Dealer of the Year Nick Mitsos: His Road to Success
Nick Mitsos, CEO and president of Mountain View Tire & Service Inc., gave this advice to his three sons while they were growing up: “Never lie, always respect your elders, and do well in school.” They listened and obeyed.
“He taught us the consequences of lying. So we all are lousy liars,” says Chris Mitsos (pictured second from right) about himself and his brothers, Mike (second from left) and Paul (far left). When asked what their father taught them about running a business and living their lives, here’s what they had to say, from youngest to oldest.
Paul Mitsos: “He taught us respect for everything. It could be respect for money, respect for people, an appreciation for what we have. I have a huge drive and passion that is immeasurable, and I think I get that from my dad. Failure is not an option. We thrive on success.”
Mike Mitsos: “One of the most important things he taught me about business was cash is king. He has a very conservative approach to business. Don’t be in debt. Another thing our dad taught us: You have to put the business first. Don’t let personal feelings get in your way. It’s nice to lean on him for advice. It’s nice to have that father figure. I never want him to retire.”
Chris Mitsos: “In life, he taught me to be honest, to work hard, and to be committed to your family. Absolutely those three things. He said something to me at a very young age that I never forgot: Blood is the most important thing. You look out for your blood more than you ever look out for anybody else. And that kind of always stuck with us. In business? Be honest and work hard, same as in life. There are so many concepts he has taught us over the years... how to fix a broken store, how to do forensics on a store. I could go on for hours. He also believes it is important to control your own destiny, so he has discouraged us from ever taking on a partner.”
More and more stores -- Will $100 million in revenue be enough?
Nick Mitsos reached his initial goal of six stores within five years. That’s when the goal changed.
“I realized our infrastructure was pretty good, and I thought, ‘You know what? We don’t have to stop at six. We’ve got a good thing going,’” he says.
Twenty-four years after he opened up his first Mountain View Tire & Service store in Duarte, Calif., Mitsos has 29 stores, with two more on the way. The company grossed $45 million in 2010.
“We would love to expand, but all the cards have to fall in the right place. We’ve talked about the infrastructure, and nonchalantly talked to our DMs (district managers), and I know there are a couple of them who would be willing to re-locate, whether it’s out of state or wherever. So I think we’re pretty well prepared, but it’s always a challenge with the labor pool.”
Mitsos says Mountain View Tire’s growth is based on overall revenue, not the number of stores. “Our goal is anywhere from $75 million to $100 million.”
Although there is no timetable for such an aggressive goal, he adds that “we’re all getting old pretty fast; we’d like to get this done.”
Drag racing: another passion -- Mountain View leverages its racing activities
Mountain View Racing has competed in the Pro Stock class of the National Hot Rod Association’s Full Throttle Drag Racing Series for four years, although tire dealer Nick Mitsos has fielded a drag racing team for 12 years.
As owner and co-crew chief, Mitsos will attend all 22 races coast-to-coast this year. Through August, his team had won twice during the 2011 season.
The Dodge Avenger race car prominently features his Mountain View Tire logo. Mitsos also uses his race team to promote his 29 stores in other ways.
“The racing team is quite popular in the areas where we have our stores,” he says. “We’ll bring down the racing trailer, show the race car, and if we can, we’ll have the driver (Vincent Nobile) come in and sign autographs. It’s pretty awesome.”
Mitsos’ passion for drag racing dates back to his New York days in Long Island. He drove a 1955 metal-flake green Chevy small block nicknamed “Pandemonium” at race tracks in Long Island and Englishtown, N.J.
The cost to run his team this year will reach $750,000. His racing equipment, which includes the two-car trailer, cost $1 million. “It’s crazy the amount of equipment we have.”
Mountain View Tire:
retail dealership fast facts
2010 sales: $45 million
Percent of total sales represented by tire sales: 37%*
Stores: 29 (with two on the way)
Average store size: 5,800 square feet (ranging from 4,900 to 7,000 square feet)
Service bays: 203
Technicians: 170 (60% are ASE-certified)
Vehicles serviced per month: 16,000
Tires sold per store per day: 12 (seven-day week)
Tires sold overall, per week: 2,436
Direct lines: Goodyear, Dunlop, Kelly, Cooper
Average monthly parts purchases: $560,000
* The percentage of tire sales does not include sales from balancing, valve stems or road hazard programs.
Mountain View Tire:
annual advertising costs
Total advertising: about $1 million
Radio spots: $450,000 (anywhere from $500 to $1,000 for a 30-second spot)
Direct mail: $162,000
Database reminders: $180,000
Yellow Pages program: $50,000
Managing the Web site: $30,000
Coupon newspaper inserts: $36,000
The Boeing Co.’s employee magazine: $14,000
Custom 1-800 phone numbers: $25,000 (leasing and upkeep for 100 numbers; three per store, plus extras)
One unifying name
Mountain View Tire & Service is changing its logo and signage to better and more consistently promote its brand.
“When we were a one, two or three store operator, Mountain View Tire didn’t mean much to anybody,” says Vice President Chris Mitsos. “Goodyear did. That’s the reason we always chose to go to market as Goodyear.
“With 29 stores in a market of this size, we now have the flexibility to change. Our density and penetration is such that we need to make Mountain View Tire the number one name.
“Goodyear will continue to be a wonderful partner and supplier to us.”