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MTD 100 Dealers Share Tips For Finding Good People

'People Have Always Been the Biggest Factor in Whether a Location Succeeds or Struggles'

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"The demand environment is so high, we absolutely need to bring more talent in," says Tim Winkeler, CEO and president of VIP Tires & Service.

| Photo Credit: VIP Tires & Service

Finding help is arguably the biggest challenge facing independent tire dealers today. And the largest tire dealerships in the United States are not immune to this problem. In this exclusive, MTD 100 dealers share solutions for finding - and keeping - good people.

Tim Winkeler, CEO and president of VIP Tires & Service, Auburn, Maine: “We’ve been pretty successful in terms of recruiting and improving our (employee) retention. We’ve added significantly to our headcount in the last two years. The storyline for us goes back to the COVID-19 shutdown two years ago. We didn’t do any layoffs. We didn’t do furloughs. We didn’t cut anybody’s hours. And because of that, our recruitment efforts were very fruitful because we had a good story to tell. 

“In late-2020 and early-2021, we opened another six stores and obviously with that comes the challenge of staffing new stores and going into new markets and recruiting people. Now that those stores have been open, they’re adding to our growth. We’ve consistently been running 20%-plus comp store sales increases and you (need) to have a lot more people if you’re going to run those increases. 

“At the same time, demand is strong. Some of our shops are not as busy as others. But the number of people moving into Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont is at an all-time high. As that demand continues to increase, it’s been tough for us to keep ahead of staffing.

“So that has resulted in stores that have historically booked appointments out two or three days now booking out a week or sometimes longer than a week. We have every appointment full for several days going forward. That’s one of our challenges right now. The demand environment is so high, we absolutely need to bring more talent in. We continue to grow our staff, but we can’t grow fast enough to keep up with demand.

Walt Dealtrey, CEO and president of Service Tire Truck Centers Inc.,, Bethlehem, Pa.: “Whether it’s the tire business or the restaurant down the street, where people are and how they’re affording to fill up their gas tanks and buy food … I don’t understand what’s different today versus three years ago. There are markets we’re in where we are fine, but there are others where it’s stupidly difficult to find anybody to even apply. 

“Certainly the retread plant operators and service techs are the hardest to hire and retain. The part of the world we live in - the Northeast - is warehouse central, where there’s millions of square feet after millions of square feet of warehouses advertising $25 an hour to operate a forklift as opposed to changing a truck tire. 

“At the end of the day, we’re paying more. It’s hard to lower somebody’s wages once you’ve raised them.

“Ten years ago, I thought finding people was really hard, but it’s nowhere close to today. Unless the economy comes to a grinding halt, I’m not sure where we will be."

Carson Wright, executive vice president, Nebraskaland Tire, Kansasland Tire and Coloradoland Tire, Lexington, Neb.: “The biggest problem is getting people to apply. We’re on all the job boards. We really stress word of mouth. 

“Typically, auto techs and tire techs run in the same circles. We’ll pay a guy a couple of hundred dollars if he brings in a friend and that (person) stays with us for at least 60 days. We’ve raised everybody’s pay a little bit. We’ve beefed up our commission structure. We’re offering recruiting bonuses. 

“We’re finding, especially with younger people, that time is almost more important than money. They don’t want to work six days a week. They want a lighter schedule. They want that extra family time off. Working until 6 p.m. on Saturday is not what they’re after. And they’ll let you know that up front. We try to work around (their) schedules as best we can. 

“We’ve never considered a seven-day week. We’ve never opened on Sundays and never will. But our stores are still open on Saturdays for varying amounts of time, depending on the market we’re in. Some stores are open from 7:30 to six and others can close as early as noon - especially in smaller towns, where there’s not a lot of competition. We’ll take care of customers and close up early, if we can. 

“People have always been the biggest factor in whether a location succeeds or struggles and if you get that right person in, you can turn a place around immediately. Right now, (recruitment) is definitely a challenge and might be as bad as it’s ever been."

Stay tuned to for more best practices from MTD 100 dealers.

For more about the 2022 MTD 100, click on MTD 100 Provides Exclusive Look at Top Dealerships.

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