Incoming Tire Industry Association President Ken Brown has been in the tire industry since he was six years old. That’s when his parents, Alan and June Brown, founded the Alan Brown Tire Center in Newport, Ore.
His father had been working for his brother-in-law at a Les Schwab tire store in Roseburg, Ore., when he heard the company was looking to expand west of the Cascade Mountains. He applied and was accepted to start a store in Newport.
The Browns moved to Newport and spent two months turning an old lighting store into a retail tire outlet. Today, Alan Brown Tire Center has two stores and 28 employees, including sons Ken and Tad. Ken runs the Newport store, and Tad manages the store in nearby Toledo, Ore. “The second store was opened in 2001 to capture more of the commercial market,” Brown says. And a third generation is now involved in the business. Tad’s son, Andrew, works in the Toledo store and is quickly learning the tire business.
“We are member dealers in the Les Schwab program. We have always said if we could do it all over again we would be dealers for Les Schwab. They are the best partners to have.”
A family affair
Brown learned the business from the ground up. “Being that it is a family business, I have always been involved, from sweeping the floors after school to emptying the garbage cans as soon as I could lift them,” says Brown. “I remember doing the monthly statements on the dinner table after we cleared the dishes. I started full time at the age of 19 after attending the Lane Community College’s Automotive Tech program.”
Did he ever dream of doing anything else? “There were always dreams of doing other things in between flat repairs and service calls,” says Brown. “But it was always too much fun to meet with customers and help them. “
His dad still comes in almost every morning to read the paper and have a cup of coffee when he isn’t out hunting or fishing. And his mom still works three days a week doing the books. “She still signs my check,” says Brown. “It is nice to have them around to ask questions about operations and to get their advice.”
Taking stands for tire dealers
Alan Brown Tire Center has been a member of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) since 1976. Brown joined the board of directors in 2004.
He says TIA has approximately 6,900 members. “TIA does not keep statistics on the exact breakdown of members and how many members are independent dealers, but it is certainly a large percentage. “
There are a number of legislative issues that he and TIA will focus on over the next 12 months that affect their tire dealer members.
“We will continue to focus on the issues of tire repair, tire aging, used tires and the Right to Repair,” says Brown.
Additionally, TIA has been active in the last year educating members about health care reform (“Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act). “We will continue to be a resource for our members who have questions about how the Affordable Care Act will impact them.
“TIA recently announced that it will offer a self-funded group employee benefits solution to its members through an alliance with The Association Benefits Solution (TABS), a unit of National General Insurance. TIA has been exploring solutions to the health insurance dilemma for quite some time, and we believe that TABS unique solution may be a great option for many TIA members.”
Brown says TIA supports the repeal of the death tax and is working closely with the Family Business Coalition on this issue. TIA supports the repeal because:
* the death tax is unfair. Brown says, “It makes no sense to require grieving families to pay a confiscatory tax on their loved one’s nest egg. Often, this tax is paid by selling family assets like farms and businesses. Other times, employees of the family business must be laid off and payrolls slashed. No one should be punished for fulfilling the American dream.”
* Repealing the death tax would spur job creation.
* The death tax contributes a very small portion of federal revenues and falls particularly hard on minorities.
* Typically, two thirds of likely voters support full and permanent repeal of the death tax.
“The tire industry is made up of so many family-owned businesses (including my own), so permanent repeal of the death tax is the best solution,” says Brown.
And under President Brown, TIA will address the Federal Aid Highway Bill.
“In 2012, Congress was unable to pass the proposed five-year Federal Aid Highway Bill, and settled on a two-year ‘extension.’ This Congress will again try to pass a five-year bill. TIA will continue to support a five-year Federal Highway Aid Bill.
“TIA opposes a major motor fuel tax increase and the privatization of highways. TIA will stand strongly with the American Trucking Associations in opposition to a weight-distance tax which would eliminate other taxes, including the Federal Excise Tax (FET) on new truck tires. The elimination of the FET on new truck tires would have a significant negative impact on the retread industry.
“TIA opposes the FET on tread rubber, passenger tires and the increase FET on truck tires.”
Training, training and more training
Training, always a high priority for TIA, also will be addressed while Brown is in the top office.
He reports earlier this year TIA released its Farm Tire Service (FTS) training program, and TIA is putting the final touches on adding FTS to its Online University. “Many of our commercial tire dealer members have indicated they will add the FTS program to their existing Commercial Tire Service (CTS) and Earthmover Tire Service (ETS) subscriptions. “Our next technician training program, Industrial Tire Service (ITS), will be produced next year and released in the fourth quarter of 2014 or the first quarter of 2015.
“We do a lot of forklift and industrial tires in my company, so I am especially looking forward to seeing it complete. Once ITS is finished, TIA will have training programs for automotive, commercial, earthmover, farm and industrial tire service, which we believe covers over 98% of the North American tire market.
“TIA members have access to the best tire technician training in the world, and we plan to continue updating existing programs and/or developing new ones as the need arises,” Brown says.
“I’m also very excited about the continuation of our new consumer education effort, ‘Tire Safety Starts with ....’ With four new topics for 2014, we will have the beginnings of an extensive library of short consumer education videos. These videos focus on specific tire care and maintenance issues so the tire dealers and retailers can promote best practices for drivers and vehicle owners. With unlimited free distribution for everyone and our own YouTube and Google+ channels, the ‘Tire Safety Starts with...’” videos represent our commitment to remain the leader in education and training for the tire industry.”
Brown’s goal as president is simply this: “to continue on with government affairs and education as our goals to make the industry stronger.” ■
Meet the president: Ken Brown profile
Name: Ken Brown
My age: 47
My family consists of: my wife, Stephanie, and our daughter Annabelle, who is six years old. Stephanie runs her own small business called True Cut Engraving, a growing trophy and awards shop. So I truly have a “trophy wife”!
The best thing about being a tire dealer today is: the people who you get to spend your time with from employees to the customers. They have become great friends.
In my free time, I like to: spend time with my wife and daughter, usually on our sailboat, fishing or in our RV exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
If I could change one thing about the tire retailing business, it would be: to have all technicians trained with TIA’s training programs so we could have a safer industry.
If I weren’t a tire dealer, I would be a: tire tech.
Sending a message to the president
MTD recently asked its National Advisory Council members the following question: “If incoming Tire Industry Association (TIA) President Ken Brown could accomplish just one thing during his year that would make your business life easier/more profitable, what would that be?” Here is a sample of their responses:
1. “Put together a rewards/points program for technicians and companies enrolled in TIA certification programs. Rewards programs can be used to reward certified employees with things like TIA merchandise or used to offset the cost of certification fees.”
2. “Continue to press for further standardization of tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) hardware across the board.”
3. “I’m not sure that one person can influence a market-driven industry. It would be interesting if TIA pursued standardization of used tire sales, as that segment of the business is less regulated than new tires.”
4. “Get rid of Obamacare.”
5. “A high-powered consumer advertising campaign promoting how important tires are for safety with a catchy slogan. Too many people neglect their tires.”