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Doc Holliday and his gang are alive and well in Memphis: Winchester Tire lets service evolve to match environment

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Doc Holliday and his gang are alive and well in Memphis: Winchester Tire lets service evolve to match environment

Talking to E.E. "Doc" Holliday and not asking him "the question" is impossible. Sooner or later you just have to ask, "Are you related to the infamous gunslinger/gambler Doc Holliday?"

Holliday gets a big smile on his face and answers, "Just about any Holliday who spells his name with two l's is related to him."

Once that is out of the way, it is it is easy to get back to discussing the automotive repair business and find out how his company has survived and prospered for 35 years.

Holliday founded Winchester Tire & Alignment on sales of new tires plus mounting and balancing. Its only service was alignment, and he kept the rack busy. Tires represented 75% of his business for most of the company's first 20 years. Today, they represent less that 25%. Why the change?

The Winchester Road area of Memphis has evolved from an upscale residential area to a haven for small businesses and companies that supply needed services to the airport that sits less than a mile away. The economic power of the people living around the shop is significantly less than before. In some circles, people might say the community and area is in decay. It is all about perspective.

As these changes have taken place, Winchester Tire's business strategy also has changed. It was through Holliday's "managed evolution" plan that the company has not only survived, but also grown with the help of automotive service.

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Fleets a-foot

Fleet business has replaced some business lost from well-off local residents who left the area. (Many long-time customers still return to the shop for the repair services they require, even thought they live miles away, Holliday says.)

After 35 years, Holliday is still at the office every day, but his son, Todd, has taken over the day-to-day running of the business. Talking with both was insightful when it comes to the importance of automotive repair services and how to earn a reputation for excellent work.

"Although we are a tire store first, 75% of our total business is non-tire related," says Todd. "And of that 75%, 35% is fleet business."

"The list of what we do is long, and the easiest way to describe it is that we do just about everything except body work, although we do work for body shops with alignments and suspension repairs."

If you turn over one of Winchester Tire & Alignment's business cards, you will find 15 automotive services. They include engine work, tune-ups, alignments, brakes, shocks, transmissions, suspension, belts, axles, struts, hoses, electrical, U-joints and factory-required maintenance. The diagnostic tools the shop's technicians have available allow them to go deep into the electronic control units (ECU) on any car.

ASE certified

All Winchester Tire's technicians are paid based upon the ASE certifications they hold. This focus on professionally trained people in the shop is a strong sales tool, according to both Doc and Todd.

"When we assure people that our techs are fully trained to do the right job, and right the first time, it generates confidence," says Todd. "Like hanging a diploma in a doctor's office, just having certification is powerful.

"We also pay 'flat rate' on all jobs. Our techs have learned to do every job fast but correctly the first time. They do not get paid for 'comebacks' so they take the extra time, the first time."

There are four bays on the left side of the long, rectangular building. Three of them are reserved for mechanical services, one for tires. (On the right side, two of the bays are used for alignments and tire service, while two are used for alignments.)

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In the main shop, Norris Rogers handles alignments and suspensions, while Todd Goodwin performs other service work. (Steve Dickens, Orin Killebrew and Martin Benitez are ASE-certified tire techs.)

In the sales room, there are two service writers plus Todd Holliday. David Daniel is the senior service writer and Joey Jacquez is the other. They also have ASE certifications in handling the language of customers and translating it to problems the service technicians can understand.

Right next to the main store, there is an unidentified shop that always has cars and trucks parked in the lot and in the service bays.

James Leem is the man in charge of that building, which has four bays that are busy 95% of the time. Leem is the only tech in this building, but he is an ASE-certified Master Technician.

He is so good that people come from all around Memphis to get him to fix their vehicles. Leem handles most of the fleet business and stays very busy.

Todd treats this part of the operation like a separate office, with its own appointment schedule and workload. It is its own profit center for the company.

Managed evolution

Doc and Todd Holiday take the time to identify changes in their area, and make related changes in their service operation to stay current, vital and profitable. Sticking to their "managed evolution" strategy has allowed Winchester Tire to take advantage of business opportunities for 35 years.

Best Practices Tips: Adding business one fleet at a time

Although Winchester Tire & Alignment in Memphis, Tenn., does advertise for retail business in the local newspaper on a weekly basis, getting fleet business into the shop requires a more personal touch.

1. Cold call.

2. Personal visit.

3. Invitation.

Starting with a cold call to each prospect, they follow it up with a personal visit and then an invitation for fleet managers to come by the shop and check it out for themselves. This usually results in a trial job or two before they are awarded the fleet business on a regular basis.

This is a one-company-at-a-time process and takes significant effort. But, according to both Doc and Todd Holliday, there is no other way to earn fleet business.

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