In a world of online shopping and virtual customer service, businesses are changing and, perhaps, losing some of that personal touch. For Cherryland members and father-son duo Tom and Ryan Siler of Traverse City, they choose to keep doing business the way they always have: with a handshake and a smile.
Tom Siler Sales, LLC sells car detailing products to car dealerships, mechanic shops and detailing centers throughout northwest Michigan, from Ludington to Gaylord to Petoskey. Operating out of a truck customized to feel like a traditional brick-and-mortar store, the Silers regularly visit nearly 200 locations showcasing, selling and delivering products directly to their customers.
“We’re a ‘handshake business,’” said Tom Siler. “When we agree on a sale with one of our customers, we don’t need a signature, just a handshake. That’s how it was designed from the very beginning.”
Tom was no stranger to the automotive world before starting his business over 30 years ago. Tom’s father owned a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership in Merrill, just outside of Saginaw. Before striking out on his own, Tom worked as a General Motors master technician and a service manager.
In all that experience, he saw trends that would make any car-lover cringe. “Back then, people were using degreaser and diesel fuel to clean cars,” said Tom. “Not only did they not use the right products, they also didn’t know which products were environmentally safe and which weren’t. I saw an opportunity to not only have a business but to educate.”
While spending years educating northwest Michigan about properly detailing cars, Tom’s son, Ryan, was also receiving an education, and ultimately an interest, in the automotive world. “I’ve always been interested in cars. It’s part of my family’s history,” said Ryan. “I grew up watching my dad work on car projects in the barn. We still work on projects together today.”
About seven years ago, Tom suffered a back injury and needed help with the business. Ryan stepped in to lend a hand and never left. “Honestly, I initially took the job just to help my dad,” said Ryan. “But as I continued to do the work, I got more interested in the job and began to see the potential for a long-term career.”
In those first few weeks, Tom quickly saw his talent for their business and knew his customers were in good hands. “Soon after he started working, I began to receive calls from long-time customers,” said Tom. “They all told me how friendly and professional Ryan was. I am blessed to have him.”
Today, Tom Siler Sales, LLC continues to thrive. And as for their business strategy, they have no plans of changing in the future. “Our business is about developing relationships with all our customers— from a dealership’s general manager to the guys in the wash rack,” said Ryan. “We want each one of them to feel comfortable enough with us that, when the day is over, they would have no problem sitting down and having a beer with us.”