How Chip Wood Built Tire Discounters’ Management Team
Promoting from within - especially at the store level - is one of Tire Discounters’ core practices. “I was a store manager at one point,” says Chip Wood. “If we can promote from within, that’s the best. It’s a win-win.”
Over the last 10 years, he also had made a concentrated effort to build out Tire Discounters’ executive management team, which is based at the dealership’s headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.
“He started with real estate and finance to make sure things were structured for heavy investment,” says Crissy Niece, senior vice president and chief customer officer.
Attorney Bob Oestreicher was recruited from a private law firm to oversee human resources and real estate. “I knew all about Tire Discounters, having been raised in Cincinnati, and have always had great experiences there,” he says. “So I knew that Tire Discounters was a company that treated customers the right way and wasn’t transactional.”
Chip interviewed Bob at “a coffee shop. We sat down and he told me what his vision was for the growth of the company. He talked about doubling the size of the company but doing it the right way - and what I could do in my role. And that sealed the deal for me. I was excited about the amount of responsibility he planned to entrust me with.”
Oestreicher’s team recently helped establish a partnership with a technical college in Indianapolis, Ind., one of Tire Discounters’ strongest markets. “We’ve invested in their auto service program. We’ve donated some new equipment. We’re always looking for top talent. I have every confidence it will be a fantastic pipeline” for identifying and recruiting young service technicians.
Niese left Procter & Gamble, where she had spent more than a dozen years promoting major health care brands, to join Tire Discounters six years ago. She was given the task of ramping up the company’s marketing while preserving the creative, homespun tone of its advertising.
“Tire Discounters is very customer-focused -- very fast-paced, high-energy and out-of-the-box,” she says. “Even during the interview process, Chip would ask, ‘Why? Are you sure about this?’ Those types of questions made me realize this is the place I was looking for.”
Niese says Chip expects Tire Discounters employees to be “very comfortable in their own shoes so you can try things. We’re always engaging with Chip to make sure we’re really pushing as far as we can. Communications from Chip come in at all hours and all times as ideas pop into his head, but not in a disruptive or overbearing way. He can be anywhere and come up with an idea.”
Like his colleagues, Kevin Burke, Tire Discounters’ chief financial officer, was familiar with Tire Discounters prior to working for it.
Burke says he interviewed with Chip during a charity auction that they both attended. “I was blown away by his knowledge about everything. We talked about what he looks for when it comes to real estate - how he likes to eyeball locations himself and walk the shop. He told me about the various things he looks for. It’s not just a dart throw. That was really impressive to me. He’s a marketing guy. That’s his backbone. But he’s so much more than that.”
After joining Tire Discounters, Burke took all of its debt and created an open revolver to give the company maximum flexibility. This proved to be particularly handy during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jamie Ward, the dealership’s president and CEO.
“During COVID-19, it has been important to have the cash we need,” he says. “We have the money to do what we want to do. It gave us confidence to go on offense.”
(Photo by Steve Ziegelmeyer/Ziegelmeyer Photography)