Faith, hope, love: Triple Tire builds a Top Shop on three simple principles

Faith, hope, love: Triple Tire builds a Top Shop on three simple principles

The husband and wife team have only about a year’s worth of tire dealing under their belts, yet they managed to nearly double their first-year sales expectations.

Husband and wife Jake and Allie Silbernagel had joked for years that they could never survive as business partners, and as of early 2022, they’d certainly never had a conversation about owning their own tire business. But by Easter, a short conversation in a goat barn paired with a little divine intervention changed everything.

“There was a place a couple of miles from my house called Noble’s Tire Service. I was just praying one day about what our life would look like as husband and wife with our kids, and out of nowhere the Lord just popped into my head and said, ‘You guys should buy Noble’s,’” Jake says. “I reflected on it for a few days, and then one day as Allie was doing chores in the morning, I’m like, ‘Hey, I think we should buy Noble’s Tire.’”

“Imagine this,” Allie adds. “It’s Easter weekend. We’re getting ready for the holiday. I have 30 goats in the barn that need their stalls reset. On top of this, when Jake told me, ‘Hey, I want to buy this business,’ I couldn’t help but laugh so hard because, yes, I adore Jake and I think he’s the best, but it’s been a joke for years that we’ll never run a business together, that we need to have some separation of our lives.”

An hour’s worth of chores and one prayer session later, and the Silbernagels had a plan in motion to buy and run their own tire shop in New Richmond, WI – known today as Triple Tire. Moreover, with just over a year of business operation experience under their belts, the business is such a success that Triple Tire has been named this year’s K&M Top Shop winner.

“Now, I just picture God laughing at me for a decade knowing what his plan was,” Allie says.

K&M-Triple-Tire-Sign

Fueled by faith

The Silbernagels say Triple Tire would have never existed if it weren’t for their steady, ongoing faith that God’s hand would be guiding their every move.

Jake’s introduction to the tire industry began in 2010 just after he’d finished college, when he became a technician with Bauer Built Tire & Service in St. Paul, MN. He quickly moved to an inside sales job and eventually to an outside sales position. Although there were low expectations as the position wasn’t typically a high money maker, Jake thrived and rose to number two in sales in the company.

“Then, a friend of mine who was in management at Bauer Built started his own tire shop. He brought me in after two years, and I got to see that shop grow from an infant to a very large commercial truck tire facility – and that’s really what started to open my eyes a little bit,” he says. “We moved to New Richmond three years ago, and there was a place a couple of miles from our house called Noble’s Tire Service. I’d heard of them, but I had never sold anything to them. I started stopping by trying to solicit their commercial truck tire business but got absolutely nowhere. I stopped in every other week, but they wouldn’t buy anything from me. Super nice folks, just zero traction on the sales front. I kept stopping by and talking to them and seeing how their business was going. It wasn’t long after that I had the thought that we should buy Noble’s.

“Once I talked to Allie, she agreed without knowing anything about them,” Jake continues. “She didn’t know what the store looked like, what it would cost – not even that it was for sale.”

The couple agreed they would be comfortable taking over the business within the next few years and that Jake would call the owner of the store on Monday. But, as fate would have it, the Silbernagels ended up with just about as much time to decide whether to buy as they gave to their initial decision to inquire whether Noble’s could be sold.

“I called, and I’m like, ‘So, I’ve been calling your store in Richmond recently and I don’t want to insult you or anything, but I just prayed about it and I heard from the Lord that I should approach you about buying this business,” Jake said. “The owner said, ‘I’ll sell it to you right now.’ So, all of a sudden, I’m calling my bank saying, ‘I need to borrow a whole bunch of money.’”

Jake says he initially had no intentions of involving Allie, a stay-at-home mom, in the day-to-day dealings of the business.

“Leading up to the purchase date I asked Jake, ‘Are you sure you’re not going to need me there for the business side of things?’ And Jake’s like, ‘No, I got this,’” Allie says. “Then, on literally day one, he’s like ‘Yeah, you need to be here.’”

The couple quickly fell into the swing of their new roles around the shop. Jake spends most of his time facilitating sales, ordering tires, changing tires and managing the shop. Allie, who has a background as an insurance agent, spends most of her time behind the scenes working out Triple Tire’s business operations, accounting, marketing and branding, as well as working the front desk. Today the business also has seven full-time staff members and six part-time staff members. Even the Silbernagel’s three girls – ages 8, 10 and 12 – make themselves useful by keeping the shop’s bathrooms clean.

