Stress Management: Dealers Tackle Stress in Different Ways
This MTD exclusive was provided by Maggie Olson, a freelance writer and editor with a background in automotive and tire testing.
Running an independent tire dealership is not for the faint of heart. Stress comes with the territory. From staffing and other business challenges to dealing with industry-wide disruptions, tire dealers manage constant stress on both macro and micro scales.
Top of mind for many dealers are recent price increases and supply shortages.
“We’re getting inventory, but it’s taking three times longer than usual,” says Heather Rowland of WNY Industrial Tire in Buffalo, N.Y. “And price increases are constant. I’ve never seen this many price increases in such a short time.”
Price hikes have also impacted McMahon’s Best-One Tire, a multi-location dealership based in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Co-owner Kim McMahon says that one of the company’s tire suppliers announced several price increases in a single year, citing escalating costs as reasons.
Many dealers also are feeling the strain of the ongoing labor shortage.
“We’re always trying to find technicians,” says Rowland. “When it comes to shop jobs, people don’t want to do that kind of work anymore.”
Spencer Carruthers, owner of Kenwood Tire & Auto Service in West Bridgewater, Mass., is experiencing similar labor shortages.
“I’d like to add another guy, but there’s nobody out there right now,” he says.
For Carruthers and other dealers, another struggle is the evergreen pressure to keep current employees healthy and happy.
“Obviously, from a business perspective, you want all your employees to come to work, but from a more personal perspective, I want them to be safe and healthy,” says McMahon.
Carruthers agrees. “I feel like I’m responsible for my employees. People have lives, partners, children and their own stuff going on. I just try to keep them happy.”
Dealers say finding ways to manage stress is important. That applies to their employees, too.
Anthony Vasquez, owner of Best Value Tire & Wheel in Placentia, Calif., puts himself in his employees’ shoes.
“I’m 34 years old and I’m hiring people who are 18 to 20 years old. I remember what I was like at their age. I’m an open door with them. They can share whatever they’re feeling and I’m open to ideas they have about what they need.”
Though Vasquez says he has not struggled with labor shortages, he had to manage another source of stress last year - entering the tire industry with no experience.
He bought Best Value Tire & Wheel from Mike Maxwell, the single-location dealership’s founder, in July after spending 15 years in banking.
“Coming into this industry, I didn’t know anything,” says Vasquez. “I had to do a lot of heavy research on the products we carried and how the tire industry works.”
Vasquez purchased the shop as a means of pursuing his passion for off-roading and fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning his own business.
“I know the ins and out of this business now and I continue to grow my knowledge. My vision for this business is to offer more than just tires and wheels. Now we have lighting, off-road accessories and lift kits. We want to be a one-stop shop.”
For Vasquez, off-roading is more than just business. It’s how he unwinds. He takes his four-wheel Can-Am off-roading vehicle out for weekend rides as often as he can.
“When you’re driving out in the middle of nowhere, with that adrenaline going through your body, you’re riding without worries,” says Vasquez. “Every stress level that you have - at the shop or in your personal life - just goes out the window.”
Other dealers rely on physical activity to manage stress. McMahon was one of many Americans who bought a Peloton machine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I used to go to a gym and work out, but then that wasn’t happening. My son had a Peloton and said, ‘You should try this.’ I’m a little addicted.”
Rowland has a similar approach. “I really try to work out at least five days a week,” she says. “I go to the gym and do some stuff at home.”
Her favorite exercises are weightlifting and spin class. It’s important, she says, “to make sure I’m taking care of myself.”
Rowland also loves to destress in the kitchen. “I’m always making homemade treats for every occasion. I’d rather make it myself than go buy it. It’s a good stress reliever.”
She often recruits her two young sons to join her. “When COVID-19 hit, we had a lot more time at home, so we worked on perfecting homemade ice cream. Now for every holiday, I make homemade ice cream in all different flavors.”
Carruthers is passionate about the importance of stress management.
“We’re business owners. We’re a passionate bunch, who are all about quality and doing it right. It’s easy to let that emotion flow over into a logical situation.
“Recognize when you start to get stressed out,” he advises. “Instead of reacting, just realize what’s happening, take a breath and come back to it.
“It’s easy to let your emotions get in the way of running a business. I’ve learned to separate logic from emotion.”
Carruthers also tries to not “take work home” at the end of the day. He spends some quiet time in his store after it closes before heading home.
And he manages stress via what he calls “the usual suspects — eating well, sleeping well and physical activity.”
McMahon recommends turning to peers for support.
“When we were opening our eighth store a year ago, there was so much going on,” she recalls. “We were all dealing with different parts of the business. We needed to sit down and talk about what was going on.”
Her dealership formed an executive committee, which has met once a week ever since.
“It’s been game-changing. Now we all have a clear understanding of what went on during the week and what’s coming up. Sometimes it’s just listening. Sometimes it’s problem-solving.
“But having that kind of feedback is so important. You don’t have to keep it inside. It’s a really good opportunity for us to let out stress.”
McMahon benefits from the diverse perspectives provided by her executive committee.
“Between the five of us, there’s two of us who think the same, two others who think the opposite and then a fifth person who goes back and forth. The fact that we have different personalities and ways of looking at issues helps immensely for me. I don’t know what I’d do without that.”
Maggie Olson is a freelance writer and editor, with a background in automotive and tire testing. Her work has been published in Modern Tire Dealer, The Financial Diet and other publications. She can be reached at email@example.com