On the Rise: Thomas Dobson
Owner | Woodstock Repair and Services LLC and Pomfret Tire | Age: 34
What was your first job in the industry?
My father has owned Pomfret Tire since 1991, and had Jim's Tire in Massachusetts before that. I grew up changing truck tires. When I was approximately 10 years old I was swinging the hammer on tube-type tires until I missed and hit my ankle, went and cried in the corner, then came back and kept swinging! Funny story my father always tells people.
What attracted you to the industry?
I always enjoyed the tire industry. But I wanted to do more than just tires, so I went to school to be a diesel mechanic. A few years after finishing school, I started my own mobile repair/tire business in 2005, and now my father is retiring soon, so I bought the family business from him, and now run two businesses. I eventually will merge the two together —or maybe not. Not sure yet.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Biggest challenge I’ve had to face is just running a business solo. I am the secretary, the receptionist, the service writer, the service manager, the parts manager, the banker. I handle everything day to day.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Both of my parents. My mother was always a hard worker, and very, very determined to be better than she was, and I inherited that drive. I always wanted to make my father proud and take the family business over, but I want to make it more than what it was, take a foundation my father built, and make something bigger, that maybe he can still be a part of in his remaining years, maybe as a pick-up/delivery person, or even doing some paperwork in the office to help me out, anything that doesn't involve manual labor for him. He is 64 years old and still changing tires as big as a 520-85R46 at times!
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
I would have to say I am most proud of my reputation. I started in 2005 with just a small F-350 and a box of tools. I hired a high school dropout as an apprentice to keep him off the dark roads, and he has now been working for me for nine years and is in his own service truck. I have a wonderful relationship with dealers and other shops in the area; we all work together for a common goal of helping the customer stay on the road safely.
I have never advertised even in a phonebook, it’s all been by word of mouth, and I'm now at the point where I am always scheduling for the following month I am so busy. I started this business when I was 22 with not much, and never asked for anything. I may be in my late 40's before I am ‘successful’ but it will all be worth it in the end.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
I'm awake by 5 a.m. daily. I try to get in at least one or two hours of paperwork in before the day starts at 7:30 a.m. At 7:30 a.m. my two employees show up ready for work, and we converse for a couple minutes about where they are going, what they are doing, etc. I have two service trucks, so we split up for each day usually, rarely do we work together on same job, unless it’s a really big one.
Then after we get on the road, I usually converse with my father, who runs my second business day to day, to see what he’s doing, how he’s doing, etc. Once I know everyone is all set doing their job, and have the parts and tools they need. I can focus on my work and doing my job, which are all the same duties as my employees.
I usually try to end my workday around 3 p.m., but that usually only works one or two days per week, but I try to get home before 4 p.m. so I have time to make a deposit, order parts and tires before they close, make changes to the schedule, call customers, return phone calls, etc. I usually finish most of that by 5 or 6 p.m. Then I usually spend another hour or two making bills out, paying bills, and any sort of paperwork that needs to be done. I do that six days a week. Sunday is the only day I can usually relax, but usually I am doing work around the house or the garage. Running a mobile repair business, as well as a tire business doesn't leave much room for anything else unfortunately.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
I hope to have built my business up enough to slowly back away from the hands on, and focus more or all of my attention on running it and the paperwork side of it. I want to be the guy traveling around, diagnosing, talking to customers still, setting schedule, ordering parts, tires needed. I feel once I can do that, the growth is unstoppable. I want to be the grease that keeps the wheels moving and still make sure my guys have what they need to do their job, and jump in if needed.
Hopefully I won’t have to work as hard!
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
Tough question. There are many, but if I had to answer one, I’d say downtime, If we can’t do our job in a timely manner, they can’t do their job. It has a downward spiral effect.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
Learn, learn, learn, learn as much as possible before you enter the field.
What class(es) do you wish you had paid more attention to in high school?
I went to a tech school but never took it super seriously, and I regret that wholeheartedly. Funny how you hate learning when you’re young, but love it when you get older.
What’s the worst cliché or generalization made about your generation?
We are all grease monkeys, dirty and beneath them, because we change tires and repair trucks, cars, equipment.
Tell us about your family.
I have a wonderful wife of almost 10 years now with a beautiful daughter who’s going to be 9 soon. It’s for whom I work so hard for.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
To be honest, the only enjoyment I get nowadays is spending time with my family any chance I can, as there is never enough time.
What keeps you up at night?
The schedule, the parts ordered, everything. I cannot fall asleep at night until I know or feel that everything for the next day is planned out in my head, or secure enough that I haven't forgotten anything.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
There is going to be a huge shortage of qualified people in all blue collar industries in next 20 years, even Mike Rowe made a story relating about what we all see day to day. We pushed and pushed for so long for everyone to get a college degree, now everyone has one, and it’s lost its meaning.
There is money to be made in all blue collar industries, but you have to be willing to work for it. If you don't want to work for it, then just leave before you start.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I was a gamer at heart when I was a kid, and still play when I get the chance with my fiancée or daughter if I can.
Name a talent you wish you had.
People can imagine something in their mind, and fabricate it, and make it. I cannot do that, I don't have the imagination to picture something and make it.
If I see it I can make it, but I just don't have that creative spark.
What’s your favorite food?
Anything Italian, or any form of meat and mashed potatoes. There’s not much I won’t eat!
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
From a learning prospective I’d love to sit and have dinner with Neil Degrasse Tyson. I would love to just sit and have a conversation with him.
If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?
I would probably pay it instantly.
Other than your cell phone, what’s a tool you must have to get through a work day?
My entire service truck really. I am nothing without my truck.