Work From the Heart
I had the honor of meeting Rick Benton at a recent NAPA-sponsored baseball game. Within 60 seconds of meeting Mr. Benton, I saw not only a strong business owner, but also someone who has a heart for people, his business and customers.
Rick Black is the vice president of Blacks Tire and Auto Service and BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors, a company that grew from one location in 1929, to over 50 locations in three states doing business in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Mr. Black had a strong service manager, Ricky Benton, at a local gas station he owned. One day, he decided to give him the opportunity to run his tire and auto shop. In 1981, Mr. Black brought Ricky Benton Sr. in to take over running operations. After a decade, Ricky Sr. and his wife, Dianne, and their three sons were able to buy out Mr. Black. The Benton family teamed up and grew this business, along with their long-term managers continuously through the ’90s and 2000s. This is when the business exploded to not only more than 50 locations, but also an expansion into the wholesale side of the business.
In 1996, the next generation entered the business. With his team, they not only expanded to 50 locations, but they also created a wholesale business with over 200 wholesaler partner dealer locations.
This is one of the most successful aspects of their business today. They are able to offer small independent shops (especially in rural areas) a model and process to become a successful tire shop in their area and a possible growth opportunity of over 50 percent with a proven team, training and business plan. In 2017, the BTS family built what is called today the BTS Training Academy.
They offer their wholesale partners a full training program and facility (sales, parts, margins), a wholesale program for tires—including putting together the proper inventory based on cars in their area—but, most importantly, a true business partner! If you ask Rick or his customers what makes them different, they will say top-notch training, service and, most importantly, a second family. When I asked Rick what makes them different, he said their service and relationship with their partners. They truly care about each of their partner dealers and will do anything possible to help them be successful. You can see this even when you ask Rick about the business. When I asked him about being a family-run business, he told me, “Our family is now huge because it’s not just my brothers and our parents, but the other team members who have put in the work alongside us for years.”
Finally, the BTS Team is there to make these automotive shops either successful or more successful than where they are at today. Rick has seen that adding tires to their service can result in a 50 percent increase and he’s there to help his partners do just that. All in all, you could say this is an amazing family-run business turned into a very large successful corporation, or that they have one of the most successful support and training programs for their wholesale group.
But, really, what makes them different is how they feel and treat their customers and partners. I know that, after meeting Rick, I would be honored to work or know more people and businesses like his in the world.