“There’s conveniently three bathrooms and we have three kids,” Allie laughs.

K&M-Triple-Tire-Girls-1400

Jake and Allie say they see Triple Tire as their “mission field,” where they can act in the best interest of the Lord first and in the interest of their pocketbooks second.

“God plays such a huge role in it,” Allie says. “Some people go overseas for their mission and we just have this little tire shop in New Richmond, WI. But it’s amazing because with just the amount of foot traffic we get in a day, we’ve had the opportunity to pray over lots of different people, even our staff.”

“This is the Lord’s business, we just steward it,” Jake adds. “The work that we can do here and the responses and the conversations that get to be had are amazing. I’m clear with our guys when we hire them – I’m not going to force it down their throats, but faith will be part of your employment here. You will hear us pray before staff meetings. Pretty much anytime we get together and sit down for any amount of time, we always open it in prayer.”

K&M-Triple-Tire-Staff-1400

Holding on with hope – and then some

Jake and Allie may only have about a year’s worth of tire dealing under their belts, but from day one they’ve implemented strategies that have instilled within them confident expectations for success.

The Silbernagels say they realized right away that if anything was going to make them stand out against their competition, it would be their staff. Triple Tire inherited three Noble’s Tire staff members and credits them as the biggest driving force behind maintaining the previous owners’ customer base.

When Jake and Allie took over Noble’s Tire, the business mainly served the PLT tire market, with approximately 90% of sales going to consumers and the other 10% going to farmers on the ag tire side. Today, thanks to Jake’s heavy background in commercial tire sales, Triple Tire’s tire sales breakdown is closer to 50% consumer, 25% commercial and 25% ag – without compromising any of those original consumer sales numbers.

Altogether, Triple Tire has nearly doubled its first-year sales expectations and a strong, supportive staff has been necessary to support this growth. The staff has nearly tripled since the store became Triple Tire, and the Silbernagels say their strong company culture has done wonders for bringing new potential employees through the door.

“I think probably the greatest compliment that we’ve received across the board is that we have staff members who are bringing in people from their lives to work here. One guy brought us his brother, his brother-in-law, and his good friend. And, his dad just came in yesterday looking for a job,” Allie says. “It is just really validating that we are creating a culture here where people want to be. We believe that taking exceptional care of our staff always carries over to our customers. It makes them more efficient and provides better lead times on projects. They make fewer mistakes and are more willing to go above and beyond. We have not kept the success of this business to ourselves and have poured back into the staff we have.”

K&M-Technician-Triple-Tire

Triple Tire currently has two TIA-certified technicians with one being a certified instructor, and the store has plans to TIA certify all of its employees this winter. Triple Tire has also invested in its alignment technology with the Hunter Alignment advanced training program.

The couple also goes out of their way to hire younger technicians with little experience to help provide them exposure to the automotive industry. Sometimes these technicians are hired fresh-faced, with no prior knowledge of tools or vehicles whatsoever.

“One of my best guys right now is a high school student. I had to teach him righty tighty, lefty loosey every day. He didn’t know the difference between a tire and a wheel six months ago,” Jake says. “We just drilled lawnmower flat repairs and tucked tubes in front farm tires for six hours a day. I had a damaged BMW wheel here, a 45 series, 21-in. BMW wheel, and I made him do that two or three times on and off every day before he started working on customer tires; now he can do it with a blindfold on.”

“Empowering youth and the next generation is something we both agree is of the utmost importance,” Allie adds. “We believe that this will also have a positive impact on our community. Right now we are sponsoring one of our employees as he attends diesel mechanic school.”

Jake and Allie say they value their staff’s social expertise just as much as they do their technical training. Staff members are taught to take excellent notes on every customer – even about seemingly unimportant details. This practice allows any team member to assist no matter who answers the phone. The Triple Tire staff is also sure to walk customers through every step of the work going into their car. The company’s front desk team does their best to always greet customers with a smile.

Given the area’s small-town feel, the Silbernagels say that one of the shop’s biggest strengths is its relationships with its customers. Jake and Allie both have family from the area, and those long-standing ties are important in a community where families have lived for multiple generations.

