Sweeping warehouses and stacking tires tend to be considered rites of passage for many kids who grew up with families involved in the tire business. However, few who go on to become independent tire dealers themselves can say they were doing much selling when they were children.
But that’s how the story goes for Craig Bruneel, owner of 11 Bruneel Point S Tire & Auto Service stores in Idaho. While his father, Frank, was busy selling tires at the first Bruneel Tire Service store established in 1966 in Lewiston, Idaho, Craig saw his own sales opportunity in the old, worn-out tubes that were no longer safe to use inside the tire.
“I grew up in the tire business when I was a little kid. I’d go down there and climb up and down inside the tires,” Craig says. “Well, I remember in the early ’70s, I’d go down there and take all of the old, wrinkled tubes out of the trucks, patch them up, and put a sign out in my front yard that said ‘swimming tubes for sale.’”
That drive to make a sale is no doubt a factor in what makes Craig’s business successful today, but another, no less important one is creating an environment where employees feel like they are working for the Bruneel Point S family.
“We’re interested in success, certainly, and finances drive that. But we’ve got lots of fathers and sons working for us, and some of them are young – you know, [they] are just learning the business,” Craig says. “And so, we try to foster an environment where people can meet their personal goals, which is congruent to our corporate goals of growth and success.”
A big part of creating that atmosphere comes from offering his staff ample training opportunities, Craig adds, an area in which the company’s operations director, David Warwick, is heavily involved. This means making sure all employees understand each product and brand in stock; Bruneel Point S stores primarily carry Nokian, Hankook, Toyo and Milestar brands.
However, Craig says his company’s biggest training focus revolves around treating the customer like they’re part of the family too.
“We focus on providing full service to our customers. We want to try to create a relationship like our customers would have with their doctor,” he says. “You have to trust your doctor. We need to be trustworthy, and so we’re always looking to make sure that we take care of our customers accurately, effectively and help satisfy their needs.
“I’ve got people who come to me all the time and say, ‘what’s the best brand of tire to buy?’ But it’s not ‘what’ you should buy, it’s ‘who’ you should buy from. Because a good tire dealer is going to answer your questions, and he’s going to provide you the right product for your car.”
While Craig has successfully built his business around making his employees and customers feel like family, he says, ultimately, the future of that business will fall into the hands of his actual family — in particular, his children. He has five kids, and he plans to one day turn the keys over to his boys: Mitch, Riley and Nathan.
“My real goal has always been to teach my children and my employees the correct principles and let them govern themselves. So I’m bringing my children in now so that they understand the skills and everything that I have to offer,” Craig says. “My dad taught me a lot. He’s 84 and I still talk to him about the business. He’s really the reason I am where I am. And I hope the boys continue on, and I’m striving to teach them all I know.”