Why Maintaining Your Independence Is Critical

April 30, 2024

I appreciate being in front of you all more today than any time in my entire career. We're in an interesting time. The return to normalcy is about as close as we're going to get for the moment, but it's a new normal. The consistent month-over-month and year-over-year growth we've seen in the last two years has calmed. We have significant private equity consolidation and as much, if not more, manufacturer vertical integration happening at the same time. Our industry is volatile, to say the least.

I'd like to think we all have an appreciation, as consumers, for a well-designed and meticulously executed, locally owned business. I'm not talking about just any locally owned business. There's plenty of those. We like them, too. I’m talking about the ones that are absolutely and unquestionably different than the rest — the ones that engender us to forego a bit of convenience and price for a superior experience.

The experience when you arrive at these businesses matches what you've seen and heard. They're communication aces. There's a solid vibe from employees. You can simply feel the difference.

In short, these places are awesome. Their communities rave about them. And we gladly spend more money with these businesses than most other places. But it’s worth it. These businesses have earned and continue to earn our patronage because of their value proposition, both internal and external.

Let's be honest, though. There are very few of these businesses out there. In order to keep customers in the independent dealer channel, our industry needs more of them.

What's great about being independent is that we actually have a choice and a voice. It's our voice to deliver a nicely packaged, professional service or not. It's our choice to support others in that voice. The big box folks can't deliver in the same way the independent can. That’s the choice they made with that business model. You have yours as an independent.

The independent spirit drives and supports the communities you serve. You take your value proposition and stake it firmly in the ground so everyone knows you for not only the great service your business provides, but the relationships you have built and sustained over time.

This type of business you operate — the independent business — is extremely important to our industry. It gives consumers a choice.

The challenge is that it seems our industry is so underappreciated.

Every independent — small and large, old and young — exists to serve its community. You do that by creating a balance between an excellent place to buy and an excellent place to work. You sacrifice both ends to find balance and endure for the balance of community and profit.

It's a symbiotic relationship that ultimately does more for the health of our communities than any big business ever will. We're more affected by some things and less by others, but the choice to be community-based is not board of directors-based.

Don’t let this become a thing of the past. Get involved with your local tech training programs. Spend a few hundred bucks to be a member of your state's tire dealer association. Network in your communities as a locally owned business. Find groups that meet in person — not to be confused with the the online groups you entertain and that entertain you. (There are some really solid tire dealer owner groups out there.)

Invest in technology and training. Invest in your teams. In other words, find your cutting edge and rise to the occasion. I'm not saying this with the end of your business in mind. I'm saying this with today and tomorrow in mind.

The more you’re connected, the stronger you will be for tomorrow when that local, personal relationship with the consumer becomes even more important. After all, being there for your communities is how this all started.

About the Author

Randy O'Connor

Tire and auto industry veteran Randy O’Connor is the Owner/Principal of D2D Development Group (Dealer to Dealer Development Group.) He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, please visit www.d2ddevelopmentgroup.com.