Business

Why Mobile Tire Service will win the war on COVID-19

There are areas of the country under a “stay at home” order. But even so, delivery vehicles, service industries, healthcare workers as well as professionals, like real estate agents, are still burning up the roads of America while burning off their tire tread. So how do you capitalize on this shift in reality? When the people can’t go to the tire store, you bring the tire store to the people.

Before we jump into the how, let’s examine the why. Why would someone want to have a tire service come to them and what do they expect when it gets there? Tools, Training, Technology and Convenience.

First, tools. What good is being mobile if you don’t have the tools to perform the job at hand? To be able to service today’s vehicles, a mobile tire service van must have tools like Haweka or other brands that offer collets and pin plates to perfectly center the assembly for proper balance as well as eliminate the possibility that cone is used from the front, which can damage chrome clad wheels or scar the clearcoat on many aftermarket wheels.

Second and the most overlooked is training. Consumers and fleet managers alike all have a horror story regarding buying tires. They expect to see highly trained and certified professionals who can educate them regarding their purchase and discuss any issues found while servicing the vehicle. The Tire Industry Association has a certified training program that has been available for nearly two decades and I created my own advanced custom wheel training program that is now a 25 year-old living document that grows as technology changes. All of our techs and managers go through these courses as well as my clients that I consult with who are starting a mobile tire service for themselves.

Next, technology. Relearning TPMS sensors requires a programmer that has broad capabilities beyond just triggering the sensor. It has to read DTC’s and adjust tire pressure thresholds when changing to different sized tires and wheels, when required. The customer expects that the vehicle is completely ready to drive and all systems are functional as soon as we are finished. The technology is the tool for the well trained. Do you see the link? These are separate and yet the same.

Finally, convenience and in light of today’s world, some may even say a necessity. The ability to put a self contained tire store with the room for plenty of inventory and deliver it on location increases productivity for consumers and businesses alike, but what about the human aspect of this capability?

Hurricane Michael damage

After Hurricane Michael leveled Panama City, FL in 2018, I was able to take my mobile tire service into the heart of the destruction and provide flat repairs and tire installs for home healthcare workers who were trying to get to the elderly to provide life giving care. They were able to keep rolling because of this business model and the configuration that I utilize allowed me to pack over 40 tires and survival supplies in case I had to hold out until power and infrastructure were restored. I spent 30 days working 24-hours a day, both physical and on-call for fiber optic companies that contracted me to keep them up and running. Now, in this present time, mobile tire service is once again coming to the rescue, except this time it is the people who don’t want to risk contact, perhaps due to a medical issue or the fact that they are a caregiver and can’t risk being infected and spreading the virus to their patients. Our business model allows us to determine the correct tire for the application, source the product at the best price and install it at our customer’s home or office at a time convenient for them and with little to no contact.

Now that you know the why, let’s look at how to make this a successful business. I created a specific business model that targets the demographic groups mentioned earlier, among others. I don’t care if fuel is $10/ gallon and the stock market has crashed. Food has to be delivered, medical supplies have to be delivered and if their A/C isn’t working, a homeowner will pay whatever it takes to be comfortable. What do all of these needs have in common? Tires. Because I have lived through a number of events here along the Gulf Coast that seemed overwhelming at the time (Hurricane Katrina, economic collapse and the oil spill), I created a number of business development strategies that have allowed my company and my clients to prosper, not matter what. COVID-19 will be the ultimate testimony as to why mobile tire service will not just survive, but thrive in a world of uncertainty.

A typical day with a fully capable mobile tire service van looks like this:

• Fleet accounts call with immediate needs throughout the day and they pay well for emergency service. Their tire needs range from 14”-16” trailer tires and specific LT tires up to 19.5” in many cases.

• A flat repair that is unscheduled, again leading to a service call fee, plus the repair.

• A scheduled install that is near other jobs, which doesn’t take long to get to the customer or job site.

• Fleet inspections which lead to more scheduled work by identifying tire issues before an emergency call has to be made, saving the owner valuable time and money during the workday.

Interior 4

You will notice that I mentioned fully capable above. I say this because there are a number of companies, franchises and startups that don’t realize that the equipment and configuration of the van directly impacts its capabilities and how well it can be utilized to handle daily service calls. Many configurations have touchless tire changers, which is great for working on high-end cars, but they are not designed to handle a 14-ply steel sidewall trailer tire on a fifth-wheel RV. How about those cabover box trucks that you see everywhere? Most of these are using a Budd style wheel with inner cap nuts and outer hex nuts that require a 1” impact gun on a 1/2” hose and a huge volume of air. A small home compressor isn’t rated for this type of prolonged service. Lug nut torque on these typically ranges in the 450-475 ft.-lb. range, so having a 600 ft.-lb. torque wrench is critical. How about tire storage? Traffic patterns affecting time and fuel costs need to be minimized and this is accomplished by stocking a full day’s tire load at one time and making a circular route, if possible. Many of the current vehicle platforms being sold cannot service the smaller commercial tires (17.5”, 19.5”) and can only carry one set of 35’s at best. Your platform needs to be robust with redundant systems and capacity to handle most anything imaginable out in the field. A mobile office with hotspot and connection to suppliers is needed to build quotes on the fly to keep the hopper full of prospects and future installs.

Key elements for a successful business

The business model for mobile tire service is vastly different from a brick-and-mortar (BAM) store. If you apply common retail store marketing strategies to mobile, there is a very good chance that you will fail. I have seen this happen many times where a “corporate” giant decided to dip their toe into this market only to fold in a short period of time. What happened? Did they not spend enough money to attract business? Did their logo not look good? None of this matters. In the mobile tire service market, it is all about the connection with the consumer or people in charge of the fleet vehicles. There are some key metrics that need to be met such as the number of tires installed each day, the gross profit % and the total sales per month. The overhead is relatively low, about $3000/month depending on finance terms, plus payroll. The ROI potential can be into the teens in many cases. Typical annual sales reach high $300K into the $400K range per van with a single technician. As a business owner/operator, a single van affords a very nice income and allows for growth within just a couple of years in many cases. With just 3 vans in service, a business owner can make a very comfortable living with a revenue stream that can produce a return for as long as they want to run the business.

As more demand is placed on home and office delivery, the mobile tire service industry will continue with exponential growth. As a business owner and a consultant for turn-key mobile tire solutions, I want to stress how much time and effort is spent learning and honing our skills to be able to provide the highest level of service for our clients. That commitment means that we earn higher revenue than average on many of the same services as a BAM, but that additional revenue is reinvested back into the business to continue to grow and expand the brand as well as our services. The next 12 months are going to be critical for the nation as well as your own existence. Now is the time to find out if a mobile tire service is right for you.

Scott Blair is a Tire Industry Association Certified AST/CTS Instructor, author of Advanced Custom Wheel Training, the inventor of the WheelFit and GRYPR System, co-founder/owner of 2U Tire and owner of 2U Mobile Solutions, a turn-key solution for mobile tire service. He can be reached at www.2UMobileSolutions.com or scott.blair@2UMobileSolutions.com.

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