What was your first job in the industry?
Technically I started at 13 pulling weeds, cutting grass, and picking up trash when I made any grade less than a "C" on my report card. At 15 I finally got a work permit and starting busting tires and joined payroll!
What attracted you to the industry?
My father has been in the tire industry since I was 6 years old. I can recall going to work with him on weekends where I would wash whitewalls and pick up wheel weights. I remember coming home, covered head to toe in tire filth, and being so happy I "smelled" just like my father. I had "the tire smell!"
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The biggest challenge in my career has been my age. At the age of 17 I was on the counter selling tires. By the age of 19, while attending full-time college, I was an assistant manager at Tire Barn. At 22 I managed my first retail location, a green start-up in a new market. Customers rarely took me seriously and always wanted to talk to the older guy, even though I had trained him. At 28 I became an area vice president for Tire Barn. During this time I was interviewing and hiring people twice my age. I had managers who saw me as "my father's son", not as an individual who worked my way up.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
I try to tell people that this industry is glamorous, in its own way. Let's face it, tire salesmen, mechanics, and the automotive repair industry as a whole is perceived by some to be just above used car salesman status. (A lot of them are great guys who make a good living.) This industry may not sound sexy, but it is what you allow it to be. This industry is so huge but it plays so small. By that I mean, you can find a career in this industry doing sales, marketing, training, corporate leadership, mechanic work. It is so diverse, yet it is a very close-knit group of people.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
There have been people like Chris Jones and Greg Galasso of Tire Barn who have helped guide me through my climb up the corporate ladder. Though my time with Monro Muffler Brake Inc., through acquisition, was brief, I found inspiration from industry guys like Joe Tomarchio Jr. I currently am finding guidance from Mark Hadley and the Zurcher family. However, the most influential person has been my father. He has been in the industry for over 30 years and has been the biggest influence in my life. I learned the value of customer service from watching him treat every customer as if they were the most important customer. Flat repair, free air, four tires or just a price check — they were there giving him an opportunity to provide for his family, and he was thankful to them and treated each customer with the highest level of respect. I learned management and leadership from watching him manage his teams through good times and bad. He took the time to build a team that was like family, always working hard for each other and never losing sight of the most important asset of the business — the customer. Most importantly, I owe the foundation of my entire career, my work ethic, to my father. He was a man who worked harder than anyone I know to provide for his family. He taught me that nothing is given, nothing is free, and you need to work hard to be successful. I will forever be grateful for the influence my father has had on my career and my life.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My biggest accomplishment is the teams I have been a part of and helped build. As I begin to hit the peak of my young career I understand, more than ever, the importance of people. I am proud of my ability to hire, train, and lead the teams I had at Tire Barn, and the current team I have at Advantage One Tire.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
There is no doubt in my mind I will be in the tire industry. I hope to be in a corporate leadership role, possibly training and recruiting to help continue the growth of the company I am with.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
I personally believe the biggest issue facing the industry is people. It's probably the biggest issue facing any industry. I think it has a lot to do with this generation. I can throw this generation under the bus because I am this generation. I feel there is a lack of loyalty, pride, and enthusiasm with a fairly large portion of the workforce. I am not talking corporate, but typically the blue collar, labor employee. I remember 16 years ago being so proud to be employed and wear that uniform, I never felt entitled. I remember working for a lower wage because I trusted the corporate leadership; I trusted they would lead me down a career path that would benefit me far beyond what an extra dollar an hour would do. And maybe to some extent the blame does fall back on our corporate leadership, and the inability to change with the evolving workforce. But I certainly think the companies that realize there is more to building a loyal team than just hire, train, and retain are the companies that will find the talent willing to work for more than just the dollar!
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
I really wish someone would have told me that there is no secret potion, or one big idea, that will solve all your problems. Earlier in my leadership career, I kept looking for the homerun ball on every pitch, and it isn't there. I now know that it's the small things you do that create a winning formula. The World Series is won from base hits, which create scoring opportunities, and executing a game plan to succeed with the opportunities provided. Our industry, wholesale and retail, is the same way. It's clean restrooms, a clean facility, and image. It's opening a door, or meeting a customer with an umbrella on a rainy day. It's delivering a set of tires after hours in your personal vehicle to get the sale. All of those things are "the inches that add up to the feet" that Don Barnes, current president Belle Tire, talks about.
Tell us about your family.
I have twin daughters, Rayleigh and Aubrey, who will turn 7 in December. They already have the silica in their blood. They love to come to work with me and load trucks for delivery or roll tires around the warehouse. My wife, Crystal, and I are high school sweethearts; we have been married for 11 years. She has been the rock of our family and is an amazing photographer. My mother is a teacher and an outstanding grandma. My father has been in the tire industry over 25 years and has been such an amazing mentor and inspiration to me. He is my best friend.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
I fish bass tournaments or fun fish with my daughters just about every weekend from March until October.
What keeps you up at night?
I can't stop thinking about how I could have done better the previous day. I roll scenario after scenario through my head. How I handled a customer complaint. Did I shake enough employees’ hands and thank them for what they do? Could I have closed that sale over the phone? Could I have read one more book to the kids before bed? What could I have done today that I didn't?
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I enjoy theatrical plays and musicals. Don't get me wrong, sports events are awesome, but I enjoy seeing live performances.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Girl Scout cookies. I am a Type 1 diabetic, and insulin dependent; however when Girl Scout cookie season comes around, I will absolutely eat 10 boxes in a week. Last year, I actually went to Lowe’s just so I could support the local troop and buy more boxes of cookies they were selling out front!
Name a talent you wish you had.
Photographic memory. I have to work my tail of to memorize anything; it would be nice to look at it once and be done.
What’s your favorite food?
Mexican for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Paul Zurcher. Now that I am working so close to with the Zurcher family, I wish I had known Paul. I have seen a few interviews and videos of him speaking and have drawn so much inspiration from those couple minute video clips. I can't imagine what I would learn and be inspired to do with a couple hours with him.
If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?
Currently, I would be just fine never getting it back. But working as a regional manager in retail tires, it would be less than a day because the headache of being behind by 100 emails and 60 phone calls in the first five hours of the day would be worth the money!