's eldest brother, Daniel B. Kantz, became president, while she served as secretary-treasurer.
But about a year-and-half later, it became apparent that Mr. Kantz's skills as an ASE-certified technician were needed in the service bays, an area of the business he liked better, anyway. ``He's not a desk person,'' Ms. Coley said.
So the board put her in charge.
Mr. Kantz is now vice president, and another brother, Dave Kantz, runs the company's store in Euclid, Ohio.
With Ms. Coley in charge, ``it frees us up to do a good job out in the shop,'' Mr. Almasi said.
``We trust her judgment on the daily business decisions,'' he added, noting that any major decisions are talked over with the other family members.
A similar situation has occurred at Tire Town Inc., a one-location
dealership in Waxahachie, Texas.
Kimberly Harris, who began handling the books and accounts receivable 16 years ago, took over as president of the dealership from her father, while her brother, John, chose to take care of the service area.
``He does the work and I do the bill paying,'' is how Ms. Harris describes it, although they confer on decisions affecting the business. Their mother manages the books and payroll.
Still, with Tire Town being such a small operation, Ms. Harris willingly does whatever is needed to serve the customer.
On any given day she can be found fixing a flat, balancing a tire or even installing a new power steering hose in an older car.
But just because their brothers understand and accept a sister's role as company president doesn't mean it's all smooth sailing.
``Ever since I was born, I felt the need to prove myself to Dad,'' Ms. Harris said. And, while growing up, she competed with her four brothers.
``When I played softball, I had to be as good as the boys were in baseball,'' she said. ``Dad never pushed me. It was self-inflicted.''
Working with family members provides special challenges, added Consumer Tire's Ms. Coley. ``When you see your siblings all the time, then you don't want to see them on a personal basis (after work),'' she said. It's also difficult giving instructions to an older brother, she explained.
Camille Crowley spent 20 years in her family's tire business in California before opening her own consulting firm for tire dealers, The Western Rancher Outfit in Eureka, Mont. She knows first hand what it's like to work in a dealership with brothers. ``There's a pecking order in any family,'' she said.
At CTW Tire Warehouse, a retail dealership in Soquel, Calif., ``I always felt as long as my brothers were there, there would be a limited future to expand (personally),'' Ms. Crowley said.
But eventually her brothers left the business to pursue other interests, and she became president and CEO of the dealership in 1985. Ms. Crowley and her father, Robert F. Crowley, sold the tire store in 1992.
``My dad was my biggest fan-he had a great deal of confidence in me,'' Ms. Crowley. ``With my brothers there was a lot more to prove. I attribute that to sibling competitiveness.''