As independent tire dealers battle the competition, they often search for the one thing that will help them stand out. At the 2017 K&M Tire Inc. annual dealer conference, the wholesaler provided a day-and-a-half event full of educational sessions to help dealers identify those opportunities.

The tips provided help for every kind of dealer, from those who focus on farm tires to others who depend on passenger tire sales and vehicle service.

Here’s a roundup of five key takeaways that can help you service your customers better, and also help you make more money.

Farm tires: Check and adjust the air pressure of tires mounted on new tractors. Chris Neidert, a salesman for Trelleborg Wheel Systems Americas Inc., says when tractors are delivered to a dealership, “they usually have 30-40 psi” in each tire. Neidert says the tires are filled to a higher amount to make them more stable on delivery trailers. And even though new equipment dealers check over lots of features, Neidert says the tires typically get missed. It would take a tire dealer only a few moments to calculate the correct tire pressure using the weight of the tractor, the highest speed the farmer intends to drive it, and a basic formula to see how much weight each tire carries. In one of his examples, the correct tire pressure was 15 psi. Making that adjustment will have a huge impact on a dealer’s customer — it will give the tire better traction, provide for even wear, and reduce soil compaction. In the long run, it will save them money, and Neidert says, “in their eyes, you’ll become the tire professional.”

The right focus: Jon Petz is a motivational speaker and magician, and he used some magic to drive home a few points about owning and operating a business. He laughed at the overused cliché of “thinking outside the box,” but said there’s value not only in learning new things, but also in “unlearning.” Some practices are meant to be changed, and Petz says “as owners and leaders you need to unlearn” on a regular basis. Petz also says it’s easy for business owners and managers to get too focused on a detail, and lose sight of the bigger picture. “Focus is critical, but perspective is priceless.”

Service: On-the-job training isn’t good enough. And training by “Old Joe” is even worse, says Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training for the Tire Industry Association. Rohlwing, who calls himself “a third-generation tire dork,” says when it comes to training tire technicians, on-the-job training “is inconsistent, rarely compliant and totally dependent on the knowledge, experience and attitude of the trainer.” And that’s simply not good enough to stand up in court, and it’s not good enough to pass an Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspection. It’s also not good enough when you want good service to be part of your dealership’s brand.

Lunch: Rohlwing offered another way to help good service shine at tire dealerships. He knows of a business owner who carries a pocketful of restaurant gift cards. When someone in his dealership performs great service, or goes the extra mile, he thanks the employee, hands the worker a gift card and says to “have lunch on me.” Rohlwing says dealers should consider the potential impact of rewarding one employee a week with a $10 gift card. “How far can that go for your brand?”

TPMS: Servicing a vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) has never been easier — really, says John Rice, from 31 Inc. Here are three pieces of evidence to back up his claim:

  • There are universal tools.
  • There are universal sensors covering 90% of vehicles.
  • And even though there are still plenty of varieties, TPMS relearn procedures have gotten easier.

On top of that, TPMS is good for business, Rice says. “You should be checking all the sensors of every vehicle that comes in.” When the federal law mandated TPMS in passenger vehicles 10 years ago was created, it gave original equipment sensor manufacturers a 20-minute window to warn motorists of a problem. That means a motorist could come into your dealership for an oil change with an existing TPMS problem, but the light isn’t yet shining on the dashboard.