Best-One of Indy Continues Growth With Eye on Commercial
When Indy Tire Centers Inc. dba Best-One of Indy acquired two R&T Tire stores this spring, it was the latest evidence of the company’s growth. But just as important, it was another entry point into Indiana’s farming economy.
“We’ve been a pretty diverse company since we started,” says Scott McKenzie, vice president of commercial for Best-One of Indy. “We’ve always provided ag and OTR and truck tire services, but as we expand out of the major metropolitan area of Indianapolis, it’s definitely an emphasis on ag.”
With its home base in Indianapolis, a city that serves as the intersection of four major interstates, the trucking industry and medium truck tires have long been an important part of the business at Best-One of Indy. (Fun fact: The Indiana Department of Transportation says the state is the fifth busiest for commercial freight traffic with 724 million tons passing through annually.)
Best-One of Indy serves a diverse clientele, and its business is a 50-50 mix of retail and commercial. McKenzie says the R&T Tire acquisition adds to both sides of that business, and gives Best-One of Indy 13 locations in central Indiana.
The R&T Tire store in Noblesville, an Indianapolis suburb, is a retail store, and the location in Tipton, about 50 miles north of downtown Indianapolis, is a commercial location with “a heavy emphasis on ag.
McKenzie says, “We are definitely getting more in the ag business because we have the footprint for it now.”
That footprint includes a commercial store in Lafayette, added in late 2020, “that is surrounded by agriculture.” The new store in Tipton is about 20 miles away from an existing store in Kokomo, and McKenzie says Tipton “complements Kokomo to reduce our response times to service calls and better serve our fleet customers.” The company also offers commercial and ag tires from its location in Columbus, Ind., the former Frank Anderson Tire Co. which it acquired in 2019.
Last year the company committed to expanding its ag business in Kokomo. It hosted a breakfast for farmers, supported the county fairs in the region and found other ways to become involved in the community. “We increased our ag sales in Kokomo by 84%,” says McKenzie.
“We saw the model. We worked the model; now it’s wash, rinse, repeat for the other locations.”
And it’s that kind of formula that will help the company continue to grow, he says.
“We’re looking at opportunities to put more dots on the map in the central Indiana area,” McKenzie says. “We’ll take every opportunity that comes to us and evaluate it. Being 50-50 retail/commercial is a nice balance when you look at cash sales and national account sales.”
Investing in mechanical repairs
In the last 18 months Best-One of Indy has added truck mechanical services for fleets as a way to fill yet another need for the company’s fleet customers. McKenzie says the dealership offers 24-hour mobile mechanical service, as well as dedicated mechanical services for fleets and drive-in service at the company’s commercial locations. The menu includes alignments, DOT inspections for trucks and trailers, plus things like chassis and suspension work and light line repair.
“The market needs it,” McKenzie says. “A lot of us are getting into it.”
Here’s why he believes more independent tire dealers are adding those services. “It seems like it’s catching up to retail. Back in the day, you were a tire company, but now you’re doing tires to complement your service business, and the model is being expanded to commercial. You have these relationships with fleets, but fleets have a need for mechanical services, so why not offer those and help them out?”
He says it helps speed up the timeline for when trucks return to the road.
“These days if you take your truck to an OE dealership, their wait time is three weeks. We experience it when we take our trucks there and it’s something we can’t service ourselves,” McKenzie says. “We pride ourselves on cutting down the downtime.”
It depends on the complexity of the job and availability of parts, but McKenzie says Best-One of Indy is “probably 50% faster” than the OE dealerships.
Mechanical work is “a profitable segment. That’s why we’re focusing on and expanding that.” It’s currently available within a 75-mile radius of Indianapolis, “but we definitely have plans to expand mechanical into all of our commercial and combo stores.”
Finding people to make it happen
So far that mechanical work is dependent on a team of six or seven technicians — some of whom have split duties. The lead technician is off work after breaking his leg.
“I would love to move to 10 tomorrow if the right people walked through the door,” McKenzie says. “We have trucks built for them waiting to get on the road.”
Enticing technicians is an industry-wide problem, and McKenzie recently called an emergency brainstorming session to “figure out ways to get more people.” He says the company needs to try things it’s never tried.
Already Best-One of Indy is offering signing bonuses to new hires and referral bonuses to existing employees who help the company find and hire new workers. McKenzie is in the process of finalizing a new tool allowance for technicians who join the truck mechanical team.
The plan is to provide technicians with a quarterly credit during their first year to purchase tools from the company’s vendors.
“We need to try something different.”
He knows the company’s competitors are doing the same thing.
“Competition remains fierce. We’re all trying to add to our respective package of values,” McKenzie says. “Many of us have similar product lines and types of services. Best-One of Indy focuses on providing the highest level of salesmanship backed by the highest level of service.Our mission statement is to create raving fans, and if we keep that at the forefront of our minds we will do just that. Outselling and outsourcing is what separates us from the competition.”
3 hot topics
McKenzie has grown up in the industry, learning from his mother Dorothy, who was one of the founding partners of the company. We asked him to weigh in on three big issues facing the commercial tire business in 2021.
Hiring: The search for employees is a careful balance of watching payroll and securing good workers when they present themselves, McKenzie says Best-One of Indy is “airing on the high side.” That means if the company needs to hire one technician but finds two qualified employees during the search, “we’re going to hire both of them.” He says, “You don’t know what tomorrow brings.”
Tire supplies: The companies with domestic production are bouncing back, but McKenzie says “we’re having problems with the import brands,” and a majority of the issues are outside of the supplier’s control — such as the backup of ships and containers at the West Coast ports. “But they’re getting better. Our fill rates for our traditional suppliers are in the 70 percentile (and) still on the rise.”
Opportunities for new brands: As tiremakers have tried to ramp up production to meet demand in the last year, there have been shortages. McKenzie says that’s presented opportunities for other brands to fill in the gaps. “We’re not going to not sell tires to our fleets. We are their trusted provider to keep them going. We’ve switched brands to keep their trucks going. It will be interesting to see how fast they transition back — if they do.”