A successful tire dealership isn’t just about the financials, the number of locations or the awards on the showroom wall. And while all those things certainly reflect success, it’s truly about dedication, passion and a desire to put the community and employees first that make a business successful.
McMahon Tire Service Inc./McMahon’s Best-One Tire of Fort Wayne, Ind., has all these attributes and more, making it no surprise our team of independent judges chose the dealership as a Tire Review Top Shop Finalist.
“I am so proud,” says Kim McMahon, president of McMahon’s. “It makes me proud for my father-in-law and my mother-in-law who worked in the business also, and all my employees who have worked here. I am so proud of the company and our employees.”
Behind the success of the dealership are McMahon’s 70 some employees, Kim McMahon and primary owners Patrick McMahon III, known affectionately as Bubba, and Randy Geyer. (Through McMahon’s Best-One connection, Mark Zurcher also owns a small share of the company.)
In business for 47 years, the four-location, second-generation tire dealer primarily focuses on the commercial tire business with Randy and Bubba running more of the commercial and wholesale side and Kim heading the retail arm. However, there are still a bit of both sides of the tire business shared between locations.
With most of their revenues annually coming predominately from tire sales, including Bridgestone, Firestone, Michelin, Hankook, Continental and Toyo tires, the tire dealer stikes a balance with a 55% tires and 45% service mix.
Today, the business is arguably one of the largest truck tire dealers in the state of Indiana.
Landing in Fort Wayne
A member of both the Best-One Group and K&M’s Big 3 Tire marketing group programs, the dealership goes back to the infancy of the Best-One Group with founder Patrick McMahon Jr., Bubba’s father, working with the original Best-One members at a store in Terre Haute and later managing a series of Firestone stores. In 1969, he had the opportunity to own his own retail store in downtown Fort Wayne and became an independent tire dealer.
“He just wanted to get closer to Detroit and his family so in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a store became available. My dad bought it, so my dad’s like, ‘Yup I just want to get closer to Detroit.’ So he drove from Evansville up here and this is where we ended up – all based on getting back to Detroit,” Bubba laughs.
Patrick Jr. eventually added a second downtown store and the business flourished. Throughout his teenage years Bubba got more exposure to the business, working on weekends and even leaving school at times to unload tires.
“In the old days my dad used to call the school and say, ‘Hey, two trailer loads of tires showed up, send my son with a couple kids.’ And the principal was like, ‘Oh, yeah, go ahead and unload some tires and we’ll see you in a couple of hours.’ So I used to leave school, unload tires and come back. It was just that way. That’s how everything was put together,” Bubba recalls.
After going to college on a baseball scholarship, Bubba came back home to tell his father he was going to pursue a banking career, admitting he didn’t care much for the retail business. Patrick Jr. was crushed, but came up with a solution: start a commercial tire business.
Divided, but United
It wasn’t until 1988 that McMahon’s opened its first truck service center, with Bubba getting more footing in the business, thus preparing him to take over when his father retired years later.
In 11 years the business outgrew the location and a huge truck tire center was built right outside of the downtown area in eyesight of the freeway. Dubbed the “truck center,” the large location deals mainly with big semi tires and alignments with four drive-through bays, but also has a wholesale division with passenger and light truck tires, plus two bays for cars and light trucks. Additionally, the center has 13 service trucks for commercial calls and four service trucks for OTR work.
“So we call it controlled chaos,” says Bubba. “It was hard to mix truck drivers with retail people and it’s funny when they get in the waiting room together, they start to talk. It’s fascinating to hear the conversations…but it’s worked out. For every truck customer, they also have a wife or a daughter with a car so they send them here because they trust us, so that seems to work very well.”
The company has since outgrown that large truck center location, and opened a fourth commercial location this year that deals exclusively with trailer repair and truck mechanical repair, and some tires.
On the retail side of the business much has changed since Patrick Jr. opened the first store. Changes downtown led McMahon’s to search for a new venue. McMahon’s found a Firestone company store at the Glenbrook Square Mall, and turned it into the company’s huge retail space. The location has 14 bays, three of which are dedicated to trucks and five for tire installs. The rest of the bays handle tire work as needed, but are used primary for service work.
McMahon’s original location was sold to Starbucks and in 2006, the other downtown store was sold off so the city could build Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Today, McMahon’s is a proud supporter of the TinCups, the Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets.
Kim joined the family business in 1999. She was working as a banker in the trust department of a local bank when the bank was bought out. She decided she was ready for a change. Her mother- and father-in-law asked her to join the company and the rest is history. Kim’s leadership has been a driving force with rebranding the locations to focus on the McMahon’s name, the immense success of the mall location and handling the numbers that often drive the tire business.
Lifting Up Fort Wayne
For McMahon’s, Fort Wayne is a special area to do business and a place they are constantly working to improve through community involvement.
The McMahons and Geyer have been heavily involved in supporting the city’s revitalization and believe it’s not just dollars that go toward helping people; donating time is key.
“Fort Wayne is an interesting area and to me it feels specific to Fort Wayne in that there is a lot of community involvement and community pride,” Kim says.
Fort Wayne and New Haven Chamber members, the list of community involvement and fundraisers is extensive with various food/toy drives, benefits and silent auctions.
The company supports Fort 4 Fitness as an event sponsor with more than 7,500 participants; Red Nose Day; the local event Cheese & Quackers, raising $34,500 in support of SCAN’s mission to prevent child abuse and neglect; Business Women as a sponsor for the annual publication that highlights women in business; the MDA Walk in Fort Wayne as team leader in support of a McMahon’s employee, helping to raise $80,063 with 562 total participants; Free Tire Recycling on Earth Day, recycling more than 3,000 tire in 2016; and more local events and charities.
