Persistence Pays Off, Leiber Sells to Dotson

by Paula McKibben   The process began around the middle of December and ended April 21 – the sale of Leiber Garage to Tommy Dotson.
Dwain Leiber laughed, saying he was ready to sell “because somebody younger needs to take this over to move it into the future.” He started the business in 1969 after spending 3 years with Bob Williams Chevrolet, located across from A to Z Meats, and then spending ten years with White Chevrolet in Lima. All told he has spent 48 years as a mechanic in his own shop and another 13 years as a mechanic for someone else.
   According to Leiber, he approached Tommy more than once about buying his garage because “I had what he needed.”
   Finally, Tommy agreed that this was something he needed. He said, “It just fit our business model.” He had done some garage work with semis in his new shop in Ada and just knew that with his “amazing employees” this would work. Tommy says, his “best investments are people.”
   Both men tackle business with the same goal in mind: to make a living for their own family and the families of their employees, but both men came to their businesses by different routes.
   Leiber grew up on a farm, which he called “one advantage.” Chevrolet sent him to several Chevy-GM schools, and, over time, he felt ready to begin his own business. He says, “I never really found a hard part. I’ve had good customers; I’ve had good help.” The best part of business was just talking to people. He may work at the garage for Dotson; he hasn’t decided yet. He says, “I’ve got work to do in my little barn and man cave.”
   Dotson, on the other hand, came up through sales. He began his sales career at Suter’s Farm with Jerry and Nancy Suter, not unlike many of the students from the Bluffton-Pandora-Columbus Grove areas. He started working with tires at K & M Tire in Delphos, but kept pushing to be a salesperson. At 19, he became their youngest salesperson, working there for seven years. Then, he worked for three years at the retread plant outside of Bluffton.
   Finally, the time was right, and Tommy Tire was born here in Bluffton. The first month he visited companies drumming up business. By the second month, he needed two employees. A year later, he added retail and now has stores in Toledo, Bluffton and Ada.
This year Tommy Tire is on track to have 6.5 million in sales. However, the business couldn’t exist without his wife, Sheena, who runs the businesses and owns the buildings. Tommy emphasized, “I make the deals, and she sees them through.”
   There won’t be many changes at Leiber Garage as a result of this deal. The name will change to Leiber’s Garage, and the logo will feature a caricature of Leiber. Dotson says they will clean up the back, remodel the outside and remodel the office. He already purchased a parts cleaner, an AC machine and hired another employee, so that there are now two mechanics and a floater. Since parts can be delivered during the day, the parts inventory will be sold back to the distributors to free up room in the back. What he does buy, he will buy in bulk to save money. The goal is simply to provide the good service that customers have expected from Leiber Garage more efficiently.
   Dotson discovered that to be more efficient, he had to stop changing tires himself in order to grow his business. He still does sales, but his strength probably comes from his attitude toward his clients, “when they call, we run.” He now has 26 employees, including five salespeople – and his business is still growing.