How fast do you think it would take your best tire technicians to change a set of four tires?
Allen Park, Mich.-based Belle Tire Distributors Ltd. knows the answer to that question thanks to its recent employee appreciation effort – the Golden Tire Iron competition.
This was the second year Belle Tire held this event for all 140 – and counting – locations.
The competition was created in 2022 during the company’s 100th anniversary year, according to Jan Simonsen, vice president of retail operations, Belle Tire.
“For a while we’ve been trying to figure out how to recognize the hardest working men and women and the backbone of our business, which are our tire technicians,” says Simonsen.
A team member at Belle Tire had previously worked at a company that held a similar competition for the employees and he had been pushing to bring something similar to Belle.
“We thought, ‘What a better time to do it than our 100th anniversary?’”
'March Madness for techs'
“The competition is essentially March Madness for Tire Techs,” explains Simonsen.
Simonsen’s Belle Tire territory covers Michigan, Ohio and South Bend, Ind. His counterpart, John Szeliga, has the rest of the Indiana territory and the Chicago, Ill., market.
Each location in those districts competes until Simonsen comes out with eight teams and Szeliga with six – based on territory and locations.
The semi-finals take place within those regions – the eight compete against each other and vice versa – until one team emerges from Simonsen’s side and one team emerges from Szeliga's side.
Then it’s onto the finals.
Each team is made up of two tire technicians and they are timed to see how fast they can change a set of four tires.
“Normal safety and shop rules still apply during the competition, but we do control some variables,” says Simonson. “For example, they all work on the same car with the same tires.”
Why have a competition?
The whole point behind the competition, according to Simonsen, is to recognize team members and not “overlook the tough jobs.
“It is a fun way to build camaraderie within the company and to show these men and women we see them and appreciate their hard work.”
It also generates excitement and healthy competition.
“Last year, when we announced we were doing this, I visited my stores and that is all my techs were talking about,” laughs Simonsen.
“They were already practicing and talking smack to one another. It created a fun, exciting energy in the store.”
The techs also get prizes if they advance so far into the bracket. There are 14 semi-finalists and each person receives $100 for making it to the semi-finals. Members of the runner-up team receive $500 a piece and the winning team gets $1,000 each and a trophy.
The competition concludes right before Belle Tires’ national sales meeting in January. The winners of Belle Tire’s “Super Bowl” are invited out for the event, where they receive the award during a special ceremony.
“I can tell you, the winners from last year said bragging rights and the $1,000 were nice, but the thing they appreciated the most was getting to go to the event and being publicly recognized there,” says Simonsen.
So who took home the $1,000 grand prize? A male-female team, Matt and Nina, clocking in at eight minutes and 48 seconds – a half second faster than their competition. (Editor’s note: Belle Tire declined to provide their last names.)
Simonsen says that as long as he is around, Belle Tire is going to continue to “evolve and grow” the competition.