K&M Tire ‘Levels Up’ at Dealer Conference

Feb. 1, 2024

K&M Tire Inc. kicked off its 2024 Dealer Conference and Trade Show by encouraging attendees to “level-up.” 

Tire dealers from all over the country are attending the two-day event, which takes place this week in Atlantic City, N.J. 

The conference started with two presentations – one about leadership development and another that shared best practices for optimizing auto repair labor rates. 

“A leader is the person who creates the vision for whatever you’re trying to accomplish,” Gene Bova, marketing regional program manager at K&M Tire, told attendees.  

A leader “also manages the delivery of that vision,” he said. 

“Leadership development might seem like a lofty goal, but it’s something you can start now,” noted Bova, who provided a number of ways to “level-up leadership in your business.” 

At the top of the list, he told attendees, is being “your authentic self. Your values, ideals and actions (must be) in alignment. To do that, you need to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.” 

Next, successful leadership development requires investment in “strong working relationships with your teams,” said Bova. “Leadership development takes time and a lot of effort” and “demonstrates your commitment (to employees) that they likely haven’t experienced before in any other work environment.” 

To develop leaders, you must also “set boundaries and create structures. There has to be a level of respect across the board. The boundaries we set for our teams set them free.” 

It’s also necessary to create what Bova called “a safe psychological environment. Your team should be able to make mistakes while learning, without the fear of repercussions. You want to encourage them to be open to learning new things.” 

Bova told attendees that “audacious ambition” should be fostered. “A lot of people have never been pushed to their full potential. Ask your people, ‘What would you change about our organization?’” 

Learning “the art of delegation” is another step in the process, according to Bova, who admitted that “transitioning from doing to leading can be difficult.” Delegation can “optimize your team’s performance and it builds confidence. It demonstrates trust in your team.” 

Future leaders also need to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to model and coach this to employees. Success is often the product of a leader’s comfort with taking risks. You want to train your people to get comfortable with the decision-making process.” 

Bova also told attendees that their “wisdom is a valuable resource. Don’t hoard it. Share it. True leadership (development) takes time, so start now.” 

Bova’s presentation was followed by a presentation about optimizing auto service labor rates, delivered by Vin Waterhouse, president of The Waterhouse Group, an automotive training and consulting company. 

“The average shop leaves $50,000 to $80,000 on the shelf each year,” he told attendees. 

Meanwhile, the rate of parts sold per mile will continue to decline as vehicles become increasingly sophisticated and electric vehicles proliferate. 

“You’re going to sell fewer parts,” he said. “And where are your expenses going to go? They’re going to go up. The good news is that carpenters, electricians and plumbers figured this out years ago. They make their money (via) labor. 

“One of the things we look for” at auto repair facilities “is 67% gross profit on labor. You need a labor rate” that will also cover technicians of different skill levels. 

Waterhouse listed what he called “the top repetitive activities” at a typical auto repair facility: 

  1. Test drives
  2. Safety inspections
  3. Digital inspections
  4. Oil changes
  5. Alignments
  6. Tire replacement
  7. Tie rod end service
  8. Wheel bearing replacement
  9. Check engine light diagnostics
  10. Ball joint work 

He encouraged attendees to find ways to eliminate unnecessary steps when delivering these and other services. 

“You cannot have above average expenses with below average gross profit for a long period of time.” 

The K&M Dealer Conference and Trade Show also will include a general session, presentations on electric vehicle tires and service, a seminar with updates on K&M’s popular Mr. Tire associate dealer program, grand prize vehicle giveaways and more. 

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.