Big O Tires Inc. has hired a former Arby's L.L.C. franchise executive to help the dealership expand its franchise business and market share.
Peter Hultgren was named senior vice president, strategic business development, effective June 20. He is a 23-year veteran of the franchise industry who has worked for ComputerLand Corp., MicroAge Inc., Round Table Pizza and most recently as vice president of franchise sales with Arby's. He is responsible for business development and strategy and franchise sales. He told Tire Business that much of his strategy centers on recruiting new franchisees and helping current Big O franchisees open and operate multiple stores.
``There are independent tire retailers and auto care providers that are committed to the business, committed to the industry but could benefit significantly by affiliating and joining a franchise system like Big O,'' Mr. Hultgren said. ``We're going to take a look at who and where those folks are, and what we're really looking for are entrepreneurs who really want to be in control of their own destiny.''
One of Mr. Hultgren's goals for franchise growth is to recruit entrepreneurs who don't have tire industry experience but are looking for franchise opportunities, particularly in markets where Big O wants a greater presence. He noted that a number of Big O's existing successful franchisees came from outside the tire industry.
``I have seen an increasing number of unsolicited inquiries from individuals who have decided that they no longer want to work for a large organization, but they want to own and operate their own business,'' Mr. Hultgren said.
``Typically, they're going to do a lot of homework and a lot of research. They're going to look at all the different franchise opportunities, whether that's business service franchises, restaurant franchising or a retail business like Big O.''
Mr. Hultgren said identifying independent tire retailers and auto service providers is easy, but the real challenge is finding the ``best of the best.''
He explained that for Big O to attract entrepreneurial talent, it needs to be proactive and make itself visible to potential business owners at conferences and conventions, industry events and on the Internet.
Big O President John Adams said in a prepared statement that Big O is ``looking forward to the contributions'' Mr. Hultgren will make to the organization. ``Peter's success and experience with large franchising companies will be a tremendous addition to our company,'' he said.
Big O has more than 560 franchised stores operated by more than 400 owners. Mr. Hultgren said Big O wants to reach the 600-store count in the short-term and eventually 1,000. Big O is a subsidiary of TBC Corp.
Based on his experience in the restaurant industry, he said Big O needs to help some of its single-store operators become multi-store operators, a business model that Arby's followed and helped many of its franchisees achieve ownership of more than 100 stores.
``The job I was tasked with at Arby's in many ways is the job that Big O has asked me to do, that is put in place the comprehensive business development strategy to grow the system, attract talented operators and help our existing operators grow their businesses,'' he said.
However, Arby's franchise system had ``matured'' to number more than 3,500 restaurants covering a significant portion of the U.S., and Mr. Hultgren noted that the system became increasingly difficult to grow further.
Big O's franchise growth potential, its ``upbeat company culture'' and Mr. Adams' leadership were some of the reasons Mr. Hultgren said he was attracted to Big O.
Mr. Hultgren said he believes Big O has the tools retailers need to operate a tire business successfully: technology tools, field support, ongoing training opportunities and access to new products. He called those tools Big O's ``value proposition.''
``I believe that Big O is poised for growth,'' Mr. Hultgren said. ``I think Big O is an underdeveloped, underappreciated, underleveraged brand with huge upside opportunities for growth.
``We just scratched the surface. We believe that our value proposition is compelling, and we just need to get in front of operators who are looking for ways to grow their businesses.... I think we have the ability to help them profitably grow from the standpoint of adding units and growing their store count.''
Noting that Big O's targeted territory is west of the Mississippi River, Mr. Hultgren said there are few markets in that region where Big O has ``fully penetrated'' and pose infinite opportunities for the dealership.
He said one of Big O's weaknesses is that the franchiser is not ``convenient'' for tire customers because it doesn't have enough stores in some markets, and market planning will be one of his objectives.
``In order to be convenient for the customer, you need to have market penetration so that your customers don't have to drive long distances to find you,'' he told Tire Business.