YUMA, Ariz.At 31, Tim Whitehead brings Generation Y ideas and social media know-how mixed with a baby boomer work ethic to his father's tire dealership.
Mr. Whitehead is the son of Ed Whitehead, founder of Ed Whitehead's Tire Pros, and manager of one of the dealership's four stores, in Yuma, since 2004. The company operates two stores in Yuma, one in Wellton and one in Casa Grande, Ariz.
He told Tire Business he has been involved in the Yuma-based dealership since he was a young boy, helping clean stores on weekends.
Every time he installs a lift kit, he said he posts photos of the job on the dealership's Facebook page as part of his duties handling the dealership's social media. He also posts promotions and community activities on Instagram and Twitter to get the word out on social media.
That's the one thing I bring is the technology on that. You reach thousands of people by doing a little thing, Mr. Whitehead said.
And there is a lot more technology available for a tire business than when his father was his age.
I bring in a lot of the technology and newer stuff into the shops, such as computer updates.
Everything changes on vehicles and what people like on the vehicles. It's always better to get a lot more opinions than just the older generation's, he added.
His father, who is 61 years old, has been open to his suggestions.
Usually when I have an idea, he lets me go full force with it. If I think we need to change something or if I think we need to add something or get rid of something that's not working, he usually tells me, 'Go ahead and do it if you want to do that. I'm not going to make all of the decisions. So start making some of the decisions.'
If I have an idea, he usually lets me go through with some ideas that I got, Mr. Whitehead said.
One of his ideas involves raising money for a local shelter for battered women. The dealership is planning to offer a brake service special where customers pay just the labor costs and the dealership donates 10 percent of the sale to the shelter through October.
That's something I came up with and started, Mr. Whitehead said. This is the first year. I brought it to my dad's attention and he said, 'Let's do it. Let's try it.'
He also started a vegetable and lemon tree garden next to his store with plans for donating the harvest to the local food bank.
The 10-foot-by-30-foot plot includes pumpkins, which Mr. Whitehead would like to donate to children who can't afford them for Halloween.
I'm not a gardener or farmer by any means, but I've got a lot of farmer customers, so they're helping me..., he said.
While his father allows him to pursue ideas for the business, he also pushes him to reach his potential.
My father is the owner and he expects a lot more out of me as a manager than probably any of the other managers, Mr. Whitehead acknowledged. And it's always been like that and it's probably always going to be like that. I enjoy it because it always gives me something to shoot for and a new goal every month.
He not only manages the one store, but he also visits and handles operations at the others as well.
I'm always interacting with all the employees at all the stores. It's really important for the owner or the manager to interact with the employees, if he has multiple locations, just so the employees always know us, said Mr. Whitehead, who expects to take over the dealership when his father retires.
Yet it can be a challenge to be in charge of employees who are all older. He oversees five older employees at his store who have been on staff for about three years.
I'm not here to boss them around. I'm here to help them learn stuff.
A lot of times I hire somebody who doesn't have any idea what the tire business is about. They're brand new in the tire business, so a lot of it is me teaching them because I've been around it my whole life, Mr. Whitehead said.
The best advice he's received? Be honest and treat everybody with respect if you want to get treated with respect. It goes a long way.
He has no millennials working in the dealership, which is not unusual in the tire business.
There's a couple (millennials) working in shops around town, but they don't stay there, he noted. A lot of employees in a tire and automotive business are older, 30-plus.... Not many are in their 20s because they don't really have the drive to get to work every day and work hard.
It's a demanding business and when you get cars, you got to get them in and out.... They got to work at a fast pace and a lot of the younger generation doesn't understand that.
Yet he's not worried about replacing his older employees when they retire.
It's not hard to find good guys out there (to replace retirees). But with the younger crowd, it's hard to keep them around because if they don't have anything to work for, if they don't have a family or they don't have a house to pay for, they really could care less about coming to work and giving it 100 percent.
With the older crowd, they have a family to support, they have a car to pay for, they have a house to pay for. They want to come to work and they want to make as much money as they can, he said.
When (millennials) establish a family, get a house, get a car, then they're going to think, 'Shoot, I need to start working harder to make a little bit more money.' Then they'll be in the same boat as my older employees.
His advice to millennials coming into the tire business: It's a tough business. It's always changing.
You always have to be up-to-date.... There's always someone out there trying to get your customers so you got to be on top of it.
Since he was young, he knew he wanted to work in the dealership.
It's all I've ever been around and I enjoy it. I like working with tires and it's all I've ever known. It's just kind of in my blood, I guess, Mr. Whitehead said.
I come into work every day and look forward to selling new tires, to taking care of the customer who comes in with a broken car, fixing that car up and leaving happy. I look forward to that.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6127; Twitter: @kmccarr