Modern Tire Dealer

MAY 2019

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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M T D M a y 2 0 1 9 42 L e i p o l d T i r e to eight short truck deliveries from regional distributors daily to restock and to bring in special orders for non-stock items." With the rapid increase SKUs, he says it doesn't make sense for him to keep a large warehouse of inventory on site nowadays. "e last 10 years the size and speed ratings and profiles have gone ballistic. A trailer load would last 10-25 days. Now I have to have two-a-day deliveries from distributors because to try and have on hand what could come in the door, I would need a 90,000-square-foot warehouse to cover every potential call." He says about 80% of his business is stock tires and 20% is customers' special orders. When it comes to tire brands, Leipold Tire works with all of the major brands — BFGoodrich, Continental and Michelin to name a few — but feature Cooper and Mastercra tires. "We are really dedicated in our relation- ship with Cooper Tire and Mastercra Tire," he says. "ey're the bulk of our market because the distributors have a fair share of all of the other brands. So when a customer comes in, a lot of them will make the decision based on our recommendation. However, we listen to customers and we'll get any brand they want." One thing he won't do is let customers buy tires from the Internet and bring them in for installation. "If you want to buy them there, figure it out yourself," he says. "We're not going to build those companies. ey're successful, but they can be successful without me. at's just another market change." Between Internet sales and more neigh- boring competition than ever, Leipold says it's important to stay relevant in customers' minds. "e number of independent dealers has declined dramatically in the Akron area. ey've been replaced by national and regional chains, and car dealerships have taken their stab at it. We've seen a lot of change in the competition, and it forces us to be continually on our toes to maintain our market share." MAINTAINING MARKET SHARE Leipold credits his quality work, attention to detail and top-notch customer service for his longevity in business. "One of the things I have programmed into the DNA of all of our employees is attention to detail and to dazzle (customers) with service," he says. "ose two phrases have been repeated for decades now." Leipold caters to the customers who are looking for quality rather than those who are looking for a cheap deal. "We'll be competitive, but we won't be the lowest price in town," he says. "We dif- ferentiate ourselves with our service, and we provide a different level of service than our competition. e majority of customers appreciate that. "However, I lose customers who don't care about the level of service. I have customers who ask me to price match the low-ball guy and I say 'No.'" Many of Leipold Tire's technicians have been with Leipold for decades. "Our auto service consists of all of our chassis and brake services," he says. "ose are highly skilled guys and the employee who has been there the least amount of time has been with me for 12 years. e longest is 26 years." In the tire department, Leipold admits that help is a little harder to come by, but he's recently found a great group of workers. "My tire department has gradually grown," he says. "Finding employees has been a challenge. I currently employee five documented immigrants from Myanmar who were granted asylum. ese guys are the best new hires. I've had them with me for four or five years." Leipold keeps turnover low by paying his employees good wages and maintaining a family-style relationship. "We're not getting these guys cheap. We pay well above the market for the field for all of our employees," he says. "We treat them like family because they are." THE FUTURE OF LEIPOLD TIRE CO. Leipold officially retired in 2016, but you can still see him in the stores most days. His brother retired in 2014, but his two sons, Andy and Ben, are vice presidents. His grandson, Landon, also helps manage the business full-time. Leipold spends the winter months in Florida, but comes back to Ohio when the weather breaks and works as a mentor to his family and employees. "I see myself as 'coach' now. With 44 years of experience there's a lot of stuff that I can help improve from my experience. Sometimes they offer to send me back to Florida!" Leipold says he enjoys being around the employees and the customers but his life motto is "You either live to work or work to live." He says he never dreamt of owning dozens of stores and wholeheartedly believes in a work-life balance. "I'm a faith-based business," he says. "I'm not going to run a banner over my store, but I live and operate with a biblical life view. It plays into every decision and every relationship. e way we treat people, the way we treat employees. "ese things are really the driver. My best advice is the U-Haul doesn't follow the hearse." ■ Shana O'Malley Smith is a freelance writer living in northeast Ohio. She specializes in the automotive aftermarket. Vice President Andy Leipold helps unload a truck full of tires at the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, location. Rather than manage a large tire inventory, Leipold Tire relies on six to eight short truck deliveries a day from regional distributors.

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