On the Rise: Jason Cieslinski
Regional Retail Business Consultant | Tire Pros/American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 39
What was your first job in the industry?
My first exposure to the industry was a ‘temporary’ position at the sales counter, as well as running errands, playing chauffeur, part time janitor, wannabe tire tech, and caterer while I figured out what I really wanted to do. I knew nothing about tires outside of the size that was on my car. By year three, I was managing our second location and realized I was in it for the long haul. I now liken the tire industry to the Mob, there's only one way out.
What attracted you to the industry?
Family. In the midst of successful career as a sales executive, with an nice corner office in San Francisco, my dad decided he wanted to go a different direction and spend more time with his family. So naturally he got into the tire business and, eventually, brought my brothers and I with him.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
To date, the biggest challenge was making the leap from a single store manager, to someone who was responsible for assisting 20+ locations(now 44) in their success. I realized very quickly the breadth and depth of obstacles facing owners, and that no two shops were exactly alike in addressing them.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Without question that would be my dad. Not only is he responsible for me being in the industry, he taught me everything I know about operating a business, managing employees, selling, interacting with customers, and most importantly, doing all of the above ethically.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
I believe that my greatest accomplishment has been in using the knowledge I've had the privilege of gaining, through the various avenues of learning I've been exposed to, in aiding the success of others. Nothing helps me sleep better at night than knowing it's my job to help those truly chasing the American Dream... small business owners.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
I drive, a lot! My primary responsibility is to ensure dealers get as much as they can out of the Tire Pros franchise system and to aid in growing their bottom line. Depending on the location, my day may be spent working on ways to increase traffic, reduce expenses, track productivity, train employees, work on showroom merchandising and many other opportunities to help Tire Pros dealers become more profitable.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Twenty years from now I anticipate being the owner of my own Tire Pros location(s) and working on a succession plan. I also plan to be traveling the world by that point.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
There are many, but one of the biggest seems to be the pace of change. Many of our owners have been doing this for 30-40 years and the fact that there has been more change in the last 10 than the previous 30 creates issues on many fronts. It can be overwhelming to have to change the way you approach everything.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
That it was a lifetime gig! I didn’t plan on it going the distance, but it sucks you in!
What class(es) do you wish you had paid more attention to in high school?
At this point, anything business related. Certainly all my economics classes, as well as accounting.
What’s the worst cliché or generalization made about your generation?
Interestingly, I fall into a “micro” generation now being referred to as Xennials, so I sort of defy clichés at the moment.
Tell us about your family.
I was born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, in a very modest home along with two brothers(one younger, one older). My parents split when I was about 12 years-old and by 14 my mother had met my step-father and we were on our way to California. I now have three brothers, a sister and a nephew and two nieces. All but my sister have or do work for the family business… tires! My parents are the hardest working people I know and love to travel as much as life allows (more and more lately). I am currently engaged to be married in June of 2018 to the most amazing woman on the planet.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
During football season, it’s watching the RedZone channel on Sundays. I also love to take advantage of our wonderful climate and go on hikes, barbecue with friends or attend the many festivals, fairs and other events that tend to pop up year-round.
What keeps you up at night?
Luckily I sleep fairly well, but I do tend to think about work and the future a lot. I find it hard to turn off my desire to create the perfect tire and auto repair shop of tomorrow. The stack of small business and entrepreneur books by my bed would definitely back that up.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
I often promote the fact that it’s great to work in a ‘need-based’ industry versus a ‘want’ one. Given the fairly recent economic decline, it’s nice to feel a bit recession proof. As of late, I also espouse the benefits of jumping into the ever shrinking pool of automotive technicians, as the basic law of supply and demand would dictate that it’s a solid career choice.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I am a Bruce Lee fanatic. Ever since I was a child, I have been somewhat obsessed with him. First it was the Kung Fu aspect, and then it evolved into a sincere admiration of his dedication and work ethic, as well as his amazing philosophy.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ballpark nachos. I don’t know why I love the “fake” cheese so much, but I do.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I wish I could play an instrument, especially guitar or piano.
What’s your favorite food?
Mexican food. All of it!
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Going ‘up north,’ which is a Michigan term for visiting the top of the state(near the pinky). We went every year on a family vacation and stayed two weeks in a small cabin on the beach, with the other cabins filled with family and friends.
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?
It appears that $1000 is now the going rate for a cell phone, so probably about 10 minutes.
Other than your cell phone, what’s a tool you must have to get through a work day?
My computer and my car.