Q: How was business in 2015, and what are your expectations as we head into a new year?
A: 2015 has been a little bit different for us. When I say different, I'm talking about tire units. It's been a little bit flat. Overall gross sales have been up, but with tire units it's different. It's been flat.
As far as 2016 goes, we're going to be more aggressive on advertising and marketing. You hear people talk about the future of the automotive industry. I think the future of the automotive industry is right now. I think that independent dealers have got to be on board and make sure they've got the best training available and keep their guys abreast and not sit still. You can't sit still anymore. Just can't do it.
Q: When you say you're going to be more aggressive in 2016, what specifically are you looking to do?
A: We're going to market. My company is in rural markets. I've got two stores, and word of mouth has always played a lot in our growth and still is a major factor for us. We're high volume shops. We are planning to just get more aggressive in marketing and be creative.
Also, we're going to train our people differently. When I say differently, we're going to probably bring somebody to work in-house to train people in our own stores. We would like people that work for us to do it. That's one of our goals.
Q: Are you talking about training more on the service side?
A: Definitely on the service side, and I'm talking about all your vehicles with check engine lights and other problems. It's more than just pulling a code, you know.
Q: Is training an area in which you've heavily invested in the past?
A: I've been in it now for about three years in our Franklin location. At our Emporia (Va.) location, we have not addressed it, but we are looking to get much more aggressive about it.
We have a lot of good plans. You cannot sit still in today's market. I associate with a lot of dealers through the Virginia Automotive Association, and being on the board of directors that's what I'm hearing. You just can't sit still.... As independents today, moving forward, you've got to take action to make sure your people are the best they can be. You've got to be the best of the best, front to back.
Q: Is your family also involved in your business?
A: Yes. My son has been highly involved in the company since 1999. I have a daughter who works in the office with her mom. Next year (my son's) going to have equity in the company.... And we have some bigger news than that to announce, so we're really, really excited.
We're playing hard. We've done a lot of planning. I've never been one to sit still. My dream was always to build a business that our family could live on and provide needs for the community and the employees, and if you're not looking to change and make sure you fit the needs of the employees, you're not going to keep good people. They've got to be excited about where they work. I feel like I've done a good job over the years, but it's a new generation, a new era, and things have got to change.
Q: Has it been personally challenging to you, trying to adjust to some of the new realities of doing business?
A: Yeah, it has been different. Even employees are different. You have the new generation. I used to think people should get here 10 or 15 minutes early. Now if they're here right on time, they've done good. It's a different world. My son's helped me adjust well to that. He's 35, he's a very sharp individual and it's been a very good fit for ushim coming in and helping with the leadership.
Q: What are your growth goals for 2016?
A: My plan is to grow business next year by at least 8 percent, and we do have plans for new locations.
Q: What kind of impact are you seeing from industry regulation?
A: Industry regulation is always an ongoing change and a challenge. Healthcare has been my biggest thing because I pay the majority of the employees' healthcare, and that is a full-time challenge. We want to be the best of the best and don't like to be second place. We like to do things different and be good for our employees.
I think that's our biggest goalto make it a working environment that is better than ever and to be able to help our communities more.