“For example, my stepmom is the agent here in town for American Family Insurance. She’s been here for 25 years. Both Jake’s family and my family originated in Somerset, which is just one town over. New Richmond’s growing, but it’s really a small-town focus,” Allie says. “A lot of the people will come in and say something like, ‘Oh, you’re Doug’s daughter? I knew you back when…’ or ‘Oh, you guys are Laughing Horses Ranch.’ My family has a ranch here in town where we started our 501(c)(3) this year and we have already made such a connection with people. Our church has been here in town for over a decade so there were a lot of people who knew us even before we started this business. I think that made a big difference.”

K&M-Triple-Tire-Counter-1400

Sharing the love

People first, profit second. That is the mantra of Triple Tire. It’s literally written into the shop’s business plan.

“In this industry – and I can speak on it because I’ve done it – there are so many auto shops and places where you walk in and the guy might hardly look at you and ask, ‘Yeah, what do you need?’ I’ve worked in those,” Jake says. “We make eye contact. We smile. We’re genuine. We want everybody that walks in that door to feel like they’re our mother or father. It’s all about people over profit. We want to know if there is something bigger going on. It is a small community, so we know a lot of these people outside of here. We’re just invested. If you come in and say, ‘I really need you guys to handle this right now. I have to get my mom to chemo,’ we’re going to get working right away, and we’re going to remember the next time you come in. We’ll be sure to ask, ‘How’s your mom doing? How are you doing?’”

Word of mouth is by far the company’s best marketing tool, but when Triple Tire invests marketing dollars, Allie says it’s important that it’s done in a loving way. To date, the company has sent one mass mailing, but instead of a typical coupon that might have a decent chance of hitting the waste bin on arrival, Triple Tire sent out a 10% off coupon for oil changes on what was otherwise a regular Christmas card featuring the Silbernagel family.

Jake and Allie have also been prominent volunteers at their local church for over a decade, which they say is a great way to meet new people and make a good impression on current customers. New Richmond may be an up-and-coming community, but the Silbernagels know full well the power of small-town service.

The couple also works closely with other farms in the area to help grow both their consumer and ag tire business, and Laughing Horses Ranch has grown to include a ministry element as well, which Allie runs. Triple Tire also donates the use of the building to El Camino, a local Spanish-speaking church, on Sundays free of charge.

The Silbernagels say they’ve had new customers walk into their shop and say that they can physically feel that they are followers of Christ without being prompted. Allie says it’s all about how they present themselves and how they engage with the customer.

“The No. 1 thing setting us apart is our relationship with the Lord. That is the No. 1 driving factor behind everything that we do here. Apart from God, we would not own this business, nor do we believe that we would have had the success that we have had,” Allie says. “This belief in the Lord has allowed us to have the courage to not only provide for people’s vehicles, but also their souls. We have had the opportunity to have many great conversations about salvation and have gotten to pray over people who are having some of the worst days in their lives. We view this business as our mission field and try our best to steward it in a way that honors the Lord first and our bottom line second. We always try to lead with love – we know that sounds cheesy, but honesty is another part of our leading customer service.”

K&M-Triple-Tire-Warehouse-1400

An eye on (smart) expansion

Triple Tire had a fantastic first year in business, but Jake and Allie aren’t resting on their laurels. Recognizing the need in the area and capitalizing on the relationships Jake has made in commercial tires, the couple hopes the store can expand into diesel service and maintenance in the coming years. Instead of settling on a specific time they’d like to bring the plan to fruition, the Silbernagels agree it can’t be done until the business is “cashflow positive without burning everybody out, including ourselves and our employees,” Jake says.

“What we’re looking to do is figure out how we can make this sustainable without us having our hands in it as much as we’ve had,” Allie says. “I don’t see a point in the near future when we’re not working 40 to 50 hours a week, but staying away from 60 or 70 would be great.”

“We don’t have a ‘let’s conquer the next continent’ type of mentality. We really don’t,” Jake says. “I know a lot of people who say ‘if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking,’ but at the end of the day we’re here to make sure our guys are well-fed and taken care of.”

Editor’s Note: Every year, Tire Review partners with K&M Tire to conduct a version of our Top Shop program, strictly for K&M dealers. We would like to recognize at an industry level this year’s winner of K&M’s Mr. Tire/Big 3 Tire Top Shop Award.

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