Lights, camera... Action Tire marks 30th
FOREST PARK, Ga.—Rick Stewart knows what it's like to kick off a new business with little more than the basics.
“I started from scratch 30 years ago,” said the president of Action Tire Co., which opened its first location in Riverdale, Ga., in July 1985. “I started with a couple of service trucks and have since grown the business to...70-80 vehicles now and about 60 service trucks with 12 different operations.”
Thirty years later, Action Tire is still going strong and has expanded to 12 commercial tire service locations in the Georgia area, including one that services customers in Alabama, as well.
The dealership has expanded from the commercial truck tire business to include industrial business and off-road. Additionally, Action Tire has its own retread plant, an Oliver-based facility in Forest Park.
Annual sales have grown to just shy of $24 million.
“We grew quite a bit for probably the first 20 years and as Atlanta itself grew. We opened up stores to accommodate customers as they moved in different areas,” he added.
The theory was that if the company opened locations closer to where customers were moving, then it could retain their business. If not, they likely would take their business elsewhere.
“I guess that prompted me to open other stores,” Mr. Stewart told Tire Business.
In 1996, Jason Stewart, Rick Stewart's son, came onboard and now is vice president.
The business has seen many ebbs and flows throughout the years, including adding the Oliver plant in April 2001.
It was at this point, the company started producing its own retreads, Rick Stewart said, because as the business grew, it also started to get squeezed. “We wanted to control our own destiny...and opened up the retread shop so we could drive our costs down and control our distribution.”
According to the company's website—www.actiontireco.com—the 30,000-sq.-ft. retread plant uses top-of-the-line computerized equipment.
When asked what his biggest accomplishment has been over the past 30 years, Rick Stewart joked that he is still married through all the long hours that an independent tire dealer must goes through to keep a business afloat.
In all seriousness, he added, “the pride and the loyalty of our customer base” is what he is most proud of because the company has created a culture of “just being honest” and servicing what it sells. While Action Tire may not offer the lowest prices in the market, it does offer a program of consistency—doing what it claims it will do—which “has been one of my priorities and goals,” Mr. Stewart said.
The dealership has 104 employees at its 12 locations, with many of them employed for 10-plus years, including some who have stuck it out for almost the full run of the company's history.
“I think one of the biggest things is we do have a lot of good following of customers. And we've got a lot of great employees who have helped grow the business,” Jason Stewart said.
“I think it speaks volumes for us as a business if we've got the same faces and names around to be able to take care of the customers as we continue to grow.”
Consistency, yet making technological improvements when necessary, is a point that both Stewarts make as a driving force in Action Tire's strategy.
“We've always had a good, consistent product line.... I think that's kept folks around us. People like consistency,” Jason Stewart said.
That said, creating ways to ease customers' experience with technological advancements also can help drive business. For instance, the company has created an app to assist truck drivers to easily find Action Tire locations near them, which is something Jason Stewart said the dealership deals with often.
“So (the app) came about just trying to make it easier for them to have something on their phone instead of calling one of the stores,” he said.
The app provides location assistance, giving a driver directions to the shop probably more easily than having shop personnel try to give turn-by-turn guidance to an out-of-town trucker unfamiliar with the area.
“I really think truck drivers—and there (are) certainly some savvy ones—but the bulk of the driving industry is probably a little behind in some of the technology end,” Rick Stewart said, noting he believes the app is helpful.
“One thing about the truck tire business is you could be in an industrial area and once they know you're there, they seem to know how to get to you. So you don't have to have the frontage in the truck tire world quite like you do in the retail world.”
Besides creating the app, Action Tire also has become paperless internally and updated its computer system. During the 2009 economic recession the dealership was trying to “reinvent the wheel internally to drive our costs down,” Rick Stewart said. With these changes, the company has trimmed some of its mailing costs.
The Stewarts are looking forward to celebrating Action Tire's 30th anniversary throughout this year, including open houses at every location that will include employee appreciation and giveaways.
In efforts to draw attention to the celebratory year, the company has changed its logo for promotional items, such as notepads, envelopes and invoices.
Hitting the 30-year mark doesn't mean stagnation, as far as Rick Stewart is concerned. He said Action Tire's future expansion plans include adding several more stores over the next few years as it continues to grow.
“I don't know where we're going to stop exactly,” he added. “I'm still pretty young and Jason's young and we enjoy the business.”
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143; Twitter: @jenniferkarpus
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