NEW ORLEANS (March 13, 2017) — It was easy for those dealers who visited the Big Easy in late February to remember one key number from the 2017 Tire Pros National Conference.
One. Or more appropriately, "One with the Pros."
That was the theme of the seventh annual American Tire Distributors Inc.'s (ATD) Tire Pros dealer event, held Feb. 26-March 1 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.
While parades, revelers and beads clogged streets throughout the city during the Mardi Gras celebration, inside Tire Pros dealers talked about unity, togetherness and embracing change during the seventh annual conference.
Ron Sinclair, who succeeded the retired Dan Brown as the top Tire Pros executive, emphasized how the more informed consumers, as well as rapidly changing technology and innovation, have altered the marketplace.
- This story appears in the March 13 print edition of Tire Business.
"It's all about winning the marketplace against the competition," said Mr. Sinclair, the chief marketing officer whose expanded role includes full operational and financial responsibility.
"It's really about being one with the Pros. We are stronger together. We have power. We can unlock that power if we work together."
That theme was echoed by Perry Leonard, president, chief operating officer and owner of Car Concepts Inc., a chain of nine Tire Pros locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Mr. Leonard, who has 30 years in the industry, succeeds Nick Lenhart, of Lenhart's Tire Pros of Irwin, Pa., as chairman of the Tire Pros National Dealer Council.
"It's changing faster than ever before in our industry," Mr. Leonard told the assembled dealers. "We as a group have to be more unified as a team going forward to meet those demands. It's so important that we as Tire Pro dealers come together as one unified voice."
More than 1,000 attended the event, representing 318 of 525 Tire Pros dealerships. According to Mr. Sinclair, Tire Pros, the largest network of independent tire dealers in the U.S., had 748 locations in 45 states as of Jan. 1 — a net gain of 44 since the last conference. The goal, Mr. Sinclair said, is to eclipse 800 locations by year-end.
Mr. Sinclair told dealers that sales for Tire Pros dealers rose 7.8 percent last year, and 5.5 percent when new stores aren't counted.
Dealers also learned about several new company initiatives, including:
- The upcoming launch of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) tool, a means by which dealers can measure customer satisfaction. The software, which will be funded solely by ATD and Tire Pros, will allow dealers to respond to customer comments and help them enhance customer loyalty. The tool should be ready to launch by the fourth quarter.
- The implementation of four, mission-based councils that will report to the National Council. Each mission-based council will focus on one specific area—marketing, customer experience, training and technology. The councils, which replace regional councils, are comprised of dealers representing various age groups, regions and expertise, along with members of the Tire Pros' staff. Several members of each council engaged in short, roundtable discussions with Tire Pros executives as part of the general session. The mission-based councils will begin formal meetings in early April.
- An option for consumers to purchase services with a buy-it-now option on tirepros.com websites. Dealers will receive credit for any of those online sales.
- Continued participation in the Allies for Independence charitable campaign, in which Tire Pros dealers raise money to purchase specialized wheelchairs for disabled veterans. Last year, dealers raised more than $125,000 in the campaign, with three dealers raising about half of the money. Tire Pros will feature two major campaign blitzes in 2017 — the first will run from May 15-July 8, while the second will be held Nov. 6-Dec. 30.
- A new dealer communication platform called Yammer. The free app will allow dealers to engage and stay engaged with Tire Pros.
Stuart Schuette, president and CEO of ATD, told dealers that ATD has made a commitment to help independent Tire Pros dealers maintain and improve their share of the market.
"There's an opportunity to use data, very deliberately to help support your business as we move forward and help you grow the top line of your organization," Mr. Schuette said.
"All of these elements are bringing life to our company, and we think if we harness these in the right way and structure around them, we can really support what you're trying to do and what we're trying to do collectively together in Tire Pros."
Mr. Schuette said the NPS tool, which is used in other industries, will be an important part of the firm's strategy going forward.
"It's a very important measure of how we engage our customer experience, how we continue to evolve our customer experiences as a company and how we measure that success," Mr. Schuette said. "It is the voice of each of you every day and how we're doing as an organization. As this number is a measure, it's telling us how we are performing and what we need to do differently."
Mr. Sinclair said the tool will be a great metric of customer satisfaction overall and understanding how Tire Pro dealers can improve that customer experience.
"Whether you're a one-store operator or a six-store operator — you can be in six stores at once — it helps coach their managers and employees just to be better. At end of the day, we all know it's much more cost effective to retain a current customer than to gain a new customer. It's really an excellent retention vehicle for the dealer."