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New twist on program groups

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New twist on program groups

One of the tire industry’s most prolific idea men, Bob Mirman, is putting a new spin on the traditional program group concept.

Mirman is launching a new group, the United Tire Dealer’s Association (UTDA), which will offer buying discounts, competitive credit card rates, group insurance and other classic program group benefits.

But in a unique twist, the UTDA will not impose volume, signage or territory requirements, says Mirman, who also owns Los Angeles, Calif.-based West Coast Tire & Service.

To “buy in,” tire dealers must simply purchase an instructional DVD for the price of $195. The transaction, he explains, automatically enrolls members in the UTDA for one year.

Mirman, who’s been selling tires since the 1950s, wants to sign 1,500 members within the next 12 months. The program’s low price of entry is “a hell of a deal,” he says.

‘Keys to success’

The UTDA owes its birth to the aforementioned DVD, according to Mirman. Over the last two years — thanks in part, Mirman says, to an article about West Coast Tire that appeared in the May 2007 issue of Modern Tire Dealer — he has fielded dozens of calls from tire dealers throughout the country.

“We started getting calls because of the volume we do and the profit we make” despite being a single-store dealership located on a quiet side street, he says.

Many callers asked Mirman to fly out to their stores to analyze them. Others wanted him to stage on-site “how to” seminars.

One day, Mirman mentioned the calls to his attorney. She immediately suggested that he hire himself out as a consultant. “She said, ‘Well, you know, Bob, this is what people do now. They go to cities and hold seminars.’”

He balked at the idea. “I said I didn’t want to go from town to town” hosting seminars. However, when she suggested that Mirman produce an instructional DVD, he listened.

What has since resulted is a professionally scripted and produced DVD, Bob Mirman’s Keys to Success in the Tire Industry, in which the veteran dealer covers customer service, marketing, the creation of successful direct mail programs, and other topics that are of interest to tire retailers.
“It’s beyond Business 101,” he says. “It’s everything West Coast Tire has done to be successful.”

Success is something Mirman says he knows a bit about. “Because my shop is located on a side street in a commercial area, I don’t enjoy any drive-by traffic, yet I’m doing four times the national average” in sales, he claims.

Prior to opening West Coast Tire in 1971, Mirman ran American Tire Corp., a Los Angeles-based company that by the end of the 1960s was selling 8,000 tires a week through a network of 55 retail stores, as well as a thriving wholesale division.

The DVD got Mirman thinking: Why not put together a program group for fellow tire dealers?

Hands-off approach

Mirman says UTDA members will have direct access to his five decades of tire retailing experience and expertise.

At the same time, Mirman notes he has no interest in dictating members’ business practices.

“They way they run their business will remain their own business.”

According to the UTDA’s Web site, www.unitedtiredealers.org, benefits of association membership include a check-cashing protection program; group insurance packages (“My attorney is already talking with two major insurance companies.”); and lower credit card rates.

Additional benefits include electronic customer service reminders (“We will e-mail or phone your customers with reminders and specials”) and a mystery shopper program.

“Services will be available at prices that independents couldn’t achieve on their own.”

The UTDA also plans to offer a monthly e-newsletter that will answer questions from members.

“We’re going to ask them, ‘What do you want us to find out for you?’”

Most of the programs will be administered through Pacific Bankcard Services, says Mirman.

The UTDA is ideal for smaller independents that have one, two or three locations, he explains.

“I think a guy who has 40 or 50 stores is looking to do this on his own or has already done it.”

From a bottom-line perspective, perhaps the biggest member benefit will be group buying power, he says. “If I can put together a couple thousand members, I’ll be in a position to go to a tire company and say, ‘I want to buy 100,000 tires today and I want the 10 best sizes only.’ In today’s market, I’m going to get that deal.

“Then I would e-mail my members and say, ‘I’ve just put this deal together. Who’s interested?’”

Tires would be shipped directly to UTDA members. “We would negotiate whatever our members needed.”

The addition of future benefits is not out of the question, says Mirman.

“If we could get enough members, I’d love to (develop) a nationwide guarantee that we all would honor.” A network towing service is another possibility, though Mirman says he will take care not to overload the menu. “I’m going to keep this as clean as humanly possible.”

He hopes that potential members “will be smart enough to think that maybe someone has built a better mousetrap.”    ■

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