Ties that bind

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Ties that bind

Bruce Halle, chairman of Discount Tire, is our 2014 Tire Dealer of the Year. That alone makes him special. Only 21 other independent tire dealers can put themselves in his shoes.

He also happens to be the largest independent tire dealer in the United States, maybe the world. However, he is not an island, floating apart from his brethren.

After more than 50 years in the business, Halle still thinks of himself as a tire salesman, just like you. He may oversee 887 stores and 17,000 employees, but when he visits one of his stores, he talks with technicians and customers alike. I saw him do just that during one of the photo shoots for our cover story, which begins on page 22.

“The tire industry is filled with wonderful dealers all over the country,” he says in his video on our website, “There are thousands of us, and I’m proud to be a member of your club, gentlemen.”

While he was expanding from a one- store operation in Ann Arbor, Mich., to 27 other states coast to coast, Halle crossed paths with two other Tire Dealers of the Year. I thought the exchanges were insightful.

He says he ran into Les Schwab (2002) several times. “I remember being at a tire convention in Detroit many years ago, and Les said, ‘You know, Bruce, it’s illegal for you to come to the northwestern part of the country!’ Well, I came there a few years later. It didn’t matter. We coexisted quite well. He was a pleasant man.

“When you looked at his ads in the paper, Les and his cowboy hat, he looked great. He looked like everybody’s grandfather should look.”

Halle says Discount Tire and Les Schwab Tire Centers promote their stores in a similar way.

“All our stores say Discount Tire. Nobody has signs on our stores. We wanted to be our own company. If we had tire company signs on our buildings, we would be just like anybody else. We wanted to be unique. And we are.

“Schwab did the same thing. He was a great operator.”

Halle and Tom Gegax (1998), founder of Team Tires Plus Ltd., were part of a buying group in the 1980s. According to “Six Tires, No Plan,” Michael Rosenbaum’s 2012 book about Bruce Halle and Discount Tire, Gegax regularly asked Halle to stay out of his home base of Minnesota. Halle did, until Gegax sold his business to Bridgestone Americas Inc.

One of the cornerstones of Halle’s business philosophy is integrity, which he believes his good friend, fellow entrepreneur Karl Eller, summed up nicely. Eller also is the author of “Integrity is All You’ve Got.”

“With Karl’s permission, a copy of ‘Integrity’ hangs in the showroom of all our stores, for our customers and employees to see every day,” says Halle. “It also hangs in several places in all of our offices, warehouses and cross docks.

“The more you read it, the greater the message becomes.”

“Integrity: When you are looking at the characteristics on how to build your personal life, first comes integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience.

“Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all other qualities.

“Make absolute integrity the compass that guides you in everything you do. And surround yourself only with people of flawless integrity.” — Karl Eller   ■

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