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Big O Tires Franchise Review: Q&A with 34-year Big O Veteran Paul Day

Paul Day has been at the Big O Tires store in Woodland, CA, since 1978. What’s it like to own the tire franchise?

When the Big O Tires franchise in Woodland, CA, opened for business on Dec. 4, 1978, one of the first people through the doors was a 20-year-old Paul Day. Though he’d shopped at other Big O stores before, Paul wasn’t looking for a set of tires — he was looking for a job. The owner put him to work as a mechanic.

Paul Day proudly noted the appearance of a set of Big O brand tires on an episode of Myth Busters.

Paul Day proudly noted the appearance of a set of Big O brand tires on an episode of Myth Busters.

Ten years later, Paul bought the store, and now — 34 years into his Big O career — Paul runs the business with his son Josh. We recently talked with Paul about his family business.

How did you learn about Big O Tires?
I had worked on cars before and I knew somebody who knew somebody who knew the owner. One of my old roommates got a call looking for mechanics and he referred me. I was hired and went through training, like learning how to diagnose alignments. It was a lot easier to get in the business back then. You didn’t have to deal with computers on cars. Computer diagnostics have made repairs more complicated, and it’s good to be part of a company that stays on top of everything that’s changing.

What do you like about owning a Big O?
I like the customers I deal with. I’m in a small farming community of 50,000 to 60,000 people, and we have a lot of good relationships with our customers. I’ve always liked the organization and the way it treats customers. And I like the company’s history. When you go back and realize where it came from and why it developed the way it did, you can see how ingrained the whole “treat your customers” right is. That’s the kind of organization I wanted to be a part of.

Big-O-Woodlands

Paul Day’s Big O Tires store in Woodlands, CA.

What sets Big O apart?
I know my customers, and I know that if they’re out of town and they need to go to another Big O, they’ll be treated well just like if they were in my store. I think that’s very important. Because we’re individually owned, the owner has a vested interest in treating customers right so they will come back. We’re here to help each other. That’s what’s important to me. I like the camaraderie in the organization. I know that the guys actually care for each other. That’s a big part of why I like the organization.

How else does Big O help you?
Big O’s job is to make sure first and foremost that I have quality product, and to help me be able to sell that product. I get a lot of help from David Lynch, our regional business manager based in California. When I’m having issues or a problem, I can call to get help, and he helps me find ways to increase revenue. It’s nice to have somebody come in from outside and make suggestions to help you be more profitable. I see David on a regular basis — every month or two he’ll spend half a day or more seeing how things are going. It made a big difference when he came in last year. He laid out a game plan for the remainder of year that was pretty successful at making us more profitable.

How large is the opportunity for a tire franchise?
When you open a store now, location is very important. What does a store look like from the street? There are six tires stores within three blocks of me — it’s very competitive — but we’re priced competitively and we have quality product.

I think Big O is the best we’ve ever been. You can see that the folks at corporate really care about our success. And from a business standpoint, we’re their only customer.

Who are your customers?
Big O can service any major national account competitively — so I serve a lot of national companies with large fleets, and I also get a lot of referrals from those customers. We have a Monsanto office in town, and we service a lot of their vehicles. I probably wouldn’t have that work if I wasn’t with Big O. A lot of those business customers see the great work we do and start bringing their personal vehicles, too. I have customers who have been coming here for the whole 34 years we’ve been in business. The guy who bought the first set of wheels here is still a customer.

Is automotive experience important for a Big O Tires owner?
I think it’s important to have some business experience. You need to have an idea of how a car works, but it’s even more important to know how a business works. If you’re fortunate, you can hire someone with car experience.

What is your schedule like?
I work Monday through Friday, come in between 7 and 7:15 a.m. and leave between 4 p.m. and closing time at 5:30. You have to be there — and you also have to be involved in your community. I’m involved with Rotary. That’s part of my week. We’ve been Chamber of Commerce members since we opened.

What attracts customers to Big O rather than competitors?
post01First and foremost, the personal referral. We’ve built a great reputation, and when people ask their friends where they get their car serviced, Big O customers give referrals. Advertising helps draw in new customers, too, but personal referrals are the most important. The industry has changed a lot in 30 years. In 1978, you didn’t have to think about people going online to comparison shop. It’s a lot different, and you have to be able to adapt without losing sight of who you are and the importance of providing customers the service they deserve.

Big O also makes sure we’re priced competitively. They check the competition to make sure our prices are in line. Customers can like you a lot, but if they’re paying a lot more for your tires, you’re not going to sell many.

What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Big O Tires franchise?
You have to be self-driven. You have to like people. It’s important to be in the store. If you’re looking at opening a Big O, and you’re not someone who can work in the store, then you shouldn’t open it. You shouldn’t open it and let a manager run it. It won’t succeed. The personal touch is essential.

What has franchise ownership allowed you to do?
I’ve made enough money to raise my family, and at this point I know I can leave when I need to and the business will run. I couldn’t take off for a month, but I can take off for a week or so with no problem. I’m not going to run off to Hawaii for 6 months at a time, but that’s okay. I’m a pretty grounded guy. I don’t have a lot of toys, but I do have a whole handful of grandchildren, and that’s great stuff.

My son, Josh, works with me. He’s been working here since he was 14 and he’s 30 now and he makes enough so that his wife doesn’t have to work. We’re doing well enough to support two owners, so I can’t complain too much!

Would you recommend a Big O Tires franchise to someone else? Why?
Oh, yeah. If you’re willing to work and take care of the customers who come in, you can succeed. I have a little bit of a gruff personality, but there are a lot of outgoing people who have done great with Big O. That’s why I put my son on the counter — he smiles more than I do!

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