Calling relationships the key to running a successful business is common.
For Howard Fleischmann, CEO of Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair, however, this was more than a mantra. When he talks about what’s making his 30-year-old family business humming, he never uses the word “relationship” and instead says “take care of yourself” and “respect”.
It started when he joined the company in 1995, four years after his daughter and son-in-law started it. At that time, Fleischmann was just selling its long-standing auto accessories business and was hired to help open a second location.
“I used to sell to people like me,” he said. “It made (the transition) easy because I saw the problems on this side from the other side. I was able to close a few gaps. “
Fleischmann knew the weaknesses and strengths of the system. On that basis, he prioritized treatment of delivery drivers, who typically received the brunt of the recipient’s wrath when parts arrived late or some other mishap occurred. Fleischmann knew that the drivers would provide better service to the accounts they didn’t black out.
“I started to show respect to the drivers because they have nothing to do with how the part got there late. That made us a preferred delivery location, so we always received excellent service, ”remembers Fleischmann. “And it made life better.”
Next on the priority list was parts suppliers, traditionally the last to be paid in the industry. Fleischmann made sure they were the second to be paid – after the employees.
“You take care of her because you’re out of business without her,” he said.
This formula laid a foundation for how Community Tire Pros functioned from the top down, with the idea of creating a positive mindset that permeates all levels right down to the customer.
It worked. The first year of Community Tire Pros generated revenue of $ 640,000, Fleischmann said. In 2019 it was $ 12 million.
Fleischmann is the CEO of the company founded by his daughter Kristie Knudsen, son-in-law Ron Knudsen and Ron’s brother Lyle Knudsen. The three original owners are no longer involved in the company.
This year the company is celebrating its 30th anniversary with six locations throughout the valley. It also has partnerships with Ed Whitehead’s tire professionals who have four locations nationwide.
In honor of the milestone, Community Tire Pros are offering perks to thank customers for their support. The company is also working with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control to fund adoption fees for a range of long-term homes and pets with special needs from its monthly adoption events this year.
Expand beyond tires
Before 1999, the company only carried out car repairs. Given the changes in the industry and the need to adapt to competitors who performed oil changes and similar services while waiting, the family stepped into the tire side.
Two of its locations maintain tires for city and district vehicles. Overall, the tire facet accounts for 40% of the car repair business, the rest.
“We can help people because we repair cars as if we were repairing them for ourselves or our own family members,” said Fleischmann.
This is one of the reasons Kay Eskridge brought their vehicles to Community Tire Pros and has recommended the company for nearly 20 years.
Service is something that Eskridge values and that has made her a loyal customer. She has visited several places and described that they all have comfortable waiting rooms and ambiences that do not make her feel like she is in a dirty tire shop.
Employees have gained their trust by not talking over their heads.
“I don’t know a winged lipstick, but I don’t want to have to know. That’s why I go here because I don’t need to know, “said Eskridge, who lives in Phoenix. “It’s like a big brother is taking care of me. I actually feel like family. “
She admires Fleischmann and his company’s long history of community support and contributions to nonprofits. She mentioned his support for women like Helping Hands for single mothers, which benefit low-income single mothers.
“As a businesswoman, everyone who stands up for women means a lot to me. He uses his business out there to help the church, and they take it seriously. I want to support that, ”she said. “They are good people and they care, and you feel that you are the moment you walk into one of their stores.”
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
It may be a one-year 30th birthday party, but the trip didn’t always go smoothly. Or solemn. Sometimes it was downright tricky. And that was before COVID-19.
Fleischmann spoke about the obstacles his company had overcome to get here, such as the death of CFO Kim Sigman on January 1 and 2008-2009 on the effects of the recession that crippled and ended many small businesses.
And there was the $ 1 million internal embezzlement in 2003 that nearly destroyed the company. It also stopped Fleischmann’s plan to withdraw. After those involved were released, it was time to rebuild.
He relied on the formula, which proved solid in the early years. Sellers stayed with him and worked on it. He made sure that the employees were paid. Fleischmann and his business partners have changed their lifestyle a little.
The business rebounded, generated more income and added more businesses.
“We can laugh about it now … but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he said. “We made a good living. I didn’t get rich, but that was never in my pursuits. “
When the 2020 pandemic broke out, Fleischmann was in new but not unknown territory. March and April were the toughest months, with most people not driving and having their cars serviced. Business picked up, however, in the summer when drivers got out and found the heat was draining the batteries, the AC systems needed a boost, and the tires needed servicing or replacement.
Fleischmann didn’t just focus on the end result. Life and business experiences have led him to other causes.
Fleischmann and his community’s support for the community and non-profit organizations have received awards and prizes. As well as helping hands for single mothers, Fleischmann is also a diversity champion for the LGBTQ community, even honored by Phoenix Pride for his efforts. He is also the first straight man to serve on the board of the Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber of Commerce.
Fleischmann described this commitment as one of the most rewarding things in his life. He admitted he wasn’t always open-minded before getting involved with the LGBTQ community and their causes. He is grateful and happy that this is no longer the case.
“Hey, you’re growing up. I had the opportunity to grow up in my later years, ”said Fleischmann, 70. After a pause, he refers to his wife who is nearby. “Pat is about to tear apart.”
Fleischmann’s wife Pat supports him in these efforts. She sparked the idea for the 30th anniversary events because she has had so many others over the years. One of these is the Community Tire Salsa Garden, located across from corporate headquarters on Durango Street and Central Avenue.
When the company moved into the neighborhood, Fleischmann was told that the area was a food wasteland, which meant that no fresh produce was available within a five-mile radius. Fleischmann always gave back to the communities where his stores were located. He wasn’t sure how to do this. This gave him an idea.
He recounted the conversation he had with his wife for 15, a significant other for 22, and a best friend for nearly 40.
One night I said to Pat, ‘I got it. I’ll give something back by growing fruits and vegetables for them, ”he recalled. “It lit a fire within her.”
Water was submerged and 9,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables were planted. The community garden also supports the Joshua Tree Feeding Program.
Fleischmann sees retirement in the near future. His son Howard Jr. is ready to take the helm.
“The good thing is he’s better than me. He gets what we stand for, ”said Fleischmann. “Part of our culture is that we never take money from a community without giving something back.”
What: Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair
Where: Six locations in Phoenix, Glendale
Interesting statistics: The global auto repair and maintenance market is projected to reach $ 828.6 billion in 2023, according to Research and Markets.