COLUMBIA, Mo. — In 2020, when COVID-19 closed businesses and slowed sales, MFA Oil Co. made a commitment to its Big O employees: no layoffs, no furloughs.
The franchisee kept that promise throughout the pandemic, choosing to take a hit to its bottom line rather than let anyone go.
"We had some cash in the bank and we decided we weren't going to let our employees go," Charlie Alexander, senior director of Big O Tires operations for MFA, said.
"We didn't think that was the right thing to do by them, with everything they've given to us. ... We didn't think it was fair to take a job away from them just because we didn't necessarily have the sales coming in," he said.
It's paid off, both in a subsequent year of great sales and a workforce that felt valued.
MFA is a finalist in Tire Business' 2021-2022 Best Places to Work competition. The company also earned that honor in the 2020 competition.
The Best Places to Work survey is conducted by Best Companies Group (BCG), an independent research firm specializing in identifying and recognizing great places to work.
In order to participate in the survey, each business must be a retail, commercial, OTR, retread or wholesale tire dealership in the U.S., and have at least 15 employees. Each owner submits an online survey detailing company policies, practices, benefits and demographics. Employees, meanwhile, are asked to complete, a series of questions,rating the company.
Tire Group International was named the overall winner, while other finalists include (in alphabetical order): Best One of Indy, Indianapolis; MFA Oil Co. dba Big O Tires, Columbia, Mo.; Monteith's Best One Tire & Auto Care, Elkhart, Ind.; SimpleTire L.L.C. of Trevose, Pa.; and Sun Auto Tire & Service Inc, Phoenix.
MFA is a farmer-owned cooperative that is among the four largest Big O franchisees and 50 largest independent tire retail enterprises in the U.S,, according to Tire Business data.
The company operates 22 Big O stores across Missouri and Northwest Arkansas with about 250 employees.