On the Rise: Chris Ferguson
Market Manager - Tire Store and WTD | Dealer Tire LLC | Age: 36
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the business was working the lot at a local dealership. It was a mix of many different responsibilities: inventory management, prepping for delivery, picking up trash, you name it. I realized early on that I had the itch and have been fortunate enough to continue being a student of this industry since then.
What attracted you to the industry?
I have always had a passion for cars. From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something in the automotive world. As I mentioned before, I started early on in the car business and realized this is where I wanted to be. This business provides endless opportunities if you're willing to work hard and be a student. I learn something new every day and I haven't even scratched the surface.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Like most folks, I want work and life balance. I have a large family of younger children and time at home is very important to me. There were a few times in my career where the role I was in or the organization I was with didn't align with that focus and I had to make, at the time, difficult decisions. Thankfully, I kept my focus on my ultimate goal which was to be successful in my career while being successful as a husband and father, and I found the perfect match in Dealer Tire. We play to win but we also celebrate family and balance and that has made the biggest impact on not only my mental health but also on my career.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
It would be hard to name one individual as having the biggest influence on my career. I've tried to live my professional life in line with the quote: "if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room". As a result, I've been so very fortunate to have been surrounded by and, at times, under the tutelage of some very brilliant folks in the business. I like to think that my "style" is a hybrid of the things I picked up along the way and cultivated into my own.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment has been growing and developing people. I've thoroughly enjoyed watching my people learn and develop and move into either new roles or roles where they can flourish. Seeing someone absorb the training and exposure you surround them with — and then take that and run with it — is an indescribable level of excitement for me. I've been very fortunate to have been surrounded by a great team of highly talented folks and I am eagerly looking forward to their continued growth.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
In September, I celebrated my four-year work anniversary with Dealer Tire and, hands down, this has been the best decision I have ever made in my career. I currently serve as market manager to the Virginia Tire Store team and have a phenomenal group working hard on the ground every day to see our mission through. I’m proud to lead this team of tire service advisors that work with our dealer partners to maximize their retention efforts through inspection based tire sales. Working alongside our OEM counterparts, we help dealers identify gaps and opportunities and create solutions to not only retain customers but maximize profits in the process. No two days are the same, which I think is why I love it so much, and I’ve got a great group of folks that are out in the field echoing the message in unison.
What’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before you took your current job?
“Hey, COVID’s on the way!” In all seriousness, we’ve weathered this storm over the last year like anyone else. I’m proud of the work my team and I have done and the targets we have been able to achieve, despite a time unlike any other. Our team has leaned on one another through the good and the bad and we’ve figured it out – that’s what we do!
Tell us about your family.
It’s a big one! My wife Candice and I live in Midlothian, Va., just outside the capital of Richmond, and have five beautiful children: Madison, 14, Morgan, 13, Margeaux, 9, Kit, 6 and Grady, 1. Because we’re gluttons for punishment, we also have a seven month old Labrador/golden retriever mix puppy named “Bo”. We love the outdoors and spend a lot of time hiking, camping and exploring the mountains of Virginia. We moved to Midlothian in February 2020, up from Charlotte, N.C., and have enjoyed getting to know our new home.
What did you learn about yourself in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Everything is “figureoutable.” Look, like anyone else in the industry, I had to figure out how to continue delivering value to my dealer partners and my team despite a global pandemic. We moved a lot of our face-to-face communication to online platforms and, when we couldn’t visit clients, we held business planning sessions virtually. We changed our focus, sometimes week to week, to match what pain-point our client was experiencing in that moment. We helped dealers realize that sometimes the answer isn’t always that you need more cars, sometimes it’s a penetration problem. Despite the craziness of the last eighteen months, we’ve really been able to step up and deliver the same level of value that our clients have come to expect from us and that makes me very proud.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I’m envious of folks that have these amazing memories and can recall minute details from conversations months ago. I was not blessed in that regard, so I am a huge notetaker! You can find a handful of yellow legal pads in my bag at any given moment and I’m constantly jotting down notes to either remember a conversation, remind myself of a task or just keep my thoughts in one place. The silver lining is that, even if someone does forget, I guarantee I have it written down somewhere!
How do you recover from a bad or stressful day?
I’m of the belief that no days are “bad”, although some may certainly be more enjoyable than others. With that in mind, I can certainly still have my share of stressful days like anyone else. I love hiking and generally just being outdoors so when I’ve had one of those less-than-desirable days, I’ll grab my backpack and hammock, leash up the dog and get outside. I’m so fortunate to live within a short drive of a few great Virginia State Parks so it’s easy to find a nice, quiet place in a very short drive.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
Not a recent book, per se, but my favorite book that I’ve ever read is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The Four Agreements, as described in the book, are: Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions and Always Do Your Best. Although these agreements seem simplistic in nature, they are real building blocks for personal freedom and happiness. They can certainly be difficult to keep at times but what an amazing world we would live in if everyone focused on these four, simple truths.
What’s your favorite, can’t-miss podcast?
I started listening to Andy Frisella’s “MFCEO Podcast” several years ago and became hooked. His style is that of a no-nonsense, in your face, complete ownership variety and that resonated with me instantly. It’s certainly not for younger ears to hear but I’ll throw on an episode when I have some windshield time and take it in. He stopped “MFCEO” and started “Real AF with Andy Frisella” at the end of 2019 and I’ve enjoyed it just as much, if not more. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone looking to face real truth in their life and become better both mentally and physically.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
We continue to struggle overall with preparing for the next generation of automotive professionals to come behind us. This isn’t a new problem, but one that I don’t believe we’ve still grabbed by the horns across the industry. Sure, there are regional players who are working with technical schools to groom those who have expressed interest, and a few OEM’s have stepped up to the plate with brand-specific programs, but we still have quite a ways to go. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that we would need an average of 76,000 technicians each year between 2016 and 2026 to backfill those retiring and fill new positions. We have to continue to find ways to attract new talent into the industry by overcoming old stereotypes. The industry has changed, for the better, and we have to get that word out.
What advice would you give to tire dealers who are desperate to find good employees?
Long gone are the days of having that “rockstar” walk in the door of your shop, resume in hand, ready to work. As employers, we have to play the long game by consistently focusing on developing our people. That entry-level technician today may very well have the aptitude to develop into your general ganager of the future. Listen to the aspirations of your people and help them to develop into their potential. I love the saying, and I’m not exactly sure who to accredit it to, that goes: “What if we train our people and they leave? Oh, but what if we don’t train them and they stay?” Focus on the strengths of your people, lead them into their abilities and that is where you’ll find your good employees of tomorrow.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Oh man, 20 years from now seems so far away yet so close! In a perfect world, I’d be sitting on the front porch of a farm with my wife watching the dogs – because I’ll still be too young for grandkids! – run around in the yard. In reality, I don’t know that by that time I’ll be ready to stop working so I imagine I’ll be in some dealership somewhere pushing people to be better, faster and stronger, just like I have been for the last 20 years.