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Big O Tires Automotive Franchise Review: Q&A with Mike Trammel of IN

Automotive franchise owner finds personal freedom and financial success with Big O Tires in Brownsburg, IN

Mike Trammel had managed a chain of tire stores for years when Big O started to build a location in his hometown of Brownsburg, Ind., near Indianapolis. Intrigued and eager to own his own business, Trammel reached out to a friend and former co-worker to learn more about the automotive franchise. Fifteen years later, Mike’s tire store has 18 employees and has become a community fixture. Trammel recently talked with us about his experience as a Big O franchise owner.

Mike Trammel of Big O Tires in Brownsburg, Indiana.

Mike Trammel of Big O Tires in Brownsburg, Ind.

What were you doing before Big O Tires?
I was with Guarantee Auto, an Indiana-based company that’s a lot like Pep Boys. I was the division manager; I had 13 stores at one time.

How did you learn about Big O?
In my hometown of Brownsburg, right here, they were spec-building a store. A good friend of mine who used to work at Guarantee Auto had become an area manager for Big O, and I called him about it. That was 15 years ago.

I always wanted to own my own business, I knew there was a lot of growth coming to this area, and I know just about everybody in town. I like the franchise because of their ethics. It’s an honest, good company. They’re loyal to their customers and their dealers, and that means a lot to me. That’s exactly how I’ve always been.

What do you like about the job?
The people — the customers, the people I work with, and I like the people I work with at the home office.

What sets Big O apart?
A lot of it is our customer service. Our tire warranties are another thing. The way we handle and treat our customers is special. Many years ago, I had a slogan here, and it’s still true: “Our customers are our friends.” That’s the way we’ve always done business.

How many stores do you own?
One. This is a good store. I have 18 employees. I make a good living out of here; my employees make a good living here. My manager has been here ever since I opened. I don’t have turnover. Having managed multiple stores before, this is much easier to keep my eyes on. I’m a mile-and-a-half from home; I know exactly what goes in here and what goes out of here. I don’t want to lose sight of my customers.

How large is the opportunity?
If you wanted to open 10 stores, you could do that. That would be no problem; Big O would help you do that if that’s really what you wanted to do.

Who are your main customers?
I get a ton of word-of-mouth business. I have some commercial accounts, but the majority are Brownsburg residents. This is a great upper-middle class town with a lot of disposable income. We’re a bedroom community to Indianapolis.

Mike Trammel Jr., left, who helps his father run their store in Brownsburg, Ind., chats with fellow franchisees Josh McCullough, center, and Joe Happel at Big O's annual convention.

Mike Trammel Jr., left, who helps his father run their store in Brownsburg, Ind., chats with fellow franchisees Josh McCullough, center, and Joe Happel at Big O’s annual convention.

What attracts customers to Big O rather than its competitors?
Service. I would say we can call probably 90 or 95 percent of our customers by name. If I don’t know them, I guarantee they know somebody that I know, so I can strike up a conversation real quick.

How many customers do you normally serve in a day?
Anywhere from 80 to 100 per day.

What does your typical day look like?
We start work here at 8 am and leave at 6 pm. I probably work 45 hours a week or so, if that. It depends on what’s going on. It’s very busy during the summer and a little slower in the winter.

What is a secret to your success?
There was something I came up with when I first opened the store: giving a flat tire repair away for free. I don’t care if you bought your tire here or not, we fix flats for free. It established a relationship and trust. We have sold I don’t know how many sets of tires off that. Usually, in this town, people own three-plus cars.

What kind of person would make a good Big O Tires franchisee?
You have to have a little bit of knowledge of how automotive works because you’re setting out some pretty big cash, and you’d like a return on your investment. It’s extremely important that owners participate in the stores. Many years ago, this store was a training store. All new franchises had to work with me for a week or two. I always asked, “Who’s going to run the stores?” The ones who said, “I am,” would be successful. Our successful stores are the ones where the owners are involved.

What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?
You have flexibility. I never like to say I don’t have a boss. I do. My customers are my boss. They’re the ones who pay the bills. You can make your own decisions, set your own hours. I’m a father of quadruplets — I have four 20-year-olds, all in college. I’ve always been a big sports fanatic. We go to our son’s tennis matches, the Indianapolis Colts, the Indiana Pacers. We like to ride motorcycles. We take vacations — sometimes just my wife and I, and sometimes we let the kids come along. I’m also a marathon runner, and I work out three to five days a week.

Would you recommend a Big O franchise to someone else? Why?
I think you’ll get out of Big O whatever you want to put in it. Big O is there for you if you need help, and the current dealers are there to assist other Big O franchisees.

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