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Enticing Tire Dealers Into Action: Ohio Group Thrives on Young Leaders

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Enticing Tire Dealers Into Action: Ohio Group Thrives on Young Leaders

The struggles of the New Jersey State Tire Dealers Association are not unique. In September the group announced it was suspending activity due in large part to lack of interest from independent tire dealers. In big bold letters New Jersey leaders told its membership that it “needs new blood to join the board of directors and lead our organization into the future.”

About 500 miles to the west, Colin Gallagher is serving his first few months as the president of the Ohio Tire and Automotive Association (OTAA.) He joined the board in 2013 and now, at age 33, he’s serving as the group’s president through June 2017 while working as the regional sales director for American Tire Distributors Inc. in the Great Lakes.

And he’s not the only evidence of young blood on the leadership team in Ohio. Gallagher says at least three members of the board are millennials, and the group’s legislative director, Holly Nagle, is younger than he is. It’s something past leaders deserve credit for, he says. “We have actively pursued a youthful perspective. I think that’s been important to previous board leaders.”

The mix of new and experienced voices covers the entire tire industry, from retailers and wholesalers to suppliers. And he knows it might sound cliché, but Gallagher says, “Together we are so much stronger than if there’s no association.” Strength also comes from the group’s connection to the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM.) As one of eight affiliate organizations tied to the statewide retail group, Gallagher says Ohio tire dealers benefit from the breadth and force of the larger council which boasts of more than 5,400 members and a professional paid staff, including those who track legislative issues and lobby lawmakers. Gallagher considers the OTAA’s link to other state retailers one of the secrets to its success.

“Our association, through the OCRM, serves as a watchdog to these independent dealers who don’t have time to follow everything on their own,” Gallagher says. Earlier this year the OTAA hired a firm to call each of its members and tell them about the then-proposed federal legislation to resurrect mandatory tire registration. The paid firm provided each OTAA member with the contact information for their elected representatives.

“Even if you take the legislative piece out, there’s so much value for independent dealers to get together,” Gallagher says. That’s the message tire dealers in New Jersey seemed to miss as their group went dark, and the failure in the Garden State is proving an excellent motivator for the Buckeye State. Gallagher says he expects the OTAA to revamp how it communicates with its members, whether that is through its website, emails or the addition of social media channels. “We will solicit feedback from our members and board on how we can better support them.”

In 2016 OTAA also hopes to launch regional events for its members, whether they are information or training sessions. Either way, they’ll also include time for networking, which already is a big part of the group’s annual golf tournament and meeting. Gallagher says the hope is to extend the circle of tire dealers who are active in the association. That active base has kept the OTAA alive for 48 years, but there’s room for more. The majority of members don’t participate in the group’s activities.

“We have a core circle of very engaged members that represents a small percentage of our membership,” Gallagher says. “I feel like we have all the pieces in place to be vibrant.”

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