Middle management is arguably one of the most difficult positions in the business world.
You get junk thrown in your lap from the top and have to address more work junk from those who report directly to you. That's not to mention the junk you deal with daily from your customers and suppliers, as the one of the primary faces of the organization.
It can be a no-win situation.
That middle manager in many tire shops is your service desk manager: the person who must take orders from the owner and/or operator, direct the team of technicians, monitor inventory levels and the condition of shop tools and meet and greet customers, all the while ensuring your shop runs smoothly, efficiently and, most importantly, profitably.
The tire shop manager arguably is the most valuable employee in the building. The reputation of any good tire shop depends on his or her interaction and relationship with customers, as well as his or her ability to facilitate a smooth, pleasant transaction.
Consider the attitude of Jim Langseth, a veteran manager of one of two Tires Tires Tires stores in Sioux City, Iowa.
"Everybody who walks into the store is important," he said. "You need everyone who comes through the door."
It is important to have a tire shop manager who not only can read the customer, but also knows that the customer is reading him or her, too.
"People are appreciative if they see that you're sincere," Mr. Langseth said. "They can tell if you're not. You can't talk down to them."
One of the strengths of a good manager is how he deals with an unhappy customer. Neil Ball of EMS Tire Pros in Logan, W. Va., says you must respond with empathy.
"Always reach out to your customer to let them know that you are concerned with whatever issue they may be having, and that you will go above and beyond to resolve it," he said.
One of the big issues among tire shops is recruiting and retaining top talent. In fact, one group of tire shop owners, talking at a recent conference, unanimously agreed that hiring good people is their No. 1 challenge, ahead of everything else, including online competition, volatile tire prices and workplace regulations.
So it is incumbent for a good tire shop operator not only to treat his or her good tire shop managers well, but also pay them fairly. Give them the perks they deserve. Reward them for their hard work, and they, in turn, will reward you with their loyalty and keeping the team happy, content and working at peak performance.
A good tire shop manager is a lot like a leprechaun — they're crafty and difficult to find — but once you have one, hang on to him or her. You've found a pot of gold.