At a time when both the automotive industry and the aftermarket are undergoing major changes, it is easy to see how the tire business will also be very different from the past. Different in terms of daily working operations, which are increasingly being diversified towards new services, and because of the growing number of competitors that have entered the market over the years, and, lastly, because customers are no longer just private individuals but might be companies or leasing fleets, alert to the quality of the service they receive as well as the costs involved. To meet the challenges posed by this complex scenario, in 2022 the Driver tire network created the "Advanced Consultancy Project", to provide Pirelli Driver Centres with an innovative tool to analyse company performance in detail, and above all offer clues on how to improve. So what does the tool consist of, and how did it come about? Anna Galet, Director of operations at Driver Italia, tells us: 'The service was developed as a collaboration between Driver Pirelli and Standard & Testing - a spin-off of the Polytechnic University of Turin,' she explains. Standard & Testing is a company that has been working in the aftermarket sector for almost 10 years and has acquired in-depth knowledge of the dynamics of the automotive sector over the years. With the support of S&T, Driver has identified a model with over 100 KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to analyse company performance introducing specific elements traditionally associated with tire dealer, i.e. wheel diameters and storage, which are very important in the world of tires. We have put it to use within the reality of tire shops, which could be multi-line, i.e. they can deal not only with cars but also motorbikes and trucks, or tire shops that offer mechanical services as an added service. The tool consists of a digital platform that the company must feed by entering all operational and economic data relating to a year of activity, with a particularly advanced level of details; from the data entered, the system draws up an accurate in-depth analysis of all those indicators that can guide the entrepreneur in understanding his or her strengths and the areas where improvement is needed. But the project is not limited to the analysis tool alone because, as Galet explains, the consulting phase is equally vital: "We needed a tool, and we developed it. However, following this first stage, we had to bring the idea to the entrepreneur after which there is the moment of restitution, when the experts from Standard & Testing meet with the entrepreneur to discuss the results that emerge from the analysis, to support him in the most appropriate decisions for his company".
The aim is therefore twofold: firstly, to measure and assess the overall quality of the company, its economic-financial status, organisation and working methods, this is then followed by planning, based on the priorities established after the analysis. Financial management plays a major role, although for many operators this is still a little-known field: "Often what is taken into account is the economic and operational management of the business, while our aim is to provide Driver Centres with a comprehensive analysis and planning tool in the face of the increasing complexity of the business," Galet concludes.
The Advanced Consultancy Project was proposed in 2022 to a pilot group of Driver centres, but the ultimate goal is to offer it to the most advanced part of the network by 2024, which will enable a further yardstick for comparison through clusters of companies similar in size and services, so that each company can measure itself against a similar entity within its segment. Among the dealers that took part in the project we find Pneusmarca of Treviso and Puntogomme Lazio, present throughout Rome and its surrounding province, who spoke to us about their experience with the new tool made available to them by the Driver network.
Pneusmarca: "An accurate and strategic tool also in view of a generational change".
