The Smetz Tire & Service Center is truly about taking care of the customer. Their slogan “Where integrity meets the road”, is not just something they say. Smetz Tire & Service Center staff experience this in every interaction with and among customers.
That’s why the Tire & Service Center in Smetz was the winner of K&M Tire’s Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shop this year. Each year, K&M Tire, in partnership with Hankook Tire and O’Reilly Auto Parts, crowns a Top Shop winner who represents the best the industry has to offer. This store is dedicated to continuous improvement and serving its customers and communities with excellence.
At K&M’s 2022 Dealer Conference in February, Tire Review sat down with Troy Smetzer, a third-generation tire dealer and owner of the Smetz Tire and Service Center in Ashland, Ohio, to dive into what’s going on. made his business a Top Shop and how K&M helped him grow his business (and continues to do so) into what it is today.
Tire Review: Troy, thanks for talking to us today. I know you come from a long line of tire dealers. You are a third generation dealer. So tell me what you learned from your father and grandfather to build a successful tire business today.
Troy Smetzer: Well, integrity is number one, just to treat all people, be it customer or employee, the way you would want to be treated. We talk about it a lot. We always try to go above and beyond every time to impress the customer because you want them to come back.
TR: And your slogan has to do with integrity. Is it correct?
TS: Yes, it’s “Where Integrity Meets the Road”.
TR: It’s great. Now you have been working with K&M for quite some time. Tell me about your relationship with them and how they have helped your business.
TS: They are among the most reliable, as far as deliveries are concerned, and the most consistent. They are there every day at about the same time. On the paperwork side, we do a lot of national government sales with them and they are always very punctual. It’s important because it’s no different than waiting for a check from a customer. It’s cash. With tires arriving so regularly, it makes our business run more smoothly and ensures that our customers are taken care of.
TR: So, like K&M, I know that you value your employees as well as your customers, and you strongly believe that how you treat your employees translates into how you treat your customer. So how have you been successful in recruiting and retaining employees? I know it’s a tough landscape out there.
TS: Right. Communication with our employees is essential. We talk to them a lot about why we ask them to do things that they may not want to do. Not so long ago, one of my employees had to make a service call. He wanted help because he probably should have had help, but we had run into a truck and a guy and he was about to leave. I just knew that if I let him go on that call, by the time he got back, he’d be mad. So I called him into my office, and I explained to him what was going on, and he understood. He’s been with me for twenty years. Taking the time to draw him in, talk to him, and explain the situation to him helped, otherwise he would have been grumpy the rest of the day.
TR: So obviously communication is key with your current employees and can you maybe talk about recruiting employees. How did you manage to recruit new employees?
TS: It’s mostly word of mouth. We have a sign out front and when they walk in I tell them there should be a sense of pride in coming to work for us. I hope that doesn’t sound too cocky because that’s the last thing we are. But I think all the time that not only do I want someone good to come through the door, but I want someone suitable because there are 17 of us and we get along really well.
TR: So you want someone who is not only a hard worker, but who fits your culture. Can you describe what you feel about your atmosphere, your culture, at Smetz’s Tire?
TS: Well we like to argue [laughs]. Daily. In front of customers too, engage customers and make them laugh with us. I mean we’ve had customers come and sit at the counter with us and literally burst out laughing. If it’s a first-time customer, they usually say, “I can’t wait to come back here.”
Not to say it’s always like that, obviously it’s like anything else, you have your days, especially when it’s snowing and everyone’s busy and everyone’s running – it there aren’t many jokes then. You know, we always try to do things right. We just stay in communication with each other so we can take care of the customers.
TR: Obviously you look at your business and constantly see how you can improve it. Can you describe some things you have improved in your business over the past five years?
TS: Well, a lot of gear lately. The main thing we’ve been doing – the last five or six years have been really crazy business and busy. We had a time when it was snowing and it was three days of about 100 tires a day trying to get customers out, and all we had was these three little tire levers in the corner and a balancer . So we built at the back of the building and we now have five tire changers and two wheel balancers, and that was just because customers were waiting too long. I wanted to improve that.
We purchased all new post racks. We had to break up all the concrete in the back to do it because it wasn’t thick enough. Then we also installed two new balancers and two new changers in the center of the rear truck. We have also just taken delivery of a brand new service truck. This will leave us with four highway trucks. I ran a 5500 with a Stellar bed.
TR: You talked about this earlier, but for those who don’t know, you also have a pretty thriving commercial tire business. Can you describe how the workshop is set up to accommodate all your work (commercial, PLT, industrial, etc.)?
TS: So if you walk into our building, at the front there’s only one big door that leads to seven bays, but it’s L-shaped. Behind is the truck center, that’s does my stepson [Riley Harpster] helps to run. It has four drive-in truck bays where tractor-trailers can pass. We are very close to I-71 so we do a lot of off-roading as well as our local truckers and fleets around our area.
TR: Nice. So in the direction of improving your business… Over the next five years, are there any improvements you have in mind or operational things you want to do as you look at the business today? today?
TS: Not many right now. You know, in five years I’ll be almost 60, so I’ll slow down and he’ll [Riley] take over. With the extra crane truck now we could get into some other OTR stuff and maybe the industry as well. It was difficult for us. We always wanted to delve into that, but again, the workforce. Keep enough employees. If I have more manpower, I’ll probably think about it more because there’s a lot of money in industrial tires.
TR: You said that with your son-in-law, Riley, you’re grooming him to take over the business. What are some things you want to teach the next generation, whether it’s him or others in the workshop?
TS: You know, basically, I just take care of people. To go beyond. I told you before that we had my employees and a lot of the management and even some of the guys in the back read this book, Raving Fans. Yeah. And it’s kind of a joke now. One employee in particular comes up to me and says, “I made a raving fan today. It’s fun to watch because I think even Riley would sometimes wonder at first, “Why are we doing this? Because we do things that really don’t make us any extra money at the time, but if it makes the customer feel good, they’ll come back.
TR: That’s great. One final question for you, Troy: After being named the 2022 K&M Best Tire Store winner and seeing others at K&M conferences in the past honored with this award, what do you think makes a better store in this industry?
TS: Just get back to taking great care of your customer. Also, I always tell people: take the good with the bad. There are some things you will do better than others. Financially, there are jobs you don’t make a lot of money for, but you can attract a few extra clients.
TR: Troy, having spoken with you, you serve your community – your customers aren’t just customers walking into the store. You see it as serving your community, which is really great. Thank you very much for your time today.
TS: Thanks. When I heard we were in the final top 10 [for the K&M Top Shop award], it was crazy for me. I think of us as little Smetz’s Tire in Ashland, Ohio.
Think you have what it takes to be a Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire store? Visit mrtiretopshop.com today and nominate a K&M Tire customer independent tire dealer.