Facility expansion signals expectation for growth

Carrie and Rod Koons are experiencing their fourth facility expansions since moving their business, Rod?s Tire & Service, to Hillsboro Heights in 1999. The current 4,000-square-foot add on will cater to the automotive service aspect of their business. The new work area should raise the bar for cleanliness and efficiency, say the owners.<p>The addition of a 4,000-square-foot automobile service area to the main facility at Rod?s Tire & Service is owners Rod and Carrie Koons? latest investment in the future growth of their business.

?If you aren?t growing and moving forward to opportunities and thinking things out, you aren?t growing, you?re going backward,? according to Rod.

The couple launched the business in 1998 in the building occupied and renovated by Central National Bank on North Main Street. They moved to the current location at 401 Orchard Drive in Hillsboro Heights during Memorial Day weekend 1999.

?We started adding on from there,? said Koons, noting the three warehouses now on the site.

?We saw some really big growth up until maybe 2010 or 2011, then it just kind of tapered off,? he said. ?That led us to look for some other opportunities.?

Each project was customer-service oriented, he added, because it enabled the business to have tires readily available to sell.

?If someone calls today and wants this product, our question is, ?Would you like to come in and have us put it on today,? rather than, ?We can get it for you tomorrow.?

?That?s important to us.?

Growth strategy

Koons said the current expansion will enhance the environment for customer-friendly automotive service.

?We see a pretty good potential out there yet for opportunity, and part of it is having a facility we can do that in,? Koons said.

?Tires and service are sort of separate, but at least in our business model they?re combined. They feed off each other.?

The new addition should raise the bar for cleanliness and efficiency.

?Part of tires and part of services are cleanliness issues, and some are operational things?noise and things like that?that we?d like to separate a little bit,? Koons said.

?We aren?t creating another business, but we?re creating a different space where we might do business differently.?

Koons said the area currently used for auto service had some shortcomings.

?We run into situations where it?s very common that we tear something down and it takes two days to get parts?but it?s torn down. Especially in that one bay where we tear down, it gets in the way of tire service and it gets in the way of people.

?Plus, we?ve got tire equipment that we?d like to add, also. It?s big, so it takes space.?

Work environment

Another motivation for the project is an improved work environment for the 13 full-time people employed at the business.

?We are very proud of our employees,? Koons said. ?We have employees that have been with us for a long time. It?s a pleasure for us to see them get married and have a family and stick around here and still continue to work for us.

?That?s important to us.

?Kari and I probably don?t say it enough, but our employees are important to us and they?re important to our community. That?s what makes any business, the people who work there.?

Koons said in one sense, the new addition is a reward for his employees.

?I think people like to work with new equipment, good facilities,? he said.

?I see companies sending out a service truck with equipment that doesn?t work and things like that,? he added. ?How can you get people to perform at a high level if management is not providing them with the tools so they can succeed?

?It may be a simple theory, but I think it holds true,? he added. ?We can?t expect excellence if we don?t put that out there.?

Message to customers

Koons said he and Kari believe the new addition will communicate a positive message to both existing and potential customers.

?I?m excited with the bay doors facing the street,? Rod said. ?Perhaps the public driving by will see that we do automotive service and it might turn something on.?

Customers should find a pleasant environment inside.

?We?ll have a little more pristine area, something a little more upper-end and little less tire-looking,? Koons said. ?You look at our tire service area compared to a lot of places, it?s right up there. Our place is clean compared to a lot, but we can make this even more better.?

Koons said their business is increasingly tapping into social media to communicate to the current costumer base in the 20-30 age range. But he balances that with the need to build personal relationship by going the extra mile to make the consumer experience easier and more pleasant.

?I think in the end people want to buy from people, and I think people appreciate that,? Koons said. ?That?s the old-fashioned thing we can have. We?ve got to build a relationship with you, but we?ve got to find some way to connect with you.?

No ?victim? attitude

Koons said he hopes the current expansion project sends a message of encouragement to the broader community on the heels of some business setbacks over the past year or so.

?I?m disappointed in the victim attitude that we?ve got going on,? Koons said. ?We need to get beyond that because there?s a lot of opportunity. But we have to work hard at it, and maybe do some different things.?

One idea the team is testing is the concept of accepting unscheduled oil changes because customers are looking for immediate gratification.

?Scheduling an oil change for next Thursday is not an option,? he said. ?So we?re not going to turn away people who call in for an oil change that day. We?re going to leave our paperwork for a while and (complete the oil change).?

Koons said his team recently squeezed in four or five unscheduled jobs, and two of them resulted in tire sales in addition to the oil change.

Koons said it boils down to treating customers like you would like to be treated if you were one of them.

Positive outlook

Koons is looking positively to the future.

?We are a pretty regional company,? he said. ?About 65 percent of our business comes from outside the Hills?boro and Marion zip codes. That?s tires and everything.

?So we have relationships with a lot of people, and we feel we can enhance and grow that relationship,? he said. ?We?re in a shrinking population, but there are more (potential customers) out there that we can do business with.

?Having that (new) facility, that perception that we?re moving forward, that these people have some foresight by investing in things?I think it helps.

?We?re excited about being in business here,? he added. ?We really are, despite everything. We feel it?s important that we continue to move forward. This won?t be the last expansion we do.?

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