What's the matter, Bunky? You say no one understands you? You say you feel you've been ignored all these years? Your life as a commercial tire dealer is lonely and hard, and, just like Rodney Dangerfield, you get no respect? Just demands for more services and lower prices? Well, stop cutting those tire prices and jump for joy! At last there is one place you can go to discover the fun again in the truck tire business, learn about new products and services to make life easier and improve your gross profit.
And if that's not enough to make you turn handsprings, you can also write it all off as a business expense!
Where is this Valhalla of the commercial truck tire business? In Nashville, at Opryland, next month, June 9-12. The International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA) is throwing a whole new expo and conference specifically designed with you, the commercial tire dealer, in mind.
Right about now you're saying to yourself, ``I have no time to go to a trade show. My business will suffer if I leave it for more than 10 minutes!'' Yeah, right. How many days during the year do you take off to go golfing or hunting? What about vacation? You mean to tell me you never take one? Of course you do.
If you can find time to do these things, you can find the time to get yourself educated on the latest changes in the tire industry that are going to effect how you conduct your business.
I know, now you're thinking, ``Well, I am really pretty cheap. I don't have a tire manufacturer who will pay my travel expenses there or put me up for free. This is going to cost me money!'' Of course it is going to cost you some money.*.*.*not much, but some. You sent your kids off to college, didn't you? And while it cost you a bundle, it was a worthwhile investment since they obtained the knowledge they needed to earn substantial incomes in their chosen fields. (Or at least it got them out of your house and dropped your grocery bill.)
This is the same thing, only it applies to you. Obtaining knowledge is an investment that you must make constantly in yourself. Not only will you learn what's new in the tire, rubber and transportation industries, and government regulations that could impact your business, but you will also discover opportunities and solutions to problems that will make your business grow.
The ITRA Expo is offering many seminars guaranteed to provide you with some information that you can use to advance your business:
The seminar on ``Analyzing tire failures'' is always a packed session. How good are you at answering customers' questions when they present a failed tire to you? From the complaints I hear from truckers, you need to be better at this.
The workshop, ``Customer care: How to deliver exceptional service,'' could provide you with an answer to the never-ending price-cutting battle. If you exceeded your fleet customer's expectations by delivering exceptional service and making him feel like he's the only customer you have, you'd develop one heck of a loyal customer and perhaps be able to charge more for this value-added service. Find out how to do this and improve your profitability.
Of particular interest to everyone will be the ``Mock trial on tire failure liability.'' There will be an actual courtroom set up with real lawyers and a judge conducting a tire product liability case.
Not only will this be entertaining, mesmerizing and frightening, but you'll learn just what can happen when you're hauled into court for selling a tire or performing a service that blew up in someone's face. These mock trials are incredible and worth the day or two away from the office!
There are two good business seminars that are essential to anyone running a small or medium size business today: ``Managing health care and employee benefits in the 21st century'' and ``How to find and keep good employees.''
What's your employee turnover rate been lately? Higher than you want? If you're thinking about expanding your business, where are you going to get the employees to do it with the labor market as tight as it is?
These seminars will provide you with some answers that will save and make your company money.
There are several technical seminars that you may want to attend along with your service manager. The first, ``Keeping the wheels on: An in-depth look at torque and clamp,'' will review the procedures for installing and tightening wheel systems so your customers' wheels won't come flying off on the road after you've changed their tires.
The second, ``When is a nail hole a section repair?'' will review procedures for repairing medium truck tires. This tire repair and wheel installation knowledge alone may save your firm millions by preventing you from becoming the next defendant in a real product liability case.
Now that the ITRA's Commercial Tire Service Program is growing and gaining recognition by fleets, more and more of them are asking for certified technicians to work on their vehicles. You can find out ``How training and certification can increase your business'' at that workshop.
Find out what you need to know to get your employees trained and how to use their certifications to get more fleet business at higher margins. There are some real marketing advantages this program offers that you can capitalize upon.
With all these educational sessions, it may be necessary to bring some of your employees with you so they can acquire the necessary information to help you implement the changes you will want to make in your company.
There also will be exhibitors that have equipment and services you're not aware of today. There will be suppliers of everything from service trucks and equipment to software management systems.
Among these will be retread equipment and material suppliers. You'll get an education in the retread systems now available and a good understanding of their differences, features and benefits.
If you are not a retreader already, and are thinking about getting into this business, you'll find the answers to all of your questions there. Otherwise, updating yourself on the new advances and new players in the retread market will give you alternative sources and diversified retread products that you may be interested in offering your fleet customers if you do carry a line of retreaded tires.
You can also expand your knowledge in the tire recycling area of the Expo. Not only will you learn what is happening in the tire recycling industry, but you also may find a tire recycler who can handle your scrap tires less expensively than the one you are using now.
Some dealers will say they're going to the ITRA Expo to hear Joe Theismann tell them how to succeed under pressure and adapt quickly to unexpected situations. Or to hoot and holler at the Grand Ole Opry, get down on the dance floor of the Wildhorse Saloon or have a steak at the Stockyard restaurant.
If this puts fun back in your life, go for it, since there's far too little fun in the tire business anymore.