NCTDA President Shares Tips on How You Can Compete... and Prosper

Bob Ulrich
Posted on December 19, 2017
"Involve every associate in your business," says NCTDA President Mike Erickson.
"Involve every associate in your business," says NCTDA President Mike Erickson.

When Mike Erickson took over as president of the North Carolina Tire Dealers Association (NCTDA), he did not do so as a figurehead. He wants to make a difference for the tire dealers in North Carolina. He said as much at the NCTDA Expo and Trade Show last March.

He knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the tire buyer-seller relationship. He began his career in the tire industry with Uniroyal Tire Co. in 1969; 48 years later, he finds himself operations and planning manager for Carroll Tire Co., a division of TBC Corp. So his insights are, well, insightful.

That was the impression I got attending the event. And he proved me right in the Fall Edition of the NCTDA newsletter, “Tire.”

Here is what he wrote to his members. The heartfelt message was titled, “Our future as an Independent Tire Dealer.”

“Many of you reading this are growing weary of articles questioning the independent tire dealer’s survival in today’s business climate. Don’t fret… there will always be a place for the independent tire dealer, but the fit in every market will be different. All of the indicators point to a business environment for those that are in the tire and automotive service business that is very different from what you are experiencing today.

“There are really no markets that are impervious to intense competitive pressure. Even the smallest markets are feeling the pressure from car dealers. Larger markets face additional pressure from national retail chains, regional retail organizations, mass merchandisers, the clubs, and company-owned stores, and on and on.

“I read an article in one of the trade journals recently highlighting the fact that Giti Tire has built a plant in South Carolina that will be dedicated to the production of tires for Walmart. (Check out this link: "Walmart Celebrates the Opening of Giti's U.S. Tire Plant.") At capacity the plant will produce 5 million tires annually with the potential expansion to 10 million tires annually. Remember that there are a finite number of tires sold each year in this country.

“The dynamics of every market are unique, yet there are elements that are common to all. Let’s examine some of the similarities.

“The majority of people do not want to have their car serviced or repaired. Purchasing tires is usually rated at about the same popularity level as 1) having dental work without any form of sedation; 2) having some part of your body amputated.

“Given these realities what are other similarities? Universally, people want to be made to feel that they are ‘special.’ The phrase, ‘make it easy to do business’ comes to mind. The phrase, ‘the customer may not always be right but they are never wrong’ is also very relevant.

“The obvious question is, ‘How do I compete with these other businesses that have seemingly unlimited resources?’ No matter what resources you have available, you can create a customer-centric culture for your business. A customer-centric business is not just a state of mind. It is the culture that permeates your business. It starts with the owner and spreads throughout the business. Every aspect, every element of the business focuses on making the customer believe they are the only customer that matters, they are truly special -- from the time the customer is first engaged with your business through a social media platform, telephone, printed material, or personal interaction until the follow-up after and between sales.”

Erickson then suggests the following:

  • Examine every aspect of your business -- “everyone, everything that touches the customer in anyway.” Include the smallest detail.
  • Ask yourself, “Is it a positive experience? How do I make it a memorable experience? Would I feel special if this was my experience?
  • Involve every associate in your business. It is critical that every one of your associates buys into the customer-centric culture. “You will probably discover that some of your associates are either unwilling or unable to embrace a customer focused environment,” he wrote.

“Begin the process of introducing the ‘Customer First, the Customer Always’ culture at every level of your business.

“Today’s business environment will continue to evolve to where only those with the best business practices will survive. Notice I omitted the word ‘prosper’; only those that excel at making each and every customer believe that they are special will prosper.”

Erickson ended with a quick reminder that dealers “should be working on next year’s business plan.” The reminder was based on his strong message and suggestions from the Summer Edition of “Tires.”

I can’t wait for the Winter Edition to come out. I'll let you know what he has to say.

Related Topics: B.O.B., how to compete, Mike Erickson, NCTDA

Bob Ulrich Editor
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