Big O Tires Inc.'s Kevin Kormondy bubbles with enthusiasm when he talks about Big O's prospects for growth.
Not unlike other large retail chains, Big O wants to be the No. 1 tire and automotive service retailer in North America, and Mr. Kormondy, named senior vice president of business development in April, will play a key role in increasing Big O's store count through franchisees. At last count the Centennial-based company-a unit of TBC Corp.-franchised 542 stores in 21 states, mostly in the western half of the U.S., and in two Canadian provinces.
``I think there's a tremendous opportunity for us to grow,'' Mr. Kormondy told Tire Business. ``When you look at a map of where our stores are located, there's a whole lot of territory that's unchartered at this point or not nearly developed to the extent that I think we can.''
For Big O, competition for quality franchisees comes not only from independent tire dealers but also from fast food and other service franchises.
Mr. Kormondy said his goal is to recruit solid entrepreneurs who have good business sense and a desire to work within a franchise program, so he plans to diverge a bit from Big O's traditional approach of using newspaper advertising to recruit prospective franchisees to using the Internet.
The company is talking to marketing firms in addition to having its internal marketing department evaluate how to develop Big O's Web presence.
Although the tire industry is very relationship-oriented in its business transactions, Mr. Kormondy noted that peoples' interest in franchises is not limited to automotive aftermarket businesses, and they're going to the Internet to investigate the many available opportunities.
``I believe we need to establish a stronger presence than we have today on the Internet,'' he said. ``I recently attended a franchising conference, and it was incredible to me to learn that some 60-plus percent of leads for new franchises today come through the Web, various search engines and so forth. The point of origination is the Web.''
Recruiting new franchisees isn't Big O's only strategy for growth, Mr. Kormondy said. The dealership is interested in ``enticing'' its existing dealer base to open multiple stores and is looking for ``conversion candidates''-independent dealers who may want to join a bigger organization. A year from now, Mr. Kormondy said he wants to have more than 80 new outlets open for business.
Thus far, the way Big O operates and goes to market hasn't changed even though the franchisor's ownership changed last year when Sumitomo Corp. of America purchased TBC, Mr. Kormondy said. However, he acknowledged that in the future Big O may carry some Sumitomo brands distributed and marketed by Treadways Corp.
``I think (carrying Sumitomo brands) is an obvious opportunity for us to pursue,'' he said. ``I think we've gotta understand where the Sumitomo products can fit in our product screen and where they make sense and conduct ourselves accordingly. I think it's kind of a natural opportunity for us as we look to the future.''
A Big O veteran who has had two separate stints with the company, Mr. Kormondy replaced Peter Hultgren, who left the company after less than a year for personal reasons. Prior to his recent appointment, Mr. Kor-mondy served as vice president of the eastern division, a position now filled by Pete Koury, who was a regional business manager.
Mr. Kormondy first joined Big O in 1981 to oversee the construction, opening and operation of four stores in Oklahoma City. At the time, Big O operated a mixing warehouse that received all the company's brands and shipped those tires to various distribution centers, but had no retail presence there. Mr. Kormondy's first assignment was to assist with site selections for the new stores and oversee the operation.
After serving in various positions, he left Big O in 1987 to work for Maaco Enterprises Inc. as vice president of operations. He left Maaco in 1994 to work for BCS Technologies, a telecommunications equipment distributor. He rejoined Big O in 2002 as a regional vice president.
``I think one of the advantages I bring, having come from the operations side of the house, is a very good understanding of what it takes to successfully operate a Big O tire store and to compete in the marketplace,'' he said, adding that he's excited about Big O's future.