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Published on January 29, 2007

Trying the offbeat can work



AKRON (Jan. 29, 2007) — One of the reasons independent tire dealers thrive in a world of large chains and big box competition is they're willing to do whatever it takes to make their dealerships a success, even if it means experimenting with things a bit offbeat.

That's the beauty of being an independent entrepreneur. You can break the traditional rules of business and try something different or unconventional—and still be a success.

A case in point is rural Arkansas tire dealer Les Garrett, who was featured in a recent issue of Tire Business. Mr. Garrett operates a single-outlet retail tire dealership in an out-of-the way location in Springdale.

Some of his business practices are common, others creative and at least one probably defies what every textbook says is the way to succeed in a tough competitive retail en-vironment. But they work for this forward-thinking, passionate dealer.

They also show that to succeed, tire dealers must strive to be the best in their local communities even if that means trying things that others might call crazy.

For Mr. Garrett, doing things his way means using Formula 1 racing technology and a PowerPoint presentation to teach customers about tire construction, how F1 competition between Bridgestone Corp. (he's a Bridgestone and Firestone dealer) and Group Michelin drives tire development, how various factors contribute to tire degradation and what Bridgestone technology does to overcome that.

He does all this in the heart of NASCAR country.

And it works. Mr. Garrett is increasing his high-performance tire sales even though the dealership's location is not exactly a hotbed area for performance vehicles.

Mr. Garrett also strives to treat his five employees in such a way that they never want to leave.

He's not reluctant to pay them well. He sets an attainable budget and when it's met, the entire staff gets an additional paycheck at the end of the month.

To boost morale further, he shuts the store each day for an hour at noon so that the employees can eat lunch together and play cards. Normally in the tire business, lunch is taken at staggered times, if at all, he said, but “our bonding time is that hour at lunch.”

For Garrett Tire & Auto Center, this also works. The outlet has no personnel turnover, which has brought the added benefit of building customer confidence in the dealership.

At the same time, the dealership has lost few if any individual sales at lunchtime and in 2006 posted its best financial results since opening nearly 30 years ago.

What's the message in all this? Despite increased competition, don't be afraid to try new things, even if others deem them unconventional. They just might be what sets your dealership apart from the competition and what drives your sales and profits even higher.

Read the story about Mr. Garrettīs store.


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