When Rick Lang decided to start his own wholesale business, it wasn’t about selling more tires. Lang’s vision was to create a business, and meaningful relationships, that offer tire dealers much more.
“We thought the dealers needed more. They were looking for more. They were hungry for more, and so we saw an opportunity in the marketplace for a different kind of wholesaler,” Lang says.
He gave dealers in the Midwest more with the creation of Tire Solutions Inc. in 2010. Located in Clearwater, Minn., the family-owned and operated tire distributor not only sells tires, but also offers tire dealers marketing and training opportunities through its own dealer marketing program.
With more than 30 years in the tire industry already under his belt, much of Lang’s life has been devoted to tires. He took a chance on the tire industry to get back to his sales and marketing roots in 1983 when he joined Royal Tire Inc., leaving a job running a retail waterbed store.
“What attracted me was a direct sales position,” he recalls. “It wasn’t that I was looking for tires per se, but somebody approached me, and I knew the person pretty well and I trusted him, and I thought, ‘Well I guess I can try. I can get started and see if it’s right for me.’”
The move was a great fit for Lang. He worked for Royal Tire for 26 years and founded the company’s Tire One program (now owned by U.S. AutoForce, along with Royal Tire’s wholesale unit). His experience at Royal Tire made him no stranger to dealer marketing programs and business operations.
“We were new in business, but not new to the industry and so what really catapulted us in sales and success was the importance of those prior relationships and bringing key people with me when I started this venture.” Lang recalls. “The guys that came with me were industry knowledgeable and had accounts and relationships in the same market so we kind of had a jump-start.”
Creating personal relationships early on became the backbone of Tire Solutions’ success, allowing the company to expand distribution in a few short years to include Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and the upper peninsula of Michigan.
In 2016, the wholesaler doubled the size of its Clearwater warehouse and opened a second location in St. Paul, Minn., to help with the timeliness of Tire Solutions’ deliveries in the metro area. To date the company has more than 1,000 customers and 182 dealers in its marketing group program.
“One of our philosophies is to create win-win relationships,” Lang says. “We’re really big on relationships. We really try to be the best in the world at relationships.”
“We really try to help our customers grow and that’s very important to us because we know if they grow, we grow,” Lang adds. “We are very willing to put the cart before the horse, so to speak, and say, ‘Let’s get them going first. Let’s focus on making our customer successful. Let’s show them how we can grow their business.’”
Tire Solutions’ dealer marketing program, Tire Solutions Installers, is part of how the wholesaler cultivates these relationships. With the associate program, Tire Solutions helps the dealers grow their business with advertising, training, websites and national accounts for oil, parts, credit cards and uniforms.
Lang is proud to be a part of the tire industry and hopes to continue helping tire dealers enhance their business with a focus on digital. He also hopes to eventually see his sons, Cody and Jason, continue the growth of Tire Solutions.
“The tire industry is full of a lot of hardworking people and it’s fun to be associated with people who really take so much pride in their businesses,” Lang says. “Whether they are a retailer or a wholesaler, the industry seems to be very full of people who are very proud of their business, very proud of the customers they have.”