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Integrity Tire Expands to 15 Locations

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Integrity Tire Auto Service Centers has acquired the fourth and final The Tire Guys store in southern California owned by Jim and Sue Ferguson. The addition gives Integrity Tire 15 locations.

Integrity Tire was founded as a single-store operation in 2000 by Steve Moll, This year Steve’s son Chris Moll, with his wife Rebekah, purchased the business, and in August they closed the final deal with the Fergusons to buy the fourth The Tire Guys location in Redlands, Calif.

Integrity Tire initially acquired The Tire Guys stores in Hesperia and Colton in December 2018, and the Yucaipa location was added in March 2019. The addition of the Redlands location has cleared the way for the Fergusons to fully retire.

“My goal in 2015 was to open five more stores by 2020 — one store per year. But fast-forward five years to this month and I’ve been able to surpass that goal,” Chris Moll says.

“Although we initially reduced some working hours at the beginning of the pandemic in March and April, after about two months we decided to get everyone back to work and let everyone in the community know, mostly by an on-line presence, that we’re open for business. That included providing discounts for emergency medical personnel and first-responders.

“In the pursuit of operational excellence and highest customer satisfaction, we opted to not reduce staff in proportion to reduced customers, but rather to maintain our staffing levels to ensure that when customers were ready to come back for service, their expectations could be met. The Paycheck Protection Program loans provided a means of keeping our 145 workers on the payroll.”

The pandemic hasn’t affected his long-term goal of becoming a major provider of automotive services in not just southern California, but throughout the whole state. Currently, Integrity Tire operates 15 locations in Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Orange County and the city of Hesperia.

“I believe in setting lofty goals and for me it’s the ownership of 100 stores in California. Aside from those future plans, my wife Rebekah keeps me grounded in the everyday business challenges everyone experiences.”

He sees value in having those big goals, and says they motivate not just him, but his entire team.

“The expansion of our business has inspired many of our employees to give their very best because they also see possible merit-based promotions and management opportunities for themselves in addition to bonus programs currently in place. In fact, if I could share one secret of our success, it would be that enhancing the professional mentality of our employees results in substantial financial rewards for the business.

“For instance, in some of the stores we have acquired, we made significant investments in the business, including facility upgrades, equipment, tools, sufficiently stocked inventories, computer and telephone systems, and new paint on the walls. We strove to keep every employee of each store we acquired and the boost to their morale by the workplace improvements was palpable. Thanks to that and to following procedures for providing customers with the utmost care and advice so they can make informed decisions, we have been rewarded with double, triple, and quadruple month-over-month increases as compared to prior years. That kind of success has also attracted the best talent to come and work for us. Our business ratio is 70% repair and maintenance service to 30% tires. Customers putting their trust in us for all their auto service needs has become the hallmark of our business.”

Automotive aftermarket-specific business broker Art Blumenthal managed the sale of all four The Tire Guys stores to Integrity Tire.

The Fergusons opened their business in 1984 after returning to California from living in South America for 10 years. Sue Ferguson says she hopes to travel more, and perhaps live in another country again, now that she and Jim are free of the daily demands of the business.

She says, “Jim and I have never talked about retirement…but our desire to travel more, possibly living in another country again eventually. We are not people who sit still. We want to be productive. We envision an active lifestyle. We always said that if it’s doable financially, we need to sell the business while we are still youthful and healthy enough to enjoy the physical activities we like as well as giving back to our community. About three years ago we started discussing plans for our future, what that would look like, and when and to whom we would sell the business.

“It took us a lot of time to prepare our businesses for sale because accomplishing that while continuing to operate successfully is a task. In addition, I often say that my husband Jim is the ‘brake’ to my ‘accelerator.’ If I’m impulsive or moving forward too quickly, he analyzes and checks and slows things down to a more manageable speed.”

She says Blumenthal brought Integrity Tire to the negotiating table “and we realized what a good fit it would be.”

Jim Ferguson says, ““We learned so much during the sales process. There are many baby-boomer store owners out there and at some point most of them will not want to continue working. Having an end goal in sight, evaluating when you want to stop working, and establishing a timeline is important to a successful conclusion. Getting good, long-term leases with options and favorable terms will be important to the buyer. An unreasonable landlord can ruin a deal. Because a buyer is really buying your customer base, taking care of your customers better than ever so they will still be there for the buyer is critical. Art assisted tremendously in establishing realistic market values for our stores, as well as guiding us in the creation of operating statements in formats banks would accept. A key component of selling a business for the highest price is the profitability over the past three years.”

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