“I think that the importance in giving back to the community is something that we’ve just recently started focusing on in the last two or three years in putting an actual plan in place,” Kim says. “We try to be involved not by just financially supporting organizations, but also putting some of our time and energy into it.”
While the company focuses on many different charities and organizations with its community service, helping local high school sports, military families and cancer charities are the biggest areas of charity work for McMahon’s.
The company supports local high schools with its ESPN Performance of the Week sponsorship and ESPN Team of the Week sponsorship, in which it also provides t-shirts to a team each week. McMahon’s also supported the Colts Junior Fan of the Game through a Best-One sponsorship with the Indianapolis Colts that gave customers the opportunity to register their child in-store to be the Junior Fan of the Game at a future Colts game.
McMahon’s is a big supporter of Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, and in the past it’s been an IPFW Pink Out Sponsor, donating $1 from every oil change to benefit the Vera Bradley Breast Cancer Foundation, totaling $3,000 in donations.
Additionally, McMahon’s works hard to donate funds for those who’ve served and the Associated Churches Military families. The dealership was a $25,000 title sponsor of the Jeep Jam that benefits the Associated Churches; is a $2,000 annual sponsor for the Le Tour De Fort that benefits K9’s for Warriors; sponsored the Father’s Day 5k to benefit the Associated Churches; plus, the company holds the McMahon’s Golf Outing every year and in 2015 raised $7,000 for Associated Churches.
“All we did was invite our customers and we had the Associated Churches people there and we made it well known that this was something that we believe in,” Bubba says.
What if We Surprise You
There are a lot of reasons McMahon’s has been a success. Word-of-mouth is huge, but the company also advertises on TV and the radio, with a heavy focus on using social media with its Twitter and Facebook pages to announce deals, fundraisers and honor its employees; however, the core of McMahon’s success is all about relationships.
McMahon’s doesn’t just want to gain customers, they want to build loyal friendships with their customers and by doing so the customer is the priority.
“Customers are No. 1, customers are No.1, customers are always right,” Bubba says is his customer service philosophy. “Everyone here knows that they need to treat the customer with respect and I think that that is instilled from the top to the bottom. We treat our employees with respect but they also understand that customers are No. 1.”
Bubba also notes that admitting faults and fixing problems is an important way the business keeps customers’ trust.
“The biggest thing is honesty,” says Geyer. “If there’s an issue with a customer or something went wrong you can’t try and hide it, you have to be forward with it because if you do try to hide it, it’s going to bite you some time along the way. So you just have to be upfront with people, and I think that goes well with customers.”
“If there’s ever a question of did we do something wrong, we take care of it and our customers know that if there’s even the slightest doubt that they can depend on us,” Kim adds.
McMahon’s also monitors company reviews closely to make sure their customers are happy and offers an SMS (text) club for promotions, reminders and special offers to keep customers coming back. Plus, customers at the mall location are often driven to the mall while their car is serviced, then picked up when they are finished shopping – an added touch that goes a long way.
In more serious situations, McMahon’s is always there for its customers.
“A lot of times we get someone who blows a tire on a Saturday night and they’re very upset or they don’t know why their car didn’t start and we catch them at their total worst,” says Bubba. “We just try to calm them down and take care of the problem.”
McMahon’s always strives to surprise customers with the level of customer service it delivers.
Kim, who has “What if we surprise you,” written on the back wall of her office, takes this saying to heart. “Most customers would almost rather go to the dentist then come in and shop for tires or have their car serviced, and I want them to be pleasantly surprised that it can be a great experience.”
Geyer adds that the dealership is very family oriented and will always go beyond to help its customers, even if that means offering additional services.
“We want to be able to take care of the customer when they call, and we almost over-service the customer,” says Geyer. “I think that’s a strong thing for us. Because of that it’s got us a lot of business and kept us a lot of business. We don’t always have to be the cheapest tire guy in town. The fact that we can get them up and going when they need to be, that means something to them.”
Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch
Strong relationships for the dealership also extend to its employees, which are top of mind for Kim and Bubba. Like Kim’s expectations for surprisingly great service, Bubba has a slogan of his own he uses to define the importance of having and keeping good employees.
“Behind me hangs our slogan which is ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch,’” says Bubba. “So, culture is something that we work hard on, because if the culture’s not right, it doesn’t matter what Kim and I say is our strategy.”
The McMahons focus heavily on the importance of hiring employees that fit their customer-centric culture and giving them the tools they need to succeed. All McMahon’s tire techs are TIA certified and mechanics are both ASE certified and TIA certified. Additionally, the sales staff stays current with industry trends through ongoing training through Best-One. Managers are treated more like owners with little oversight and a lot of trust.
McMahon’s is on third- and fourth-generation employees and has four employees who have been with the company for more than 30 years, in addition to Geyer and Bubba. Geyer, whose uncle was an original partner of Patrick McMahon Jr., started from the ground up mounting and dismounting tires in 1982, later moved to sales, then bought into the business in 2014. Like Bubba, Geyer’s only career has been in the tire business.
Investing so much in their employees goes into the future plans for the tire dealership, as well. With Kim and Bubba’s two sons working outside of the tire industry, the pair and Geyer are looking to pass the business onto some of their hardworking employees.
“We’ll be in business almost 50 years. Part of that is because our customers trust us, and part of that is our employees do such a good job of taking care of the customers,” says Kim. “Our customers get used to seeing the same people here and know they can trust them. That goes a long way.”
Editor’s Note: McMahon Tire Service/McMahon’s Best-One Tire also won top honors for K&M’s Mr. Tire/Big 3 Top Shop awards last year and were recognized at the K&M annual dealer meeting in January 2016.