Big O Tires Franchise Review: Family Business Keeps Growing
Derek and Jared Edwards could have gone independent with their 21-year-old family business. They stuck with Big O, and they’re setting records.
Derek Edwards grew up at the Big O Tires in Sandy, Utah. “We have a lot of customers who know me from when I was pulling weeds and sweeping the parking lot,” he says. “It’s really cool. There are lots of older folks who bring in cookies and doughnuts. These people become your friends.”
Derek started working at his parents’ Big O when he was 15, and started handling sales when he was 21. He and brother Jared bought the business in 2011. We recently spoke with Derek about his family business.
What made you want to own the family business?
I enjoy doing this, and I enjoy being part of Big O. When we bought the business from my parents, their contract with Big O was up, so we could have gone the independent route, and we put a lot of thought into it. The business was already built up, and we probably could have still made good money being Edwards Tire Shop instead of Big O, but we ultimately decided to stick with it and sign a new 10-year franchise agreement. In automotive, if you’re not part of a large corporation or a chain, I don’t think you’re going to do well. We also looked at some other tire franchises, but we didn’t feel they were competitive with Big O. Staying with Big O helps us compete more effectively because of the great products and tremendous purchasing power that Big O has, which allows us to sell at a competitive price. And Big O has always been good to us — they have really good support.
Our parents did a great job teaching us how to run the business, and we took over a lot of management functions a couple of years before we bought the store, handling hiring and scheduling. Jared and I play to each other’s strengths. He does more of the inventory and computer stuff, and he also does the scheduling now. I do more of the sales and meetings. Our Big O is a little different than most. It’s on a bigger scale than most. We have now 35 employees. in 2012 we were the No. 2 store in the country.
My parents started it in 1990, when I was 6. They built a new building with six bays in 1997, then we added another six bays in 2007 and a lot more parking.
That was a big investment just before the recession. How did you handle it?
The one thing I can say is that every year has been better than the previous year — even during the recession. Last year, 2012, was our biggest increase of any year. I think that says a lot about Big O. As a company they’re getting stronger. They’re a lot more unified and the brand has a bigger presence. The product support is the key, the tires they provide, and the marketing brings in traffic. Of course, you can do promotions to bring people in, but if you don’t have products to back it up, it doesn’t do you any good. Last year what made a big difference is we embraced the promotions that Big O offered.
Have you thought about expanding again?
Honestly, part of me wants to open another store, but this one store is like having three stores. I don’t see us opening another store soon.
What does your schedule look like?
Jared and I work about 65 hours a week. That’s the downside to owning and running your own business — you have to put a lot of time and effort into it to make it successful. One of the things that sets us apart from other places is that people can come in and see the owner. We like saying “hi” to them and letting them know it’s a family business. That gives us an edge.
It is a lot of hours, but we take time off throughout the year — three and four-day trips to break it up. Eventually, since my brother and I are both involved, we’ll eventually be able to take turns having one or the other of us at the store, which will give us more time at home. for now, we’re so new we just want to make it work. And we’re lucky to have wives who can stay home and be with the kids, and Big O is able to support them so they don’t have to work. For now, they’re just grateful they’re able to do that.
What else sets you apart?
We offer more services. Discount Tires® only does tires. Les Schwab® doesn’t do under the hood work. Big O can do both and be competitive.
What do you like about the job?
To be honest, I don’t know a ton about cars. I know how to take care of the customer. I may not have the answers, but I have mechanics who can. It’s kind of a rush to get a sale, to follow it through and have a happy, satisfied customer. That part is very rewarding. Of course when something goes wrong, that part kills you because you try so hard to make the customers happy. Our customers especially are extremely loyal.
What sets Big O apart?
Big O has a great reputation, and you normally find the owner in the store. I know when I go shopping, I try to support stores that are locally owned, and this is a locally-owned store that is backed by the warranties and services of a large corporation.
Would you recommend a Big O Tires franchise?
The most important thing is to be a people person. I would definitely recommend it. I actually get asked about it every few weeks. I have a few people in my neighborhood who are curious, and I tell them, “If you are looking to get into the automotive world, Big O is the only way to go.” You just have to get involved and can’t take a backseat approach.
If you are going into tire sales and repairs, you should definitely look at Big O. I’ve watched so many private shops open for a year and close down — over and over. It’s really really hard to be competitive and make it work if you’re not already established and don’t have the backing of a big company like Big O. I know I wouldn’t try to start “Derek’s Tire Shop.” That’s for sure.