Third-generation business leader Don Barnes III always knew he wanted to go into the family trade. Barnes, president of Allen Park, Mich.-based Belle Tire, saw his family’s passion for the business and was drawn in.
“One thing that I really love was the passion and enthusiasm my grandfather had for the business and my dad and uncle had for the business,” he says. “Through them, I got to see how incredible the business is and how by doing the right thing and growing the business we’re able to impact the lives of so many.”
“From our customers, being able to solve their problems,” Barnes continues, “to the fact that we were able to create thousands of jobs for people. To me that represents an incredible opportunity and responsibility.”
Barnes has been working full time for Belle Tire for more than 15 years. He started working as a tire tech at one of the company’s busiest stores when he was 17. From there Barnes continued to work as a salesman while attending Michigan State University and upon graduation joined his family’s leadership program where he worked brief periods in each position within the company.
“Through the program I learned how the business runs, and also how everything we do is interconnected. How one decision or one process impacts the lives of so many others,” he shares. “Understanding how everything is interconnected helps us to create better processes to streamline all of our workflow.”
More than just being proud to be a tire dealer, Barnes is proud to be part of a company that employs some of the best people in the area.
“We have an incredible bunch of people working for us that are hardworking, family-oriented, and have tremendous care and passion,” he says. “I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has all our people aligned to do the right thing – taking care of the customer. The fact that we get to sell tires and fix the cars is something, but working with people that have the same vision, enthusiasm, and passion for doing that is why I’m proud to be a tire dealer.”
As Barnes continues to work for and grow his family’s business, he’ll continue develop his own business voice and strategies.
“I think so many next generation owners are proud of the business, proud of the legacy that maybe a parent or uncle or family created and it casts this shadow. They almost try to emulate the same behavior that maybe a father or uncle created, but that may not be true to themselves,” Barnes explains. “One of the things I’ve tried to work really hard on is being true to myself. I’m not going to be Don Jr. or Bob Barnes, I have to be Don III.”
Barnes says developing your own self-identity is important for anyone succeeding in a family business. He hopes that while growing his own identity he can build on the success of all the “giants” who came before him at Belle Tire.
“I have to take all the ethics and fundamentals, all of the core values of the organization, and continue to live and breathe them. Meanwhile, I have to continue to figure out how we can be better for our customers,” he says.