MTD and the Industry Lost a Friend With the Death of Wayne Williams

Bob Ulrich
Posted on July 31, 2018
Wayne Williams was a SEMA Show regular. In 2016 he attended the show with his son, Ryan, and daughter-in-law, Chrissy, at left, and his wife, Tia, and her son, Jordan Johnson, at right.
Wayne Williams was a SEMA Show regular. In 2016 he attended the show with his son, Ryan, and daughter-in-law, Chrissy, at left, and his wife, Tia, and her son, Jordan Johnson, at right.

“It is with a tremendous amount of personal and professional sadness… .”

No email that opens with those words can be the harbinger of good news. And it wasn’t.

Greg Smith, publisher of Modern Tire Dealer, was letting the staff know that his good friend -- our good friend -- Wayne Williams had died at the age of 62. Wayne had been writing for our Counter Intelligence column since May 2010. The first words from his first column told you a lot about the man:

“The retail tire and service sales counter is the most exciting, challenging and rewarding place in the industry. It’s where decisions are made; it’s the contact point, the final link in the automotive aftermarket chain.”

He quickly became part of the MTD TEAM. He always used to address us as such, emphasizing it in capital letters whether he was sending us one of his many complimentary emails (two of my favorites were “More Love Notes!! Go TEAM! and “Hey Counter Intelligence TEAM… We rock again!”) or just sending in his monthly column.

He was the man in black -- his apparel color of choice – with a strong marketing background that resonated with our readers. His more than 20 years with Parnelli Jones Inc., at one time of the largest independent tire dealers in the country, gave him a lot of street cred.

He founded ExSell Marketing Inc. in 2005 in La Habra, Calif., to spread the word, so to speak. His wife, Tia, was chief financial officer.

Many of his friends in the industry were quick to offer their condolences to us. Here are just a few.

“I have known Wayne for over 35 years, and he was not only an associate of mine for 14 years, but a very good friend. Wayne was full of energy and full of life, and he really, truly loved what he did. Wayne was a very special person with a caring heart.

“He loved his wife, Tia, and son, Ryan. He was so happy to work together with them every day.

“I will miss my calls with my friend talking about the past and the future.

“Wayne left us way too soon as he had more to give through his work and friendship. I am going to miss my friend.” -- Marty Krcelic, president and chief operating officer, TBC Brands Group, TBC Corp.

“Wayne Williams was a very ‘electric’ person and one of the best motivators I have ever met. After any conversation, he could leave you excited and ready to run through a wall. His knowledge and passion for our industry is something that you can’t find in today’s world and will be sorely missed.” -- Chris Brackin, vice president of sales, American Omni Trading Co. LLC

“I re-connected with Wayne at a CTDA meeting in So Cal a while back. We had met and crossed paths in earlier lives in So Cal, but never really worked together. We since became fast friends, as I’m sure many people who meet Wayne do. He and I ended up talking and sharing stories and ideas on a regular basis.

“I found Wayne to be one of the most genuine people I have ever known. He had an unwavering passion and dedication toward the survival and advancement of the independent tire dealer. He was somewhat of a disruptor, challenging the old ways of doing business while maintaining integrity and always keeping customer service at the forefront.” – Dave Marks, CEO and president, Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC

“For the past 15-plus years, Wayne has been a great friend, colleague and mentor. Wayne's natural ability to simplify a complicated subject made his speaking engagements and magazine columns a hit in our industry. He was a proud Christian who loved his friends and family. You will be continually missed and never forgotten. Friends till the end, Brother. -- Dave Johnson, founder and president, Icon Internet Media Inc.

Chris Mitsos, vice president of Mountain View Tire & Service Inc., said he enjoyed reading all of Wayne’s columns online.

“My favorite column was on August 15, 2016, titled, ‘There are only two problems you can have in a tire store.’ Anyone who has an underperforming store needs to look no further than the last... paragraphs of that article.”

I think Wayne would be disappointed in me if I didn’t take this opportunity to again spread his words of wisdom in those six paragraphs. Here they are.

“This business is all about interaction and engagement. On many occasions in the past, I’ve over-advertised for under-performing stores only to be met with marginal success. I’ve transferred performing managers to under-performing locations with incredible success. Conversion is in the hands of the manager.

“The manager controls the car count; the manager controls the sales per car; the manager controls the conversion rate; the manager controls the customer mix. This is the manager’s job.

“The manager controls the attitude of the store. Again, there are only two ways to answer the phone — poorly or properly. The tone on the phone matters and everybody mimics the manager. When a customer walks in the store, whether new or repeat, the timing and the tone of the greeting are a mirror of the attitude and tone of the manager.

“It’s been my experience that certain store managers believe they are habitually in need of additional traffic. They have a tendency to blame the advertising, including the types of advertising, the types of offers, the design of the ads, the timing of the ads, etc.

“I’ve found it impossible to market around or past a poor store manager. In other words, the success or failure lies at the store level. My point is no store accidentally runs well. Customers, new or repeat, need to be managed, car count and per car sales need management and, of course, sales and mechanical staff need management.

“You are the reason customers return. Make your place their place. Managers are the cause or the cure! Maybe there is only one problem you can have in a tire store.”

Since I began this tribute with Greg Smith’s email announcing Wayne’s death, I will end it with his goodbye, which, like Wayne’s writing, was to the point, meaningful and personal.

“RIP, Big Guy.”

Related Topics: Chris Brackin, Chris Mitsos, Counter Intelligence, Dave Marks, ITDG, Marty Krcelic, Mountain View Tire, obituary, Parnelli Jones, TBC Brands, Wayne Williams

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Steve Ferrante

     | about 7 months ago

    Nice tribute Bob. I did not know Wayne but it's clear we share the same views on leadership and the customer experience. RIP

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