PORTLAND, Ore.-Every year at the International Tire Expo in Las Vegas, the president of the Tire Association of North America passes the gavel of leadership to a new president and reflects on the past year's accomplishments.
On Oct. 31, Nick Hodel will do no less as his successor, Steve Disney, takes TANA's helm and Mr. Hodel joins the association's roll of past presidents. But he isn't complaining-not after a year of spearheading efforts to enhance TANA's training programs, government relations and trade show.
He has been ``a quiet leader'' who ``commands a lot of respect,'' according to Bob Malerba, a TANA board member and owner of Malerba's Silver City Tire in Meriden, Conn.
``Nick has really done a nice job in charging the organization, moving it forward in the areas of training, the trade show and government affairs,'' said Ross Kogel, TANA executive vice president.
Mr. Hodel, CEO of Portland-based Northwest Tire Factory L.L.C., told Tire Business that between his business and TANA, he's ``probably worked as many hours this year as I've ever worked.'' But he's loved every minute of it.
``Working with all the people (in TANA) has been really fun,'' he said. ``I guess the real reason why I did this is to give back. The industry's been good to me and my family, so it's kind of my way of doing my duty for the industry.''
Major focus: Training
Under Mr. Hodel's direction, TANA launched an off-the-road training program at its OTR Conference last February. Consisting of a video, workbook and a test on mounting and demounting OTR tires, the program is similar to one the association introduced in 2000 for passenger and light truck tires. Mr. Hodel also took the passenger and light truck training one step further by directing TANA to promote the program to more than 1,200 trade schools in partnership with the Career College Association.
Mr. Hodel said he believes training is one of the ``biggest weaknesses'' of the tire industry. It's an area he constantly hears complaints about from tire dealers who can't find enough skilled technicians. The industry must prioritize education within community colleges and trade schools, he said, and raise the professionalism of a service tech.
``You gotta make a guy proud to be doing what he's doing,'' Mr. Hodel said. ``To call him a tire buster or a grease monkey doesn't leave a lot to be desired.''
Besides training, Mr. Hodel also kept government relations at the top of TANA's priority list as the group focused on a number of issues on Capitol Hill.
On the issue of government regulations on tire pressure monitoring systems, TANA wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that any regulations shouldn't exclude tire dealers from participating in the repair and service of those systems.
TANA's lobbying, led by government affairs director Becky MacDicken, included supporting the Small Business Liability Reform Act of 2001, the elimination of the estate tax and opposing certain ergonomics proposals that could affect businesses.
Those efforts to fight for tire dealers' interests, Mr. Hodel said, were worth the association's funds.
Mr. Kogel credited Mr. Hodel with providing TANA with the ``initiative to have such a successful year,'' especially in government affairs.
Trade show trooper
When Mr. Hodel wasn't on the phone discussing legislation with Mr. Kogel, he was helping organize the International Tire Expo (ITE), a trade show that sold 144,000 square feet of exhibit space by early July-a record from previous years.
He played another key role in expanding the show, according to Mr. Kogel, by persuading Goodyear to hold its annual dealer meeting in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Specialty Equipment Market Association/ITE show, which is part of Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week.
Mr. Hodel, whose company maintains a strong supply relationship with Goodyear, said the ITE must continue to be diversified if dealers are to keep returning every year.
``Growing the show is like growing your business-if you don't change things, you'll watch the attendance start to drop,'' he said. ``You've got to make things happen at those shows.''
He also noted that it made sense for Akron-based Goodyear to hold its meeting during the SEMA/ITE show because he thinks most tire dealers make it a priority to attend the event.
``I think Goodyear's going to find out this is going to be a good move for them,'' he said. ``They'll have the best attendance they've probably ever had despite the (current) economic situation.''
Back at the business
In addition to his accomplishments with TANA, Mr. Hodel noted that Northwest Tire Factory-a dealer buying/marketing cooperative-has had its best year ever in total sales, though he declined to disclose sales figures.
Although some members of the organization had expressed concern when he initially agreed to take a seat on TANA's board, Mr. Hodel said he's kept his priorities in line-putting family and company before TANA. He made fewer than 10 trips in the past year and often handled association business as well as his own business over the phone.
Though the year has gone quickly, Mr. Hodel said he is ready to leave the presidency behind.
``I'm looking forward to being the past president. I've got no regrets other than missing some events that I would have loved to have gone to.
``This association brings a lot to the industry. If everybody knew from the other side of the table what got done, you'd see a lot more people who not only would get into this organization, they would probably get more involved.''