ITDG Grows On All Fronts

May 13, 2024

Members of the Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC (ITDG) were provided with updates during their recent annual meeting in Playa Maya, Mexico.

The event also marked President and CEO Jason Rook’s first year as the head of ITDG.

“This group is very diverse and managing the needs of everyone is a huge challenge,” Rook told MTD. “It becomes very clear that serving the general interest of the most members possible is top priority and that means a lot of vendor negotiation to create compelling programs.

“I also see first-hand that independent dealers are in growth mode. M&A activity in 2023 was a net positive for ITDG, as members acquired more locations than we lost to outside acquisition. I believe that trend will continue - with our full support.”

This also is ITDG’s 30th anniversary. Rook was reflective about this milestone, telling MTD that “ITDG has a rich and varied history. We are here looking at a very mature organization. And learning about the history of the group through the archives has taught me that the early days were tumultuous and it took some real creativity and a heck of a lot of hard work to make it what it is today. We can’t thank those founders enough for getting through those first 10 years."

During the meeting, Rook provided an overview of ITDG’s past five years to the group’s members. Total shareholders with the group increased from 120 to 125, with locations growing 45% from 758 to 1,137, across 46 states.

Total members of ITDG now stand at 172, up from 158. There was churn during 2023, as the group lost nine members, accounting for 22 locations. At the same time, however, the group gained 18 members with 59 locations and 10 shareholders.

At the same time, ITDG reduced its number of vendors from 81 to 72, which Rook said was a strategic move.

“We want to have a larger slice of the pie with fewer vendors going forward. We want to make sure that we are always doing something that makes it worthwhile for our vendors.”

Rook said eligible purchases from vendors grew from $266 million to $359 million, a 34% increase. He applauded ITDG shareholders since they have increased their average eligible purchases from vendors from $2.2 million to $2.9 million per shareholder during the same five-year period.

Due to this increase, ITDG has been able to increase its payout to shareholders from a total of $10.9 million to $13.9 million, a 28% gain. The average payout for each shareholder grew from $83,000 to $102,000.

While tire purchases make up 72% of eligible volume, Rook said purchases of auto parts - an area that has strong growth potential for ITDG - have jumped to 21%.

When asked about the top accomplishments by ITDG during the past year, Rook told MTD that “this past year has seen us modernize our communications, digital footprint and go-to-market strategy. The toughest part of this group is how large it is and we have identified new ways to make sure all members are being served in the right ways and are able to find more opportunities to grow within the group.

“We have also focused on building a community of independent dealers inside and outside of our group. We are growing fast again in 2024. Keeping up with that growth is our biggest challenge and we have met it head on.”

ITDG’s Eastern Region Sales Director Mike Burns, who serves as the staff advisor for the group’s NextGen Committee, stressed the importance of planning for the future by supporting ITDG's next generation of leaders.

NextGen is now in its fifth year and has grown to include 35 members representing 30 different ITDG member companies.

Jennifer Wiens, brand manager of Las Vegas, Nev.-based Ted Wiens Tire & Auto, is the NextGen chairperson. “We share ideas to ensure success, longevity and relevance of ITDG members in their business and in our ever-changing industry,” she said. “Our goal is to promote and foster the basic criteria needed to become a future ITDG board member.”

David Schonaerts from Future Tire, the NextGen group’s secretary, added that “networking and relationship-building build lifelong relationships with peers across the industry, as well as interaction with current decision makers. They are interested in your insights. NextGen allows you to work with like-minded colleagues and showcase your expertise. Then you bring these valuable ideas back to your company.”

During its meeting, ITDG held a separate break-out session where dealers met in small groups to discuss top challenges they were facing.

“The top two for every member was finding talent and retaining talent,” Rook told MTD afterwards. “Across geographies, the answers on how to do so were very different, but it comes down to folks needing more than a paycheck.

“In the last year, ITDG has partnered with our first professional employer organization to bring top-level payroll, benefits and HR packages to small businesses that don’t have the time or personnel to create these programs. We are also working with our partners at Federated Insurance to address another big concern: succession and preparing for the hand-off or sale of your business.

“Of course, we also have our NextGen Committee, which takes young talent inside organizations and helps to train them for leadership by teaching them hands on how to function as part of a board, how to plan for succession and how to spot what’s coming in the business landscape. In turn, our board of directors is given feedback from the next generation, which allows for another unique perspective on how to grow.”

When asked about the benefits of being a member of ITDG, Rook talked about the various programs and initiatives the group offers. “Beyond that, the most valuable piece of membership is access to other members. Our members learn so much from one another. Access to the minds of our members is priceless.”

A highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the ITDG Dealer of the Year Award. Logan Wilks of Wilks Tire & Battery Service, a 13-location dealership based in Alabama, won the award.

ITDG members also heard updates from 14 vendors about new products and programs for the upcoming year.

Next year, the ITDG’s annual meeting will take place at the Wigwam in Phoenix, Ariz., April 24-27.