As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Hosage.
Paul Hosage has served as Chief Business Development Officer for Tread Connection since January 2020. He previously served as the President and Chief Executive Officer from July 2018 to December 2019.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thank you for the opportunity. Prior to founding Tread Connection, I worked for a traditional brick and mortar automotive repair chain. I accepted a manager trainee position with the company to get my foot in the door, ended up staying, and really enjoying my time working at the store level. Eventually, I moved to an area manager position to gain some great experience in the tire industry.
My brother Alex and I were talking one day, and Alex had found an article online about a mobile tire company in Europe. They had small vans with all types of tools crammed inside. Alex immediately said that he could build a nicer van and we joked about how we could do that here in the U.S. and kill it. I went into work a few days later and I received a call from one of my co-workers who was pretty emotional. He informed me that the owner had sold the company. I didn’t really have a reaction — I just went silent for a few minutes. Frankly, I was a little scared. I had just signed the mortgage on our first home a week prior and used all of my savings for the down payment and move. However, that feeling quickly passed, and I realized that this is what I was waiting for. Something to push me in a different direction.
I left work and drove to the Ford dealership down the road and bought our first transit van. Thankfully Ford was running $0 down and 0 percent financing special on commercial vehicles so they made it very easy for me to leave with a shiny new Transit. I had my van, so I called Alex and said, “Let’s get everything you need to build a van ordered ASAP, we are really doing this.” While Alex scrambled around measuring the van and making a list of all the things we needed, I worked on finding a way to pay for everything. I didn’t have any car loans, credit card balances, or anything at the time but was short on cash from buying my house so I went to the bank. I took out a few personal lines of credit and a few new credit cards and within 48 hours they were all maxed out.
For the next three months I kept my employment as we waited on the arrival of our gear. That gave us time to create the name, logo, LLC’s, bank accounts and other stuff you usually do before spending all your money. We officially launched and were open for business in December of 2016. In late 2018, we decided we wanted to franchise our model to help us grow the brand at a faster pace and get owners that would be more involved than if we were to try and do it ourselves with employees. I had a little experience as a franchisee. I owned a franchise prior to working at my last job and saw the pros of moving toward that model. We had great success in 2019 and into 2020 with awarding over 30 new locations.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take always’ you learned from that?
Unfortunately, “Funny” is not a word I would use to describe any of the mistakes we made, and there were many of them. I guess my takeaway from that would be that mistakes never stop happening. You just have to keep moving forward and have good people around you to help pick up the pieces.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I wish I could tell you the last book I have read. My wife is an avid reader and former literature teacher. My daughter is named after her favorite book, “Emma.” I just cannot seem to sit still long enough to read anything front to back. I do like watching videos on topics I am interested in, reading new articles, and I do have a few podcasts and audiobooks I need to start spending more time on. I am a hands-on learner, and again, I think the people you surround yourself with are a huge source of information, experience, and knowledge that you can soak in.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
We wanted to create a simple model for both our customers and us. I knew the struggles of the retail consumer from dealing with them at a brick and mortar level. We wanted to make their experience better. I also knew how hard it was to make every customer happy as a retail employee, so we wanted to change that as well. We knew our fleet/commercial and retail customers did not like to go somewhere to wait for service. We wanted to take one aspect of the automotive industry and make that a better experience than anything offered elsewhere.
Technology and convenience are both lacking in the automotive repair industry. The customers do not get the best experience possible most of the time. At Tread Connection, our customers can shop, select, pay, schedule, and have the work performed wherever they want and only have to deal with one company. We wanted Tread Connection to be a service company first, with tech that made it easy for the customers to use.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
You have to keep grinding. What I discovered early on was every time I went through something as a new business owner, and felt like I’d finally solved all my problems, I got smacked in the face with a dozen more. It’s a never-ending process of learning and pushing forward.
Thank you for all that. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Just like everyone else, not being able to do our normal daily tasks takes a toll. Thankfully, we are an essential business and have been able to remain open to serve our customers and keep their vehicles safe. I am also very fortunate to have most of my family working at Tread Connection with me, so we have been able to keep in touch a little easier than most. I will say not being able to let my daughter spend time with her grandparents or other high-risk family members has been hard to deal with. It really makes you appreciate the technology we have available today to screen share and at least have some form of connection with them. One positive that COVID-19 did for me was force me to rearrange my priorities and slow down a little to appreciate all that we do have and were able to accomplish over the last few years. We will get past this and be stronger on the other side.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest challenge for us has been keeping open communication going between our corporate office and local franchise owners. Everyone is dealing with above-average stress, and all you hear is negative news on TV and social media. We really had to address that and look at ways to keep everyone in the loop and positive.
We continue to add locations and upgrade our current operations. Over the last few months, we have launched a new website, new point-of-sale system, and began an entirely reworked marketing campaign. All of that is great progress for us as a company, but it does put a lot of pressure on our training staff and active franchisees. What we have done to help overcome this is to create new training videos and content, utilize our Tread Connection Forum and support ticket system, and create more avenues for our locations to reach out for help. We will be hosting weekly screen-sharing meetings to keep an open dialogue going and stay ahead of anything as we get through all of this.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I am very fortunate that Tread Connection is an essential business that has not been hit as hard as some others. I just try to focus on today and make the most of it. My family and co-workers are all very close, and I feel that has helped keep the anxiety down around my immediate network of people. If people are anxious, I would tell them to do some real soul-searching, now is the time to make a change and capitalize on the rapidly-changing economy. There is always a way to progress and move forward.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the post-COVID economy will look like. But we can, of course, try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the post-COVID economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time, the post-COVID growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the post-COVID economy?
Absolutely, there will be a lot of opportunity post-COVID. I think it will be very hard for the brick and mortar business to continue without adapting to consumer needs. More and more people are working from home, and the companies that can maintain or increase productivity and profitability while cutting overhead will be the ones who succeed.
Our model has never needed a building, we go to the consumer. With the reduced overhead of a mobile business, plus the convenience and natural social distancing built into our model, we are already seeing an increase across the board in our sales and also in the number of people reaching out with interest in opening their own Tread Connection. We had an amazing first quarter of 2020, and while we continue to grow, I am very excited to see what we will do when we do get to post-COVID!
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act, or live?
I want to say it won’t and everything will go back to normal, but I do not see that happening. Everything is changing, and I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime. I never thought I would see online happy hours, but that is now a thing, so I guess even socializing at a brewery or bar will now be different or not needed. Everyone was already going online for almost everything, so I can really see COVID accelerating that. I am not sure what that will look like, but I believe our mobile model will keep us ahead of other competitors in our industry. Change is never easy, but often needed, so I am just going to keep pushing our concept until it becomes the “new normal.” COVID is actually assisting with that.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the post-COVID economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the post-COVID economy?
We are thankful that we do not have to rebuild. To date, we have awarded new franchise licenses every month in 2020, and sales are also up at our active locations. Our focus will be on growth. We have had a solid game plan from the start, and with the success we had in the first quarter we were able to accelerate the roll-out of several new upgrades to our system. We are positioning ourselves to scale and have laid the framework to increase the number of locations and vans we can get on the road per month.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to see what they can do to innovate in their business and not be afraid of risk. What COVID should have taught us all is that nothing is completely safe or protected so you have to be ready to adapt. This is something most companies, especially in the automotive industry, have not been focusing on.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing in this world worth having comes easy.” I have it tattooed, and see it daily. It was one of those things I thought was cool when I was 18 years old but has more meaning now to me than it did back then. Starting a company and then scaling a company is not easy, but it can be applied to more than just business. Having what you want in business and your personal life takes hard work and sacrifice.
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