These rich client relationships are built on so much more than longevity alone, but 80 years of goodwill certainly doesn’t hurt. From 1942 to 2010, Telle Tire & Auto Service operated as a single retail store with eight employees in Richmond Heights, a suburb of St. Louis. Since 2010, Aaron has grown its business to 18 locations and over 130 employees.
So, how did Telle Tire create such strong bonds, establishing connections that take the client on a journey to become a friend and eventually an honorary member of the family? The type who would go out of their way to bring fresh donuts to employees even when they had no other reason to visit the tire shop?
“It goes straight to the top. This is from Aaron,” says Rich Obits, Director of Service Division Operations at Telle Tire.
family relationship (growing)
Although they make it sound easy, the truth is that for Telles, outstanding service begins with a first-class company culture.
Laura Tell, the company’s director of personnel and wife of Aaron, says this company culture is responsible for driving employee behavior, customer engagement, and overall team implementation that impacts business and customer relationships. This relationship within the company is then extended to clients, making Telle Tire clients feel valued, appreciated and respected.
The list of employee benefits at Telle Tire is extensive: they start with paid training and ASE, 401(k) certifications with company-matched and outstanding contributions to medical/dental/vision and life insurance. As an employee’s tenure grows, the company begins offering more unique perks as well, such as free oil changes, paid birthdays, paid emergency leave, the ability to share profits, free airline tickets, and even anniversary and retirement trips.
“We’re really looking at the basics. Why do people want to come to work here, and why do people want to keep coming to work here? At the end of the day, you’re not a number here, you’re an important person,” says Laura. “Without people, what do we have? We have some buildings and some equipment, but we have no business. In all our actions, we try to re-emphasize how important our people are, because they are everything.”
“We are in a very labor intensive business; our biggest expense is business,” Haroun adds. “We sought very early on to say that this is not a liability, it is an asset for us. Car and tire repair is unique, as for the consumer it is like going to the dentist. Therefore, we have to work more hard to create a good experience for them. By providing our employees with the tools and processes and then aligning our values together, we hope to continue to grow and create unique and customized customer experiences for many years to come.”
Creating a generational level of corporate companions requires an unwavering team effort, and becomes exponentially more important as Telle Tire continues to look for growth opportunities with new acquisitions.
“When we own a store, Aaron will come over and tell us the story of who we are as a company, where the company has been, and where the company is going. And people are always very excited about that next trip,” says Laura.
Incorporating a new acquisition into the Telle family is as much a science as it is an art.
When Telle Tire began making acquisitions in the early 2010s, Aaron and his team looked exclusively at “successful” companies—those that had a good team in place; He seems to have a good culture in place; Has achieved good and strong sales; And it was profitable.
“Paying for it up front is always an easier transition and always worth the premium,” Aaron says.
After eighteen stores, Telles has learned a lot. They directed unexpected scenarios, such as signing a five-store deal in a Kansas City market just days before the first confirmed positive case of coronavirus appeared in Missouri in 2020, and triumphed at stores that previously had no real identity. By blending this extensive experience with Telle Tire’s strong corporate culture, Aaron says he and his team can carefully consider different types of acquisition options today.
“We are more successful now and we are more sophisticated today. If we think it is a good site, we are confident in what we are doing as a company,” says Aaron. “By implementing our processes, systems, and the way we do business, we can build new customers and make the store a success.”
Aaron says as many partners as possible are kept on board with each acquisition. Each new store location is also staffed with a leadership team that has experience and perspective from working at Telle Tire to help train and inject this critical corporate culture.
“When we go out there, we provide the tools and apply processes and systems to clearly define our company’s values,” says Aaron. “People who are able to put up with that and run it, we see how they are empowered — and a lot of those individuals have not been empowered to do their jobs before. Seeing that we can make that environment for them and seeing individuals transform and accept that and thrive in that, for me, has been personally rewarding.”
Oftentimes, stores acquired by Telle Tire are primarily service-based operations with little or no tire sales, but soon after their acquisition, these locations see a significant increase in tire sales due to Telle’s investment in equipment and extensive training. and brand recognition.
Laura says the acquired stores have also been redesigned to enhance the community in which the store is located.
“The redesigned stores represent the spirits of the diligent co-workers who still work on the store site and invite the spaces for a cup of coffee, work or relaxation,” she says. “Do you need to use the restroom? Don’t worry – it’s clean in there! ”
Train like a Telle tire technician
Telle Tire offers its technicians a continuous stream of educational training, including on-demand training, cross-zoom training, in-person training, formal on-the-job training and on-the-job training. One of the company’s lead technicians has developed a customized training curriculum for all company technicians to follow. Telle Tire even had one technician named Auto Value/Bumper-to-Bumper technician from the final year in 2021.
However, technician training is never “set and forgotten”. New car technology always appears in one form or another, and this is especially true after acquisition. Implementing a new digital vehicle inspection program and new POS system, as Telle Tire did last year, is one thing; Another way to implement it successfully is by purchasing from technicians.
“When we did that, we took two of our senior technicians, had them go with me and talk to the other technicians, and explain the program to show them how it’s done, and it was very successful,” Rich says. . “Just by having guys who’ve been with Telle for a while and then bringing those guys to new acquisitions or into newer stores shows another level of commitment. It shows we’re willing to help and lets them know that, hey, we’re here to help you out.” Your support and we want the best for you to succeed in this business.”
Of course, training at Telle Tire goes beyond car service. It’s about customer service, too.
“We educate our employees about our company values. Who is Telle Tire? Why are we successful? Why is it important to have personal experience and all the goodwill that has been built over the years, and really make sure that these values align,” says Aaron. The easiest way to sum it up is: How would you treat your mother, father, brother or sister if they came to the store? What is right? what is wrong? Make the right decision and make the decision now. We will support you on that.”
“We don’t go hungry”
If you’re new to Telle Tire & Auto Centers, you’ll quickly learn that packing a lunch every day may no longer be necessary. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to eat – you don’t want that bounty of edible offerings from satisfied customers going down the drain.
It doesn’t matter which of the 18 sites you’re operating from, it seems to be a borderline tradition for Telle Tire customers to show their appreciation for the consistent, quality and customized service they receive with each visit.
“We don’t go hungry, especially around the holidays,” laughs Obits, director of operations for the services division at Telle Tire. “It’s funny because I’ll be in Oakville [Missouri] The store and customers will bring the food, but then I will have to go to Sappington [Missouri] Store there too. I’m like “Oh my God, where did you get those?” And our staff behind the counter will say that customers brought them. And we just have that depth of customer, and we know them so well. They have come to us for generations.”
Strategic Marketing Acquisition
Telle Tire has grown steadily and strategically through acquisitions for over a decade, and this results in unique storefronts and layouts at each location. Despite this, the Telle Tire team prioritizes cohesive signage, messages and images throughout each store’s website to build brand awareness and consistency in customer expectations.
For example, each Telle Tire site includes:
- Telle Tire Comparison – To actually show and educate customers about the importance of tread depth
- Telle Tire Letters – Focus on customer testimonials, experiences and expertise
- Telle Tire mural and fourth generation messaging – Emphasizes a company’s longevity built on integrity and long-term customer relationships
- Clean and welcoming lobby with bathroom access
In addition, Telle Tire continues to this day to use the company’s 80-year-old logo in all types of advertising, including print, web, and social media.
Telle Tire was also one of the finalists for the 2021 Top Shop.