Pneusmarca and the Favaro family represent a long-standing reality in Treviso, a true point of reference. Daniele Favaro, who runs the company with his three sons, explains that when Driver proposed joining the initiative in collaboration with the Turin Polytechnic, he did not hesitate: "it is precisely the type of tool that we needed and that we were looking for, partly because we have just taken over four shops and partly in order to be able to leave a healthy company to the next generations, so it becomes essential to have a careful and accurate tool in the evaluation of performance, because if you create a company from scratch and make it grow you know how things are going, you can call it gut feeling, but if you find yourself with an already large and structured company, with many shops, you need to get away from feelings and rely on an objective analysis". His daughter Francesca took charge of the first phase of the project, which meant entering all the data into the system: 'It was a demanding job,' she explains, 'also because we had to reclassify a lot of the data to provide a consistent input to the system, but even in this phase we had great support from the consultants, and the result they gave us back is extremely detailed and segmented, and is full of operational cues and suggestions, including the investments that should be made, for example buying a specific piece of equipment depending on the customer base you have. We also realised that some aspects we had never focused on, as we were concentrating more on sales, can actually have a huge impact on the company's performance, for example financial management". For example, what was evident the company needed to do by looking at the analysis? "We realised that a factor such as the time of payment by customers can be decisive for marginality: shorter payment terms generate an increase in liquidity, which we can then use to purchase product at better conditions and therefore with a higher margin," explains Daniele. "In addition, we have been able to produce a reliable budget: if, at one time, we gave ourselves the objective of growing a total of one per cent per year, now we have precise objectives, we know exactly which levers to move to reach our target, which performances need to improve and by how much each month,' he adds. Furthermore, Pneusmarca identified in this advanced consulting instrument the possibility of building a second step of development, creating an incentive system for the manager of each shop; the idea is still under development and once ready it will allow each shop to have its own targets, so that the managers can share in the profits thus promoting an entrepreneurial spirit. An idea that seems so promising that the Driver network itself has decided to make it available to other centres once implemented. For example, what was evident the company needed to do by looking at the analysis? "We realised that a factor such as the time of payment by customers can be decisive for marginality: shorter payment terms generate an increase in liquidity, which we can then use to purchase product at better conditions and therefore with a higher margin," explains Daniele. "In addition, we have been able to produce a reliable budget: if, at one time, we gave ourselves the objective of growing a total of one per cent per year, now we have precise objectives, we know exactly which levers to move to reach our target, which performances need to improve and by how much each month,' he adds. Furthermore, Pneusmarca identified in this advanced consulting instrument the possibility of building a second step of development, creating an incentive system for the manager of each shop; the idea is still under development and once ready it will allow each shop to have its own targets, so that the managers can share in the profits thus promoting an entrepreneurial spirit. An idea that seems so promising that the Driver network itself has decided to make it available to other centres once implemented.
Puntogomme Lazio: "If you want to grow, you can't play it by ear".
With 6 workshops between Rome and the surrounding province, Puntogomme Lazio is another benchmark company for the sector, not only locally but also for Driver network, since it was the second Italian company to join the network in 2011. For Anthony Chiarella, the youngest of the three partners, the feedback from the experience with the Advanced Consultancy Project was truly positive: "Our business is very complex, we have 6 shops," he explains, "with several product lines in which we also perform light mechanical services, with the exception of one workshop that deals with all kinds of mechanical repairs and another one with a few mobile workshops. A project like this is of strategic importance because the evaluation it provides allows us to better plan all these activities, both in the medium and long term, to strengthen our model." Even in the case of Puntogomme Lazio, the process of data input and analysis was challenging, as it involved as many as six shops, but the feedback from the partners was thorough and stimulating, as Anthony recalls: "The result of all this work are two 'to do' lists for organisational and financial aspects respectively, and we are already working at implementing some of the indications that have emerged. For example, one of the suggestions was to diversify to increase margin potential, so we have decided to open an DMV inspection centre shortly. Of course, every day we strive to increase our margins, but it is not an easy thing to do, not least because Rome is a place that has an abundance of competitors, but now we have found a concrete suggestion about the direction to take. Another important indication was then to include a figure who could support us from an economic and financial point of view: the company is growing and becoming more solid, and it is now necessary to rely on a person specialised in this area to optimise our results; in retrospect it seems obvious, yet it had not occurred to us before joining the project'. The “secret”, for Chiarella, lies in the fact that one can view with greater attention many small aspects that can be seen in daily activities, but on which we never have time to pause and reflect. Another crucial advantage is the opportunity to openly share information with others: "We are three partners, from different generations, and soon we will be talking about a generational change. This is a crucial point as in the space of 30 years the market has changed a drastically and continues to evolve: it is therefore necessary to have a reliable point of view on which to base our evaluations and decisions; if we want to decide in which direction to go, we cannot play it by ear'. A tool, therefore, that can offer useful and concrete elements to make the best decisions on how to capitalize on all the opportunities offered by the market, "provided one is willing to really get involved, not only because he or she has to share all the data of one's own company, but above all because one is committed to begin a path of business development," concludes Chiarella.