WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (April 14, 2006) — Twelve years ago Fran Boyd had no idea that one day she would be in line to run Thompson Tire Co. Inc. in Christiansburg, Va., or become the first woman president of the Virginia Automotive Association (VAA).
Back then she was just looking for an opportunity to do something different with her life after working in management at a national furniture chain.
That's when her brother suggested her for a part-time assignment at Thompson Tire, where he was working at the time.
“We needed someone to help take inventory,” said Joe Thompson, president and CEO of the five-outlet dealership. “She was efficient and intelligent and got the job done accurately. We were enormously impressed, and we hired her.”
There was another thing about Ms. Boyd that impressed him. “She speaks directly about what's on her mind,” he said. “You didn't have to prod to get out anything about what she's feeling or thinking. She's going to tell you up front. I love that quality.”
Mr. Thompson also sensed that Ms. Boyd could handle the rough and tumble of an independent tire dealership.
“She's not wishy-washy,” he said. “She can handle this business, and she can deal with the male customer once she learned the business.”
Five and a half months after hiring her, Mr. Thompson installed her as manager of the dealership's Pulaski, Va., retail outlet. In one year, she had turned that store around in a positive way, he said.
“I knew nothing,” Ms. Boyd said, recalling those early days at Thompson Tire. “I couldn't raise the hood on a Ford Mustang.”
But the fit was right, she said, and she has never looked back.
“I love it, it's a challenge,” said the married mother of two children, Sydney, 7, and Mathew, 3.
Over the years, Mr. Thompson increased Ms. Boyd's responsibilities. In 2002 he promoted her to vice president of the 54-employee dealership and in that role she has helped propel the company forward.
“Once I started working closer with Mr. Thompson as an officer of the company, it became apparent we could significantly grow our business,” Ms. Boyd said.
According to Mr. Thompson, Ms. Boyd was instrumental in the company's strong sales efforts during the Ford-Firestone tire recalls in 2000 and 2001, and she helped expand the dealership's commercial business. In 2004, she broadened the company's reach into off-the-road tires and is focusing on the construction of a new corporate headquarters in Radford, Va., on nine acres of commercial property.
The new facility, scheduled for completion in early 2007, will include a 15,000- to 20,000-sq.-ft. warehouse as the company expands its wholesaling business.
“She's been successful everywhere we placed her,” Mr. Thompson said.
Today, the dealership founded in 1968 by Mr. Thompson and his wife Margot operates five combination retail, commercial and OTR locations in Virginia: in Radford, Rocky Mount, Whytheville, Christiansburg and Pulaski. Retail, including automotive service, accounts for 50 percent of the business, commercial 20 percent and wholesale 30 percent.
The company sells Goodyear products, including Kelly and Star, is a Goodyear Gemini and Truckwise dealership and also offers Michelin and BFGoodrich tires. Its tire product lineup stretches from golf cart and lawnmower tires to large OTR sizes.
Sales rose 30 percent last year to $11 million, a jump Mr. Thompson credits to Ms. Boyd's leadership.
That kind of success led Mr. Thompson to name Ms. Boyd as his successor when, in January 2008, he and Mrs. Thompson plan to slow down and take a lesser role in the operation of the business.
As an employee-owned company, Mr. Thompson wanted to ensure that the dealership continues to run successfully, and he needed to turn the business over to someone who would do that well.
“She has the drive and the ambition and the talent to ensure success,” he said.
He also sees Ms. Boyd bringing those same traits to her position as the newly elected president of the Virginia Automotive Association.
She took over as the association's top elected officer for a two-year term on March 12 during the group's annual convention in Williamsburg, succeeding Steve Craven of Craven Tire & Auto in Fairfax, Va., who became the group's past president.
“I think she can galvanize and create a consensus where needed and not everyone can do that,” Mr. Thompson said.
Ms. Boyd also brings high energy and a strong passion to the association, said Steve Akridge, executive director of the VAA. She has a “do whatever it takes attitude,” he said. And once she's committed to something, “she's going to do whatever it takes to get it done,” he said.
The energy Ms. Boyd exudes has not been lost on Loretta Seredni, co-owner with her brother John (better known as Augie) of Seredni Tire & Auto, a four-outlet dealership in Richmond, Va. “That's why I'm excited about Fran,” she said. “Because she's enthusiastic and wants to bring more energy to the association.”
As she assumes the presidency of the VAA for the next two years, Ms. Boyd will be leading the charge on six goals established by the organization.
They include keeping the association financially sound, improving communication between VAA directors and members, growing the membership, working with program vendors, addressing issues through committees and continuing to expand the group's training programs.
Ms. Boyd describes herself as a passionate advocate of the VAA. She cites the benefits offered by the association as a key. “The savings are tremendous,” she said, from providing discounts on such things as uniforms to the association's lobbying efforts to training.
Even more important to her than these are the people she's gotten to know and the relationships she's made.
“The relationships I've created in the association are invaluable,” she said. “I'll never be able to give back what I've been given.”