Bill Ziegler, who recently died at the age of 75, was named MTD’s Tire Dealer of the Year in 2009. Here are some thoughts he shared with MTD at the time.
On customer loyalty and Ziegler Tire’s loyalty to its customers: “We don’t take advantage of our customers,” Bill told MTD. “We’ve had customers come in and tell us, ‘I’m not going to be able to pay you for the next six months,’ and if they’re good customers and they’re honest, we try to help them. You have to be in it for the long-term.”
On supplier relations: “You’re always going to have disagreements, but our suppliers go out of their way to help us sell tires. I don’t think you can get too full of yourself and think, ‘We’re a big-time dealer. You need to do what we want all the time.’ That isn’t going to work.”
On the value of honesty: “I’ve always told my employees, “Whatever you promise, we do.’ You can never afford to go back on your word. Even if there’s a misunderstanding where we said something and the customer thought we said something else, we try to honor it.”
On the “simplicity” of selling tires: “This isn’t a difficult business when you think about it. You buy, you sell and you provide really good service. It’s a relatively simple business model. You can have some niches and do different things, but it comes down to the fundamentals. Maybe you look at your credits one day and see you’ve done a road (service) call for someone you’d never helped before and you say, ‘Let’s call him up and see if we can get more business.’ That’s still a lot of fun.”
On the thrill of the sale: “This business isn’t a game, but when you win, you get a tremendous feeling. Even if you don’t make the sale yourself, if the company or one of our salesmen makes it happen, that’s a great feeling. If you can get a commitment from a good customer and you put a program in place to sell them tires for what hopefully will be a long time, it’s an adrenaline rush.”
On understanding and motivating employees: “You have to learn how to motivate your people and your store managers have to learn the same thing. Money may motivate one person, praise may motivate another – you have to find what works and individualize it. A manager has to know his people backwards and forwards and what makes them tick.”
On running a family-owned business: “One of the nice things about being a private, family-owned business is that you only answer to your family. It’s important to stay independent. The moment you sell out or become part of a bigger organization, you’re answering to somebody else. It’s a lot easier to answer to yourself.
“There’s something about this industry that gets in your blood,” Bill told MTD. “Sure, I could do other things, but there’s something about this business that keeps you going and going. It’s your people, your customers – lots of different things. I don’t see myself getting rich from running this company. I see myself being part of Ziegler Tire for a certain period of time and then the company evolving further.”
Bill, longtime president of Ziegler Tire, recently died at the age of 75.