Military Vet, Harvard Grad Sets Sights on Growing with Tire Pros

Military Vet, Harvard Grad Sets Sights on Growing with Tire Pros

With 30 locations under Northern Rock Automotive, Logan Leslie talks about opportunities in tire and auto repair.

Logan Leslie isn’t your average tire guy. In fact, he found his way into the tire business after 18 years of military service, a Harvard law degree and some hard-earned business lessons.

Just two years ago, Logan stumbled into the tire industry after acquiring Carver Tire Pros just south of Atlanta, Georgia. He had never heard of Tire Pros but recognized the profit opportunities in the automotive industry, and later, the endless resources and expertise Tire Pros provides its members. To really understand Logan’s mission of helping veterans, you have to travel back to when he graduated high school and joined the Army on his 17th birthday. Two years later, he was leading soldiers into combat as a sergeant at the age of 19.

“I had literally spent half of my adult life in the military,” said Logan, who spent eight years on active duty and 26 months serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The military has a unique style of leadership and it’s hard to find other places where that applies, but it does in the automotive industry. School was important to me, and it exposed me to various forms of business, and I was always drawn to entrepreneurship.”

Logan used the G.I. Bill to pay for his education at Harvard, where he received an A.B. in Economics, his MBA and J.D. Upon graduation, he started a company called Northern Rock, in 2018 with the goal of buying, operating and growing small businesses. Initially, his ventures were far from automotive—he set out to acquire a wind turbine repair business in Kansas, an industrial diving business and a wildlife fencing business in Florida. However, those deals fell through, and investments in different industries proved challenging for the eager Harvard grad.

“We didn’t have a lot of success, and frankly, we made a lot of mistakes, but I learned a lot of lessons,” he said, including patience, the importance of experience and the importance of building a great culture.

He put those into practice while heading up a security business as he refined his acquisition strategy. This time, “I wanted to be focused” on one industry, he said. Logan found automotive, and the people and recession-proof nature of the business attracted him. He also realized his military style of leadership translated well to the industry.

“I like deals, and I like getting my hands dirty and working in the real economy,” he said. “People that go to Harvard Business School, they’re not a great fit generally (for this industry). They’re trying to do private equity deals that are multi-billion dollars for software companies… Not a lot of them play in the real economy. Small business and blue-collar trades are a big percentage—probably over half—of the American economy and are very lucrative.”

Logan Leslie (center) founder of Northern Rock Automotive, was joined by his executive team at the Tire Pros Conference earlier this year From left: Jesse Reising, Brandon Hulon, Leslie, Jason Sander and Andy Shearer.

His desire to make a name in the space propelled him to search Google for local independent tire and auto repair shops and start cold calling them asking if they were interested in selling their business. The same investors from his earlier ventures backed him with capital, and Logan started making deals.

Northern Rock Automotive acquired its first location, Alpha Automotive, in June 2021, and joined the Tire Pros franchise upon acquiring its second location, Carver Tire Pros. Since then, the company has grown to 30 locations with 22 in Georgia, 4 in Florida and 4 in Tennessee. As of May of this year, it had contracts to buy 22 auto repair shops and for now, the company will look to grow in the Southeast.

Perhaps more important to Logan than the company’s growth is fulfilling his personal mission: Finding work for veterans after service, which he feels are an “underutilized resource when it comes to management and entrepreneurship.”

“I saw people that I very much respected that were leading 200-people organizations in the military and then getting out and being a salesman or a government contractor or something,” he said. “To me, it felt like a tremendous waste of talent… I’m a free-market capitalist guy, and I feel like if you can make a profit on something, and, at the same time, attach a profit motive to a social problem, then it’s the most efficient way of solving that problem.”

Logan said perhaps the hardest part about the automotive industry—and recruiting veterans into it—is teaching the specific skillsets needed to be a technician. To solve this, Logan and his team are building a training center at one of NR Automotive’s locations and writing a playbook. First, they’re tackling processes and procedures for service advisors. Then, they’ll focus on technicians.

As far as the future of the business, Logan knows that growth and expansion will come through acquisition, but he’s careful to put a number to what his business’s success looks like.

“Right now, we don’t want to grow too fast because then your culture and standards suffer,” he said. “I used to have unit count targets, but to me now, those are just vanity metrics. My goal is to just build a long-lasting, large organization that has a good culture. That can be attained at any revenue level.”

Logan credits Tire Pros for giving him the resources, including in marketing and training, to grow his business. He is working on adding Tire Pros branding to his acquired businesses and will add the branding to future locations with a goal of growing NR Automotive in the Tire Pros organization.

“I have been amazed at how tight of an organization it is. It does feel like a family in a lot of ways,” he said. “They’re as equally as supportive and responsive as when we had one shop to now.”

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