On the Rise: Chad Kiefer
President | Smetzer's Tire Center Inc. | Age: 35
What was your first job in the industry?
What attracted you to the industry?
It was a summer job to help pay for college; and I always liked working on cars.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Trying to learn all the ways to handle employee interactions and personalities to go with it. Everyone learns in so many different ways — and I’m trying to learn that myself.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My father in law.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
Expanding the company by adding a new location!
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
I leave for work no later than 6:30 in the morning. I like to run reports and prepare for the day at least 45 mins before we open at 8 o’clock. This makes it easier to get certain tasks done before retail hours when customers start piling in. Every day is an adventure! Between 8 and 5 any and everything can happen: needing to run a service call to help a stranded farmer/commercial truck driver, manning a post at our retread shop, or covering one of the sales desks at one of our four locations. After close, I usually try to do a recap of the day which can include writing up tires, creating work orders, and ordering tires. I get home around 7.
What’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before you took your current job?
Run! All joking aside, I wish they would have told me that you need to be able to understand people on the fly. You need to know which personality traits are good in each setting and how to get everyone to get along and work together. We work in a semi-small setting, and depend on each other, so it’s important to communicate and know how to read people in order to avoid a tense working atmosphere.
Tell us about your family.
My wife and I are third generation in the business. We have three girls that get excited when daddy brings home tires to play with! My family is very involved with the company, filling in on any odd jobs and things that need done. When we aren’t working, we enjoy camping and traveling.
What did you learn about yourself in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic?
To stand my ground on certain topics, while being flexible with others. That we all needed each other to get through the tough times and to reward the people who worked through it.
Name a talent you wish you had.
Ability to tell the future. It would take the guesswork out of what tires we should have in stock, which ones are going to be backordered, what car problem is going to arise and how to prepare for it.
How do you recover from a bad or stressful day?
Talk through some of the day-to-day stuff with my father-in-law. He retired a few years ago from the company, and he’ll just smile as I vent. Secretly I know he’s thinking that he has been there and made it through it and so I can, too.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
An oldie — Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard
If you won an Olympic gold medal, how would you have earned it? (You can make up a sport.)
If I won an Olympic gold medal, it would be in the art of taking two steps forward and three steps back. I always have my eye on the prize, and know that eventually if I put enough time in, I will get ahead.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
Consolidation. More and more our business partners are selling either because of acquisition or retirement. In order to keep up with demands, we need to grow. But we don’t want to grow at the risk of losing what makes us great to begin with, being personable with our customers and building a trust with them. We are finding that the relationships that have been built over many years with our customers and wholesale partners are disappearing. You get the best service from small businesses that are respected in their communities, but the consumers now are driven more by the bottom line, which will ultimately lead to poor service in order to keep up.
What advice would you give to tire dealers who are desperate to find good employees?
Pay them their worth. Not just monetarily but by getting to know them, and have them feel truly appreciated by the work they do and their value to the company.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Training/educating the next generation to take over the business. In reality, they will probably be teaching me.