DETROIT — Don Barnes III, president and chief tire guy at Belle Tire, has earned a spot on Crain's Detroit Business' "40 under 40" list — which identifies leading business "luminaries" under age 40 in the Detroit metro area — for 2022.
Barnes, 39 and the grandson of former Belle Tire President Don Barnes Sr., started working for the company in 2000 as a tire tech at a company retail store in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Don Barnes III transitioned to sales while studying business administration at Michigan State University. In 2005, he entered into the Belle Tire leadership program, spending two years learning the company's various roles.
"This taught me the value each and every role brings to the company and how each role is important to the company's overall success," Barnes III said.
He was promoted to president, retail, of the Allen Park, Mich.-based tire retailer in September 2014. The elder Barnes joined Belle Tire in 1970, partnering with founder Sam Waze. Prior to that he was a salesperson for Kelly-Springfield Tires.
Asked what his proudest achievement has been during his tenure with the dealership, Barnes III said it's how his leadership style has evolved since taking over as Belle Tire president in 2014.
Belle Tire has grown exponentially since then as well, growing its retail footprint to 130-plus stores currently from 90 in 2014. That growth has included expanding the business' footprint into Indiana and more recently into the Chicago metro area.
"It's been about knowing that I don't have all the answers, and knowing that, in order for me to be the best possible leader, I also need to know when to follow."
Continuing to grow his leadership skills is top of mind, too, he told CDB, a sister publication of Tire Business under the Crain Communications Inc. umbrella.
"As a leader, it's my job to support my team, have them know I work for them, and most importantly, help them discover the best version of themselves."
Another ting Barnes III said he is proud of is his effective application of the Heimlich maneuver. He said he once saved his mother's life with the procedure as she choked on a hot dog in a Belle Tire showroom.
"There aren't a lot of people who know that," Barnes said.
Barnes III wants to continue to push Belle Tire's organic growth into various markets outside of Michigan, with plans for 50 more stores new stores by 2025.
Belle Tire was founded in 1922 by Sam Waze with the first location on Grand River Avenue in Detroit. Waze named the business after his wife Belle. Their son Herb Waze worked with his father and later took over the family business.
Article based on reporting by Jay Davis, Crain's Detroit Business, and Tire Business archive material.