It's become somewhat rare in the tire industry for someone to retire on his own terms, rather than being forced out due to a downsizing or merger. So it was nice to see one of the industry's good guys, Dick Hall, vice president of Tire Centers
Inc., decide to move on to a new stage in his life because he wanted to and not because someone else determined he should.
After spending 41 years in the tire business, including 11 at TCI and nearly 30 at B.F. Goodrich, where he rose to area marketing director for the tire store operations, Dick called it quits Dec. 31.
He and his wife, Gerry, will spend six weeks in Hawaii in January and February before returning to Ohio and embarking on their future.
Dick didn't want a fuss made about his pending retirement during the recent Tire Centers Inc. business meeting in Marco Island, Fla., which he annually organized for the company. His preference was to leave quietly.
But TCI's president, Jim Berlin, couldn't let the opportunity pass to let Dick know how much he will be missed.
As Dick was winding up the morning session, an overweight, slovenly dressed actor stormed into the meeting interrupting him. He said he'd heard TCI (the cable company) was having a meeting and wanted to know why he was being charged for the Playboy channel but wasn't getting the program on his TV.
Commenting about all the traveling and golf going on in the industry, he added: ``That's a hell of a way to run a company. You ought to think of retiring.''
This brought Mr. Berlin to the stage, who talked about Dick's contribution to TCI (the tire dealership.)
``Dick was the one guy I wanted'' and was the first person hired by TCI, Mr. Berlin said, following his purchase of the former B.F. Goodrich tire stores in 1986. ``He was looked up to and a trusted member of the store team.''
Having Dick on board made it easier for TCI to retain the former BFG tire store managers and employees, Mr. Berlin said. ``The people in the chain had so much respect for him. He made it easier for them to come with us.''
At TCI, Dick's primary responsibility was dealing with suppliers, a job which allowed him to travel the world.
``He did a super job in establishing supply relationships,'' Mr. Berlin said. ``Even in the early days, suppliers would say, `Who is TCI?' He was the guy who sold us to the suppliers.''
As a memento of his years at TCI, during which the dealership grew from $145 million in sales to almost $400 million, Mr. Berlin presented Dick with a booklet filled with letters and pictures sent in by suppliers, friends and employees.
He shared a few with the audience.
Wrote John Hicks, TCI store manager from Charleston, W.Va.: ``I will never forget our discussion just before TCI took over the BFG stores. You helped me through what otherwise would have been a difficult time.''
``You can do more morale boosting over half a grapefruit in the lunchroom than most executives can accomplish in a week,'' noted Mary Miles, TCI human resources director.
``When I think of you and the TCI organization, I break into a big smile. . . it just shows you can do business and be friends,'' said Walt Weller, vice president of commercial tires sales for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
``You can be most proud of what you have accomplished at TCI. . .taking the company from its infancy to its position today as the industry leader,'' wrote Dan Wire, president of Treadways Corp.
The crowd of 250 gave Dick a standing ovation, bringing tears to his eyes.
It was a fine send off for a first-class guy.
Mr. Zielasko is editor and associate publisher of Tire Business.