Mike Beggs is used to the usual training that comes with a new job, but he said there's a big difference with Fountain Tire's new management program.
Most training teaches employees how to do the job, ``but there's a difference in (learning) how to do the job professionally,'' he told Tire Business.
Mr. Beggs, who had been assistant manager of Fountain Tire's High River, Alberta, store, was one of 23 new and prospective Fountain Tire store managers to participate in the Edmonton-based Goodyear dealership's new training program in February and March. Four of the attendees, including Mr. Beggs, were promoted to store managers after the training.
Debbie McKay, the dealership's director of human resources, said the two-week program was the inaugural session for the new training approach. She said the idea behind the program, dubbed ``Advancement in Management (AIM),'' is to cultivate the next generation of Fountain Tire's store managers. In the future, it may include longtime managers, but the current focus is on fresh talent, she said.
``Right now our need is developing young people as the work force ages,'' she said. ``That's everyone's struggle.''
She said the program meshes with Fountain Tire's practice of allowing store managers to become 50-percent owners of their location after two years-a plan aimed at keeping talent and providing an incentive for better performance.
AIM's goal is to bring together managers from a variety of Fountain Tire's 145 outlets for an extensive level of training. Topics include inventory control, accounting, team-building, marketing, human resources, decision-making, relationship-building, safety, finance and others presented both as seminars from outside experts, group exercises and role-playing.
``It's really `Fountain-izing' the individual to our culture,'' Ms. McKay said, adding the company now is looking for its next class of participants.
Mr. Beggs said as an assistant manager he was aware of some of the issues presented, but the training offered the broader picture. He had started at the shop in 1985 as a mechanic and worked his way up.
``As you jump that fence into management, you need to know this stuff,'' he said.
Another key aspect of the training was networking and socializing, Ms. McKay said. In the past, conversion teams from the home office would help new stores and their employees get a location up and running. With the AIM program, various store managers can share ideas and practices to develop their individual outlets, she said.
``We wanted to instill Fountain Tire in them but also give them confidence and resources to have if someone at the head office wasn't available,'' Ms. McKay said.
Mr. Beggs said his store already has implemented many ideas from the training, including certain inventory controls as well as monthly staff meetings where employees are encouraged to give feedback on practices.
He said similar training programs could help further down the chain to include customer service employees, even those outside of the tire industry. Role-playing scenarios were valuable because they offered another perspective to situations such as how to deal with difficult customers.
``That was probably the best,'' he said. ``It showed you different scenarios because no one thinks the same.''
Ms. McKay said other dealers considering similar training should be careful to pick suitable outside experts to lead the seminars and discussions.
``You're asking them to teach your culture,'' she said.
``If they didn't have a real firm understanding of what Fountain Tire was about, they couldn't have done nearly as an effective program as they did.''