This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews James (Bones) McCann, from Bones’ Tyres. Bones is a well-known local who has run Bones’ Tyres for the last 10 years and is known for his quality customer service.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and bred in Armidale. I have two small kids with my partner, Mel. Although she doesn’t have anything to do with the business, Mel helps me get my brain through things. I enjoy coming to work every day. I’d like to have another 10–15 years in this business before I look at doing something different.
How did you land the name Bones?
Well, I was skinny when I was younger! My real name is James. My brothers called me Bones and it’s stuck.
What led you to a career in tyres and starting Bones’ Tyres?
I actually used to wag school to go work with cars! I started by sweeping floors at an auto repairs shop in Crescent Street, getting paid $20 every afternoon, which I thought was pretty cool. Then I learnt how to do oil changes and other bits and pieces and was offered a job in Jessie Street. I worked there for about 12 years before leaving to manage the business in this shed for Ross Foster, and then Michael Barrett. I decided to do a stint driving a truck at Tamex for a couple of years after that.
When a Sydney–based business bought it from Michael, they chased me down to ask me to come back and run it, which I did for 18 months before deciding to go out and open my own business. I pinched one guy from here who was my first full-timer with me at Bones’ Tyres. I started with two of us full time and a casual helper. I now have 8 staff – five full timers and three casuals.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
None really – I just come to work and live the dream!
The challenge is that you just have to do it. If you want the benefits, you’ve got to be here all the time and put in the hard work. I’ve been able to step back a bit lately and let the boys run the business. I feel like I’ve earnt the time to finally get a bit of a break. I got my first two weeks off last month!
Another main challenge is managing the money and getting people to pay. It’s often the same people who you know aren’t going to pay and it’s hard not to turn into a grinch. I really don’t like that aspect. I need to look into something like AfterPay so then it’s not me having to chase the money – then they can get their tyres and I can get paid straight away.
What do you like most about running your own business?
At this point, the flexibility. I’m at a point where I really like the products that I sell. I don’t have links with anybody and enjoy that independence.
I like tyres. I like to see what tyres do, and how people treat them. Some people buy tyres and they might get 80,000 kms out of them; other people might buy the exact same tyre and only get 40,000 kms. It could be due to the structure in the tyre, how they’re built, or what compound they’re made of.
I really like going out and doing the farm jobs, working on tractors and machinery. If I get the call-out I’m the first one to put my hand up. I can trust David and Paul back here to look after things.
Having your own business has a lot of perks and a lot of lurks, but I look at what I’ve achieved and that reminds me that it’s all worth it. I’ve just had the frame go up on my new house. It’s given me the freedom to do all that.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Make sure it’s really what you want to do. It’s always good to have some funds behind you when you’re starting out. I didn’t when I first started – I borrowed some money off my brother to get started, but it would’ve been better if I had that myself. The longer he was in the business, the more I had to pay him back.
Make sure you set up correctly when you start.
Having the right team is also really important. You don’t want to roll staff over. You have to look after them. Pay above award wages and make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
What is your secret for success?
Work hard. Put the hours in. I never finish at 5pm, even if I’d like to. I’ll stay back and check emails, pay some bills. I used to get up at 5am to do bookwork before I started my day, but I’ve now learnt to do it here and what I don’t do here I do at home, which gives me that bit of extra freedom the next day. It’s important to remember you can always catch up – there’s always tomorrow. Keeping work and family separate has been good.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is when I’ve recommended and sold a product to someone, and then hear positive feedback from that customer. We have many customers who return again and again and that’s what keeps me motivated to come to work each day.
What’s next for Bones’ Tyres?
I currently have two sheds. The next thing is to roll us over into one shed. We’re running well as we are at the moment, but being under one roof will save me money, and streamline our processes. It can be difficult having the team split. The two qualified mechanics are over at the other shed. If we’re all here, then we can all learn a little bit more too – the other boys can start helping with things like wheel alignments. Having us under one roof will better the business and hopefully upskill the team. That’s my main goal. Sometimes less is more. If we have less room, then we have to be more organised and on the ball. We plan to do this in the next six months. Other than that, we’ll keep soldiering on.