In this age of "fake news" and acrimonious discourse, it's heartening to read a "feel-good" story about someone who represents the best in the tire and automotive service industry.
Just as the 25 Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian of the Year award winners before him, 2019 recipient Bob Kellogg is a shining example of how a business owner — and his business — can make a real difference in the community. There is no doubt Mr. Kellogg, president of Queensbury, N.Y.-based Warren Tire & Service Inc., has made his upstate New York region a better place to live and work because of his humanitarian efforts.
Mr. Kellogg and his family support several charities, most of which help disadvantaged youth. The one he supports that doesn't cater to youth — the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) — helps to give neglected cats and dogs, some days from being euthanized, a second chance by promoting their adoption through the region's local radio station.
His charitable efforts are well documented in this issue.
If you're a tire dealer new to your community, or one who wants to get more involved in humanitarian endeavors, Mr. Kellogg's story is one to mimic.
And so is the story of the success of his business.
Wayne Kellogg, Bob's dad, took control of his first Warren Tire store in 1983 at age 40, a stage in life that most with a dream like his would consider too risky to pursue. The elder Mr. Kellogg had no formal education and little money. What he did have was a strong knowledge of the tire business, an intense drive to succeed and the intuition to almost always make the right decision.
He described his experience in getting his first store up to his standards as a lot of elbow grease. "I mean, literally, there was grease in that place up to your elbows," he says today.
The younger Mr. Kellogg, an accomplished helicopter pilot when he retired from the Navy in 1997, reluctantly agreed to end his 14-year military career and return home to help operate the family dealership.
He purchased 80% of the business from his father in 2007. Today, the dealership has 14 locations, with a 15th opening soon.
Last year, Warren Tire eclipsed $22 million in sales, and this year it's trending to be around $23 million. The dealership has experienced 15% percent annual growth in recent years.
"You've got to pinch yourself," Mr. Kellogg said.
During the Great Recession, he said the company did not lay off any workers. Instead, the Kelloggs tightened their collective belt, initiated a hiring freeze and rode out the difficult times.
The Kelloggs credit several factors to their success: Longtime loyal employees; updating shop equipment and computers in almost every location; paying suppliers ahead of time; signing with an efficient wholesale distributor; keeping the showrooms clean; and connecting with employees.
It's not uncommon for Bob Kellogg to call an employee on his or her birthday, meet and greet every new employee, award plaques and rewards for dedicated service, and visit every store at least twice a month.
Employees work five days a week. No nights. No Sundays. No holidays.
Each year, Warren Tire hosts a picnic for employees and their families at a local amusement park. As many as 250 attend.
These are just a few of the ways the Kelloggs continue to achieve success, both as humanitarians and as business owners.
What they do and how they do it certainly won't work in every market. But if just one or two do, the dealership — and the community — will be better served in the long run.