At the crossroads of growing up in the family business and putting a college degree to work, Brian Chase, the fourth generation of the Rice Tire family, had a tough decision to make. But, he’s proof positive that “home is where your heart is.”
The great grandson of Donald B. Rice, Sr., who founded Rice Tire in 1956, Brian graduated from Virginia Tech with a mechanical engineering degree and worked in the engineering field for several years. Two years ago, he shifted gears and rejoined Rice Tire as a regional sales manager—and hasn’t looked back.
The opportunity to return to work in the family business to help continue its legacy was a big draw, but there was a “little family pressure mixed in, as well,” chuckles Brian, in reference to his father’s coaxing.
His love for the business stemmed from working in the warehouse and making deliveries in 2008 when he was 16, and it’s those roots that brought him back home to Rice Tire.
“The people we have here, I’ve known a lot of them my whole life… it’s just such a great group of employees we have, and getting to work with them is really special,” says Brian.
Another driving force was the opportunity to grow the business, with a “sky as the limit” mindset that not everyone can say about their job, he adds. “The older I got, the more it became clear that this was going to be the right place for me… for my future and for the long haul.”
In his current role, he oversees a 10-member outside sales team that calls on fleets to prospect for new customers and maintain existing business. With customers throughout the mid-Atlantic region, Frederick, Maryland-based Rice Tire splits its business as 75% commercial and 25% retail tire sales and service.
Brian has “earned the respect of everyone in the company. His words and actions embody the culture we want to foster at Rice Tire,” says his father and Rice Tire CEO Chris Chase, who proudly adds, “he perfectly fits the Club 3633 mold.”
At the age of 28, one of Brian’s biggest challenges is rebuilding a sales force that was hit by a rash of retirements about the time he came on board, explains Chris. “He has recruited and trained several very promising candidates in a short period of time, and has used his networking skills, with involvement in numerous industry groups, to generate sales and relationships with many customers we weren’t previously servicing.”
Brian says networking with industry groups such as HCCA (Heavy Construction Contractors Association); MMTA (Maryland Material Transportation Association); MMT (Maryland Motor Truck); and MTBMA (Maryland Transportation Builders Materials Association) gives him the opportunity to gather ideas and best practices to implement at Rice Tire.
Through professional connections such as these, complemented by ongoing efforts to improve as a leader, Brian feels he’s integral to the culture at Rice Tire where he says team members are given the utmost respect and are encouraged to provide feedback. Leading by example, he also works hard to understand any challenges his employees have, and to be a part of the solution. “While we expect them to work hard, we want them to feel that we’re behind them and they’re not just another number to us,” says Brian.
Rice Tire employs 240 people in 11 locations (six stores in Maryland and five in Virginia) and two retread shops. Forty work in the retread shops and the other 200 are split between its tire shops and corporate office.
Brian is an advocate for implementing a proper onboarding process—something he feels directly impacts employee satisfaction, retention and success. That onboarding, he advises, should include spending time with company veterans who are able to lend the best practical knowledge to new hires and teach them things that are best learned through hands-on instruction and experience.
All this effort pays big dividends, too. “If you treat your employees right, you know they’ll treat the customers right,” says Brian. And, with more than 90% of Rice Tire’s business being repeat business, there is a lot of truth to that mentality.
Brian is also a huge proponent of “investing in your business to grow your business and propel it to the next level.” He’s doing that through technology enhancements, such as upgrading Rice Tire’s point-of-sale system and implementing new apps that can be used for digital vehicle inspections.
“I’m very fortunate to be where I am with the company at my age… it’s easier to have that long-term vision of where I want the company to be in 10 or 20 years, as opposed to 10-20 days,” Brian says with a smile, as he looks into the future with optimism and admiration for the business he’s known most of his life.