On the Rise: Nick Lenhart
Owner and partner | Lenhart's Service Center Tire Pros LLC | Age: 32
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job I was basically a janitor. I would do everything from cleaning equipment to sweeping floors and washing company vehicles. This also meant I was lead flashlight holder for our technicians. My dad even had uniforms made up for me.
What attracted you to the industry?
My great-grandfather started our repair shop in 1930. We've been doing business in the same location for 86 years. From a young age I witnessed the impact we've had in our community helping out our clients and realized an opportunity to grow our business and continue to carry on the family tradition of superior customer service and maintain our reputation as the area’s most elite repair facility.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The biggest challenge I've had, like most repair shop owners, was the transition from technician to business owner. Nothing really prepares you for that, but with the help of our 20 Group and the relationships I've built with other Tire Pros dealers I've been able to overcome a lot of those challenges.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My dad. Growing up I definitely took his knowledge and experience for granted. As I've gotten older I've realized that all those long hours and late nights were spent building our business so it would be successful for me and our employees moving forward.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My biggest accomplishment has been the steps I've taken to ensure not only my business but the future of the independent tire dealer remains viable. I joined the Tire Pros Northeastern Dealer Council and became council chairman. After that I was invited to join the Tire Pros National Dealer Council and am currently serving as the youngest chairman to hold that position. This has allowed me to influence the direction of the modern tire dealer from the perspective of the millennial generation, something I believe will keep our industry relevant for years to come.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Wow, 20 years from now I’ll be 52! By then I’d like to have my business running smoothly without being involved in the day-to-day operations. I truly enjoy working with other shop owners and would love to be involved in some aspect of business coaching.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
I hate to say this because our business has traditionally had a good relationship with our local car dealers, but they are aggressively coming after our business in every which way. Almost every day we’re hearing from our clients, “oh we get that at the dealer for free,” or something to that effect. We’re constantly sharpening our pencil to compete.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
Pay better attention in high school math and English class. You might have to write content for magazines and analyze financials.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
By being positive! There is so much negativity about the tire and auto repair industry. I meet guys all the time who say, “I talked my kid into getting out of this business.” I always ask, why? It’s been a good life for you and me, right?
Tell us about your family.
We’re all very stubborn and hardworking in our own way, but it’s been part of our success. My grandmother was and still is a boss! She ran the daily operations here for years while my Dad and Pap fixed cars. My dad is a very head strong and direct guy himself. He worked his butt off while my sister and I where little to give us a good life. I remember when I was younger he was studying for his ASE tests, he would come home from work around 7-8 p.m., play with us until we went to sleep, then stay up studying all night. My sister’s not involved in our business, but is also very much like my dad. She worked through high school and then college and three years ago started her own business doing flowers for wedding and corporate events. We fought a lot as kids but I’m extremely proud of her and what she’s been able to accomplish! She was one of Pittsburgh's 30 under 30 last year. My mom is probably the strongest. She has to put up with all of us! Two years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and after a rough round of chemo, surgery, and then radiation she’s been given a clean bill of health.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
In the summer I love relaxing on our pontoon boat, and in the fall and winter I’m in a tree stand.
What keeps you up at night?
Debt. My great-grandfather’s first business failed from people not paying on their accounts. Like most businesses we can find ourselves facing cash flow challenges, but thanks to the training opportunities of Tire Pros we’ve been able to budget for slow times and manage payroll to ensure a healthy bottom line.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I’ve ridden my motorcycle across 30 states!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I’ve always thought being able to fly would be awesome!
What’s your favorite food?
Anything with fries on it. I’m from Pittsburgh. It’s our thing.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d like to have a drink with Ernest Hemingway; does that count?
If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?
Unfortunately, probably two or three days.