AKRON (March 4, 2005) — It was an outlook that was purely characteristic for “Coach” William Dimalanta.
As his health was taking a turn for the worse, the longtime tire dealer training consultant told a friend that he was facing a win-win situation: If he lived, he would have more time with his children; if he died, Alice—his late wife of 62 years and high school sweetheart—was waiting for him.
“Here he is on his deathbed, and he still has this positive attitude,” remarked Alpio Barbara, a California tire dealer who heard the story from the friend. “It's unbelievable. The tire industry has lost a great man.”
Mr. Dimalanta died of complications from cancer Feb. 14 in his home in San Mateo, Calif. He was 87. His wife died in 2002. Mr. Dimalanta is survived by his daughter Judie Pivarnik; son John Dimalanta; daughter-in-law Dina Dimalanta; and grandchildren Mindy and Ashley Pivarnik and Betsy and Dinah Dimalanta. Mr. Dimalanta's second daughter, Polly, died about 15 years ago.
Born in New York City, Mr. Dimalanta served in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific during World War II, at one time shuttling troops on and off Okinawa. Returning from the war, he went to work for Goodyear as a territory sales manager and later managed a company-owned dealership. He then owned his own service shop in Lynwood, Calif., but returned to Goodyear as sales training and personnel development manager. He retired in 1974 and continued his training consultancy.
Mr. Barbara, who owns Redwood General Tire in Redwood City, Calif., remembers the first time he met Mr. Dimalanta. He was working as a tire changer in his first job in 1969 when Mr. Dimalanta was hired to train the employees in what Mr. Barbara said was the first formal “meeting” he had ever attended. Siting in the front row, Mr. Barbara was impressed by the trainer, whom he simply described as “unbelievable.”
“You know what was different about the Coach?” he asked. “Basic. Just the basic stuff.”
The young Mr. Barbara was taken aback by the wonderful simplicity of Mr. Dimalanta's five steps to a tire sale. The same approach—breaking a seemingly complex thing down into simple steps—could apply to anything, he was taught. “I don't care if it's five steps to introducing yourself to a lady you just met, if you do all five steps she'll like you,” Mr. Barbara joked.
Dave Redfern, channel manager for national fleet and OE equipment in Bridgestone/Firestone's commercial marketing division, has known Mr. Dimalanta for 26 years, and those five steps made a similar impression on him.
“In life you tend to overcomplicate things sometimes,” said Mr. Redfern, a former Redwood General Tire employee whose grandfather founded the business. “He just always had really sound (advice).”
Some of Mr. Dimalanta's solutions for those everyday business problems were also so simple no one else thought of them, Mr. Barbara said. For example, when he brought in Mr. Dimalanta to coach his own employees, he was struck by his portrayal of a business owner on the phone yelling questions about the store's current sales specials to other employees. The solution? Put a copy of the shop's advertising by the phone.
“Every time you leave there you learn something,” Mr. Barbara said, “but the thing that you learn you say, ‘Damn, it's so simple.'”
He said he's instituted everything he's learned from Mr. Dimalanta. But he's been caught slacking once or twice. A few times when the shop was busy and Mr. Barbara was stressed, he'd just answer the phone with a simple hello instead of a more in-depth greeting. And he'd hear Mr. Dimalanta's voice on the other end gently chiding him.
“It seemed like every time I said just hello it was him,” Mr. Barbara said, laughing. “I'd get caught, say, ‘Oh Coach, how about the other hundreds of thousands of times that I've answered the right way?' And every time we did that it was Coach on the other line. We used to laugh all the time.”
Mr. Redfern said Mr. Dimalanta had a gift for calling him at significant moments as well.
“It was like he was connected to me always and was always there when I needed him just to give me some sound and grounded advice,” said Mr. Redfern, who called Mr. Dimalanta his surrogate grandfather in the tire business.
But about a month ago Mr. Redfern turned the tables and called Mr. Dimalanta. He told his friend that he is successful at work and happy.
“I told him I felt like I owed all of that to him,” he said. “It was a good conversation, and I'm glad I had it.”
The men agreed that what set Mr. Dimalanta apart from the standard motivational speaker was his obvious deep concern and care for people.
“Could he have just been a motivational speaker? Yeah, but the difference is that he led by example,” Mr. Redfern said. “He lived the life that he spoke about and that was the most special thing about him. He was phenomenal. I never heard him complain, I never heard him say an ill word about someone. No matter what the situation, he would find some positive in that person and tell you to take that positive aspect and focus on that and forget about the other stuff because you can't control it.”
John Dimalanta, 61, said his father's attitude was genuine. “What the dealers were seeing was what we saw at home,” he told Tire Business.
Outside of the tire business, Mr. Dimalanta's passions were travel—especially to Hawaii—the San Francisco 49ers, sailing and going to several Olympic games.
He added that the family was very close-knit. “We're better people for having known him,” he said.
John Dimalanta said he and his sister wanted their father to slow down after his cancer diagnosis last fall, but other than changing his diet he continued with his same level of enthusiasm. Less than a month before his death he was training at a dealership in Washington state. “If you did not know he was sick, you wouldn't know the difference,” John Dimalanta said.
Mr. Barbara added it was ironic Mr. Dimalanta passed away on Feb. 14. “The guy had a heart as big as this world, literally,” he said. “He was just so compassionate to everybody and cared about everybody and here he passes away on Valentine's Day.”
Mr. Redfern searched for some consolation for losing his longtime friend.
“He'll be sorely missed, but I feel like in the end he knows that he was really successful in life and he made a difference in life, so I'm sure he'll rest peacefully.”