MTD Tire Dealer of the Year Profile: Chip Wood
Name: Chip Wood
Education: High school: Mariemont (Ohio); College: BSBA (University of Cincinnati)
Family: Carla, wife; Steven, Anna and Evan, children; Chris, brother; Janet, sister (Steven, Anna, Evan, Chris and Janet all work at Tire Discounters)
When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, before Tire Discounters was planned. I wanted to open either a pizza shop or a tire shop.
Who had the most profound influence on you when you were young? My father. He told me all during my childhood, from the earliest age I could remember, that I was going to work for myself in a business that I started and operated. I never considered anything else.
When did you first say, “I want to be a tire dealer?” At 15 years old. My Uncle Chuck owned a tire store in Akron, Ohio. I would sell tires to my friends’ parents and their neighbors. My uncle would then put them on a Greyhound bus to ship them to Cincinnati. I knew then that I wanted to start a tire store after I was finished with school.
How do you start your work day? Up by 4 a.m. every morning, drink a French pot of Earl Grey tea, and read four newspapers with the news on concurrently.
How do you spend the majority of your typical work day? I flip from marketing plans to real estate to the needs of our staff and other considerations - from one to another and back, in a big circle!
What is the secret to successfully overseeing so many locations and employees? I consider every staffer to be the most important decision maker for their job and task at hand. Each and every employee can and should overrule me, if they want or are correct about any given issue. We’d still be a one-man business without that practice and attitude.
What are the best and worst parts of your job? The best part is when I hear that someone enjoys working at Tire Discounters. It makes my day every time. The worst part is when I learn of a tragedy that happened in a co-worker’s life.
What superpower would be most helpful to a tire dealer? It sounds silly but I’d really love the ability to put air in a tire that I see driving down the road underinflated. Sometimes when I’m on the highway I agonize about how to warn someone that their tire pressure is dangerously low. I can’t tell you how many notes over the years I’ve left on cars in parking lots! (Like, “Did you know your tires are worn out?”)
If there were zero financial constraints, what is one change to your business you would make immediately and why? Oh, I would easily double our IT department to add desired initiatives.
What is the best decision you have made as a businessperson? I believe adding alignment was a super-good decision. It was difficult to do but it was the right thing to do. And I’m happy for it.
What is the best personal decision you ever made? Not scaring Carla off from marrying me! I told her within weeks after we met that we were going to get married. She almost ran out of the room. I know she looked around for the nearest door! Second best was starting to exercise daily.
What was your biggest challenge when starting your dealership? If you saw our first store, you’d understand this immediately: I had to convince every single customer that they could trust me with their car. The store had no heat and no showroom. The one bay it had was too small to pull a car in. The guy living in a mobile home on my parking lot kept a lot of chickens for pets.
What is your dealership’s biggest challenge now? Constantly improving our customer service. We can always do a better job.
What has been your biggest success in the tire business? Being able to work with my brother, sister and my kids is a home run success.
What would you like an opportunity to do all over again? We should have invested more and earlier in IT. There was always a more pressing need but in hindsight, it’s easy to see that there really wasn’t anything more important than IT. I missed it.
What has been the best change or evolution that you have witnessed in the tire industry? Customer acceptance and understanding of alignment as key to tire longevity and its expansion to related services, like ADAS. Many more people now understand that you can’t just slap on four tires and say, “Problem solved.”
What has been the most difficult change and how did you adapt to it? When we got to about 50 or so stores, it was almost overwhelming to well-manage so many locations. We had to become an organization that had every department (legal, HR, marketing and accounting) matured. Every department had to be the best. Today, we are a wildly different company than we were just 10 years ago. We can manage 300 stores as easily as 135. Every department is staffed with the best of the best in their field.
If you could alter one thing about yourself, what would it be? That’s easy - I’d be 15 pounds lighter.
What is your favorite book? I love sci-fi and historical fiction. My favorite part of the day is ready the Wall Street Journal.
What is your favorite movie? Whatever I’m watching at the time.
What is your favorite song to crank up on the stereo while driving? I couldn’t tell you what any lyrics of any song are.
What is your favorite vacation spot? Southern Florida.
What is your favorite stress-reliever? Exercise
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you? I’m pretty much an open book. I can’t think of anything.
What is your favorite thing about today’s tire industry? Today’s tire quality is way better than when I started.
What do independent tire dealers do better than other businesspeople? Making that experience enjoyable and being competitive and profitable requires a lot of creativity. Most independent tire dealerships are seemingly the quintessential family business - one that’s close to customers. I’m proud to be associated with them.
What is the best aspect of being an independent tire dealer? It’s been amazing, starting out working by myself to having close to 1,500 co-workers.
What advice do you have for tire dealers who are just starting out? Be laser-focused on your customer and the rest will take care of itself. I used to literally run to a customer’s car to ask how I could help, right as they pulled into the lot. They didn’t have time to roll the window down before I was all over them, trying to see what I could do for them. People really appreciated that and as a result, customers wanted to give me their business because they could tell that they were being treated like the most important person in the world. And you know what? They were.
(Photo by Steve Ziegelmeyer/Ziegelmeyer Photography)