Discount Tire Company does one thing and one thing only--tires--and they do it exceedingly well. Discount Tire doesn't offer oil changes, alignments or general automotive services. But even if you have never set foot in a Discount Tire store they will repair your flat tire or mount your snow tires for free. From the humblest of beginnings in a rented building on Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor, MI the company founded by Bruce Halle has grown to become the largest independent tire retailer in America with more than 800 locations. So just who is Bruce Halle and how did he manage to pull this all off? Author Michael Rosenbaum has chronicled the improbable story of Bruce Halle and his company in his informative and entertaining new book "Six Tires, No Plan: The Impossible Journey of the Most Inspirational Leader That (Almost) Nobody Knows". This is at once a fun, eye-opening and very inspiring read. I really enjoyed it!
In the first few chapters Of "Six Tires, No Plan" Rosenbaum focuses on the life of Bruce Halle as he was growing up in Berlin, New Hampshire and Taylor Township, Michigan. Bruce admits that he was not a particularly gifted student and that most viewed him as something of an underachiever. In 1944 his parents enrolled him at Holy Redeemer High School. It was a decision that would change his life. On the first day of his freshman year in 1944 young Bruce Halle met two of the people who would influence his life the most: his future wife of 38 years Geraldine Konfara and his homeroom teacher Sister Marie Ellen. Sister Marie Ellen believed in young Bruce and would become a constant source of encouragement. Years later Bruce Halle would fondly recall the role this Immaculate Heart of Mary nun had in turning his life around. If nothing else young Bruce firmly embraced his Catholic faith and absorbed the values instilled in him by his parents. This spirit of kindness and generosity would serve him well in the years ahead as grew a fledgling small business into a giant national retailer.
In building his Discount Tire Company behemoth Bruce Halle proved to be anything but your typical businessman. Bruce insists that each and every new hire on the retail side of Discount Tire starts out as a tire changer. This policy has not changed in the more than 50 years that Discount Tire has been in business and there are no plans to change it anytime soon. From the very beginning Bruce Halle has always been a firm believer in promoting from within. Bruce sees a lot of himself in many of his managers and is genuinely thrilled to see them succeed. He takes a personal interest in all of them and makes it his business to meet everyone personally. A large percentage of his employees reciprocate by remaining on the job for 15-20-25 years or more. Bruce can best be described as a `manager-by-exception" type of leader who relies on his people to do the job they were hired to do and stepping in only when something goes wrong. Another key component of Bruce's business philosophy is what he calls the "reset button" which is designed to salvage the careers of good employees who hit a wall in their lives. Meanwhile, Bruce is also a firm believer in the concept of "paying forward". Frankly, I had never heard the term. "Paying forward" is the act of using our talents to help others, not because we owe them a favor, but simply because we have the ability to do so. Finally, Bruce Halle encourages his employees to carefully balance work and family obligations. From the very beginning, Discount Tire outlets have been closed on Sundays. This is unheard of in this day and age and I for one applaud Bruce Halle for taking such an admirable stand here in spite of the fact that it puts Discount Tire at a significant competitive disadvantage. In my view the introduction of Sunday sales in the 1970's has contributed mightily to the downward spiral of family life in this country.
Now it goes without saying that happy employees will generally translate into happy and loyal customers. Such has obviously been the case with Discount Tire. From the very beginning back at that renovated plumbing supply store in Ann Arbor, Michigan Bruce Halle has been committed to providing his customers with fast and friendly service and quality products at the lowest possible price. It is easy to see why so many people admire Bruce and the way he has grown his business over the past fifty years. If you happen to be a small business owner reading "Six Tires, No Plan: The Impossible Journey of the Most Inspirational Leader That (Almost) Nobody Knows" might just change the way you conduct your own business. And as it says on the back cover of the book "His story offers a map worth following in both career and life." I could not agree more. It's great to see a nice guy finish first. Highly recommended!
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