On the Rise: Connor Rhine
Store manager | Southern Tire Mart LLC | Age: 27
What was your first job in the industry?
I was a commercial development intern for GCR in their Birmingham, Ala., location.
What attracted you to the industry?
My family has had a long history in the tire business. I have an uncle who works for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and extended family that help operate Grismer Tire in Ohio. When I started in the business, I had a great deal of mentors in different hierarchy levels of Bridgestone who helped outline the "safety net" of building a career in the tire business. I knew I did not want to be stuck behind a desk so I jumped into the industry head first at 22.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
My biggest challenge so far has been establishing infrastructure in locations that are experiencing exponential growth, and at the same time finding roles that will continue to push my staff forward in their own personal and professional development.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I have a long list of people who have influenced me throughout my career; from family, to previous coworkers to current coworkers every single person has helped me grow personally and professionally. However, I would say the management team at Southern Tire Mart (Mr. Tommy, Mr. Jim, Keven, David, John and Luis) have had the greatest influence on my career. From the time Southern Tire Mart purchased the GCR locations back in 2019, they have pushed me and given me opportunities greater than I could have ever imagined. It is exciting to work for a company that has such a vision for the future and the belief in developing young talent to move the company forward.
What’s your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
I would say my biggest accomplishment in the industry is coming back to run the Birmingham Southern Tire Mart location. To go from intern to store manager in four years is something I am very proud of. I look forward to what we as a company will be able to accomplish in the future.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your workday?
Currently I run Southern Tire Mart’s Birmingham, Ala., location. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the location as well as creating and executing a vision for future growth locally. We have a total of 64 employees at our location so most of my day is spent overseeing the moving parts of our store and making sure the team is all on the same page.
What’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before you took your current job?
I think the overall impact you can have on a market and your staff in a location like Birmingham was something I did not fully understand. Having previously managed our Tucson, Ariz., branch, I was prepared for the required daily grind, but I have been pleasantly rewarded with the stories and relationships I have made with our customers and our employees.
Tell us about your family.
My parents live outside of Fort Worth, Texas. My father is in finance and my mother works for their church. I have a brother that lives with his wife in Charlotte, North Carolina and they are both civil engineers. My oldest sister is a paralegal who is married to an Air Force pilot. They live in Columbus, Mississippi. My other sister lives here in Birmingham with her husband. She is an athletic trainer for a physical therapy clinic and is currently in law school, and her husband is an attorney. And then there is me -- the tire guy. I live in Birmingham with my dog; his name is Opie, short for Optimus Prime.
How do you recover from a bad or stressful day?
Whenever I have a stressful day, I call my one of my parents on the way home to discuss the day and its difficulties. They give me great advice based on their life experience and keep me grounded. At times, they give me a completely different viewpoint on the situations that happened during the day. On particularly stressful days I have found that going for a run helps to clear my mind.
Name one thing you wish the average American better understood about the tire industry.
I wish people would see the importance of the tire industry; our impact on the economy is unbelievable. We touch every bit of interstate commerce, so our industry is the unsung hero of the country's economy. I also wish the average American understood the danger our technicians face when they are out working on the side of the road and would move over or slow down.
If you could have lunch with a celebrity, who would it be, and why?
I would have to choose Mark Cuban. I am impressed with his humble beginnings and aggressive attitude when it comes to building businesses. The way he can break down a business and coach entrepreneurs is impressive and to spend an hour or so with him would be enlightening.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I wish I was able to play an instrument. Growing up I tried my hand at guitar and drums and failed miserably.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
I would say the biggest issue facing our industry is an aging workforce coupled with the lack of the younger generation entering the industry. It is now our job to recruit and show how stable and monetarily rewarding entering the tire industry is.
Tell us your biggest pet peeve.
My biggest pet peeve is when people start a task but do not finish it. There is nothing worse than coming across a half-completed job.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
I just finished reading John Maxwell’s book “Developing the Leaders Around You.” I find that Maxwell’s writing encompasses what our company is working towards -- the creation of the next generation of management. His topics are applicable, and I would highly recommend this generation take the time to read and apply Maxwell’s principles.
If a tire dealer asked you for advice to find good employees, what would you suggest?
I have always felt that if you establish a healthy and productive culture, quality employees will come to the table. I think at times we can get caught up in recruiting the next big star instead of developing those people around us. Employees want to work somewhere they feel safe and comfortable and know they will be able to provide for their family for years to come. We stress that here, so my piece of advice is to look internally into your business and make sure you have an environment that not only recruits good talent but also retains it.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Twenty years from now I hope to still be in a job that challenges me every day. One of the greatest aspects of my current role is how I am personally and professionally stretched to continue to move my team and myself forward. I hope to still have the fire and excitement inside that I feel when I come to work today.