Walking out to the parking lot, Adam Silverman noticed his car tires were bald. He knew what that meant: research into tire prices and the annoyance of waiting in an auto shop for new tires to be put on.
The busy Miami lawyer braced for the hassle ahead.
A few minutes of Web surfing led him to Tires On Site, a South Florida company that comes to the customer’s location and replaces worn-out tires with affordable new ones. The next day, a truck showed up at Silverman’s law office and changed his four tires there. When the owner called to take his payment and inquire about whether Silverman was pleased with the service, he was so impressed that he asked for a meeting.
“The more I learned, the more I liked the business model,” Silverman said. “The idea of turning the tire industry upside down with a new way to buy tires that are conveniently installed and balanced at the customer’s home or office was so simple and yet so genius.”
That conversation led to both Silverman and his longtime friend Brent Horwitz becoming partners with Carlos Mier, who already had been operating the business for four years. The two newcomers had been looking for an entrepreneurship opportunity and believed they could help with brand awareness, advertising, marketing and systems.
Now, a year later, as Tires On Site celebrates its fifth anniversary, the South Florida company has made huge strides in revenue growth, name recognition and manpower. It has added more trucks, more customers and more marketing muscle, and has big plans to continue to expand. The company delivers, installs, mounts and balances new tires at its customers’ choice of location, saving them time and gas. It sells all major brands of tires.
While the convenience of on-site service at a price similar to traditional tire shops is a huge draw in today’s time-pressed culture, it’s not what the owners claim as their differentiator. “We take the extra step to give good customer service and make it a nice experience,” Mier said.
Originally a banker and commercial lender, Mier discovered Tires On Site when he went to service the account. He ended up buying it from the founder and immediately instilled the emphasis on customer service he had learned from his bank training. “Our customer service is the essence of how we survive,” Mier said. He noted that the company prides itself on being an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner.
Initially, many of the company’s customers came through online searches and were mostly individuals in need of new tires. Over the past year, Tires On Site added two trucks and targeted more commercial accounts that value the on-site service.
“The commercial fleet accounts are where the big money is,” Mier said. “That’s a volume business because these vehicles can’t afford down time: It’s lost revenue for them.”
Mier said his commercial accounts include roofers, landscapers, electrical contractors and even government agencies: “We now inventory tires for our commercial fleet accounts and can typically repair or replace their tires almost immediately at their place of business or job site.”
For Howard Eubanks Jr., assistant general manager and fleet manager at All Year Cooling and Heating in Fort Lauderdale, the on-site tire service allows his trucks to continue to make calls and generate revenue with minimal disruption: “When we call Carlos, he moves fast and understands our business.” Eubanks said his 70 trucks that operate in South Florida require at least four new tires a month. “If something happens on the Turnpike, Carlos has a list of our trucks and their tire sizes and he goes out and makes the repair or changes out the tire. Price-wise, there’s not much of a fee for the great service.” Eubanks said he gets solicited by other vendors but has continued to do business with Tires On Site for the past five years because of its customer service.
Nationwide, the tire market is large and competitive. In 2013, $37.3 billion worth of replacement tires were sold in the United States, according to industry trade publication Modern Tire Dealer. The price range for a new set of tires varies widely, depending on the size and whether a customer is buying economy or top-of-the-line brand-name tires, but each tire can run from $55 to $500.
In Orlando, The Tire Brigade, a mobile tire installation service, has been in the competitive tire business for nine years. Owner David Nicol said his company has two trucks and relies on word of mouth and recommendations for customers. “We are competitively priced and offer the convenience of mobile installation.” For now, the mobile tire industry is mostly small-business owners.
Tires On Site’s competition comes from several fronts — other mobile units, dealerships, tire stores. There are about a handful of other mobile tire installation companies in South Florida (two in Miami, two in Broward County), Of course, Horwitz points out there is an upside to the competitive tire business: “Virtually everybody who drives is a potential customer.”
To go head to head with traditional tire stores, the partners created a 60-second animated explainer video and prominently displayed it on the company website (www.tiresonsite.com). They also launched a brand awareness campaign and spent heavily on in-home mailers, local magazine advertisements, truck wraps, outdoor media and billboards and increased digital presence. “Because it’s a commodity business, there hasn’t been a lot of creativity, which created an opportunity,” Horwitz said. The new advertising and business development efforts have brought new business and, as a result, the company added trucks and hired more technicians to meet demand.
As the business grew, the owners realized some changes needed to be made. With one truck, Mier was easily able to manage the daily service calls with a whiteboard and have the customers call the office to provide their payment information. Now, with multiple trucks, they needed a better system and invested in dispatching software that manages each technician’s location and job status. Software was also installed on iPads used by the technicians to document details of each customer’s job and accept on-site credit card payments.
Mier said that all his truck drivers/tire installers wear uniforms and are clean cut, courteous and knowledgeable, which means expansion has to be done carefully. “We pay them well above market. They have to be good at changing tires, but they have to have the right personality because they are the face of the company.”
Look inside a Tires On Site truck, and it has all the gadgets and devices seen in a brick-and-mortar tire shop: tire inflators, computerized wheel balancers, and dozens of other tools, clean and well organized. “We use a food truck customization company,” Silverman said. “Our trucks are pretty unique.”
Rather than an emergency roadside service, Tires On Site considers itself more of a tire store on wheels, although it sells batteries, too. Customers choose the brand of tires they want online, receive price quotes and confirm the purchase before the truck arrives. Mier orders consumer tires on an as-needed basis from vendors rather than stock them. Silverman said he and Horwitz have helped Mier strike better deals with vendors to build bigger margins and generate more profit.
The three partners call the venture a collaborative effort: Mier runs the day-to day-operations; Silverman practices corporate law full time but helps Mier put new practices in place; Horwitz remains a senior vice president at MTN Satellite Communications and lends his sales and marketing expertise.
As proof that the partnership works, the company saw its revenues jump 60 percent from 2013 to 2014, rising to about $1 million. Silverman said the company wants to grow in South Florida, then eventually expand into other markets. The partners forecast about 50 percent growth in revenues in 2015, mostly from focusing on new commercial accounts, where they see their biggest opportunity. Mier said the company will add more trucks as needed.
“It’s a good model, but we don’t want to compromise customer service,” Mier said. “If that goes down the tubes, we’re just like everyone else.”
Cindy Goodman can be reached at email@example.com
Tires on Site
Year founded: 2009
Service area: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach
Type of business: Mobile tire installation and repair
President: Carlos Mier
Shareholders: Carlos Mier, Brent Horwitz, Adam Silverman
Number of mobile trucks: Three
Cost of a tire (range): Prices vary widely depending on brand but can run from $55 to $500.
Revenues: The company saw its revenues jump 60 percent from 2013 to 2014, rising to about $1 million. Silverman said the company wants to grow within South Florida, then eventually expand into other markets. The partners forecast about 50 percent growth in revenues in 2015, mostly from focusing on new commercial accounts, where they see their biggest opportunity.