Ricky Benton II's father, also named Ricky, purchased the company from W. Crowell Black in 1981, and the Benton family has grown it from one retail store to a Carolinas juggernaut, with 56 retail stores and 10 wholesale distribution centers spread across North and South Carolina. Black started the company by opening a service station in Whiteville, N.C., in 1929, the same year the stock market crashed, leading to the Great Depression.
Today, the retail side of BTS is considered to be among the 20 largest independent dealership in the U.S., according to Tire Business' 2023 Top Retail Dealership rankings. In addition to its wholesale arm, BTS also operates a commercial division and one retread plant.
All told, the BTS companies generate north of $330 million in revenue annually.
Ricky and his son Ricky II, along with son Ryan and their spouses, hosted the Partners' Trip, held at El Dorado Casitas Royale Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive venue near Cancun. A third Benton son, Jeremy, was attending the SEMA Show in Las Vegas to represent BTS and its retail arm as the 2023 winner of an industry award.
"I really appreciate each and every one of y'all from the bottom my heart, because if it wasn't for family, what would we have?" the elder Rick Bentoy told the group.
"Looking at this world and where we're going, it shows how much we need family. If everyone looked at family, in our society, we won't be having the problems that we have."
Family and trust are baked into the BTS mission statement and core values. The Bentons showed dealers a copy of the BTS mission statement: "To deliver a trusted experience where customers and team members are treated as family and continuously make a difference in our communities."
The group has four core values: Team, family, trust, serve.
"Family is really our core value," BTS Sales Manager David Long told the group. "And how do you do that in a company of 1,000 people? That's a challenge every day. ... You've got all different personalities; you've got different structures.We're gonna make mistakes. But that's what we stand for. We stand with families doing business with families."
Family also includes its employees — or teammates as BTS prefers to call them.
BTS brought nine staff members on the trip to Mexico who eclipsed 20 years with the company prior to January 2023: William Jones (store manager); George Ealey (store assistant manager); Donnie Ray (technician); Roy Neil Cox (technician); Jamie Carroll (store manager); Filomeno Rodriquez (technician); Chris Greene (territory sales manager); Debbie Ladd (office manager); and David Holmes (fleet and operations manager).
BTS Distributors has held a Partners' Trip since 2013, rewarding dealers for their loyalty and growth.
"We partner on of course wanting to sell them more tires, but we also want to help them with business, whether that's supporting them with advice, training, really anything that can help them," Ricky Benton II said.
"We take a lot of pride in 'families doing business with families:' True partnerships and true concerns and love for our dealers."
Russ Carter, who works in sales for BTS, also reiterated the message of family and service during his remarks to dealers.
"Service is something that we really focus on every day to get better and better inside the BTS world," he said. "We want to partner with you... We consider you our partner dealers, part of the BTS family. "
Next year, BTS plans to hold its Partners' Trip in Las Vegas in conjunction with the SEMA Show.
"We try to reward our dealers for their loyalty and growth but more importantly we still feel that relationships are the key to this business," Ricky Benton II said.
"We truly care about our dealers and want to show them we are here for them. Our dealers in most cases are some of our closest friends. We pride ourselves in service and people."