Reliable: How a family business succeeds for 60 years
One of America’s oldest and largest family-owned tire distributors, Reliable Tire, celebrates 60 years in the industry this year. Reliable’s national sales manager Chuck McLuckey spoke to Traction News about the company’s history, ethos and secrets to success.
60 years in business
Headquartered in Blackwood, New Jersey, wholesale tire distributor Reliable Tire was founded in 1956 by George Simon and John Sori. Today, Reliable Tire is a major supplier of some of the biggest brands and is a full line distributor with brands, lines, sizes, and types of tires from around the world.
Over six decades it has expanded its territory to include distribution facilities in Hartford, Connecticut; Atlanta, and Macon, Georgia; and East Syracuse, New York. The team is also in the process of setting up a new facility in Baltimore, Maryland.
Richie Betz joined the Reliable Tire partnership in the 1980s and by the end of that decade he owned the company. He is still the chief executive and works with his two sons. Betz’s influence on previous and current employees is undeniable, says McLuckey.
“Richie, he’s our mentor; he’s always been there,” McLuckey said. “He’s been a friend to all of us; someone who’s easy to get hold of and easy to talk to. Since I came to work here I haven’t had one day working for this company where I felt I worked for Richie Betz —I’ve always worked with Richie Betz; we’re all working together.
“We have a group that is committed to this business and we see all of our futures here. It’s a passion for what we’re doing, not a means to an end or just an avenue for making a living.”
That passion for the industry and the company shines through in its staff as well, with key personnel having been with the company for 10, 20 and even 30 years. That translates to hundreds of years of experience within one business — something money can’t buy.
Listening, evolving and expanding
Reliable has always prided itself on being responsive to changes and keeping its finger on the pulse and for that, communication has been the key. One example McLuckey cites is that from a fleet of twenty-four 26-foot box trucks delivering products to dealers a few times a week, the company now has a big fleet of smaller vans to cope with demand, delivering to dealers up to several times a day.
“Our business has evolved dramatically over the last 60 years and what we have always been able to do is stay tuned to the way business has to be done today and in the future,” McLuckey said.
“Having close relationships is important because through those you have the ability to communicate with your customers and be informed of when their needs are changing and then make the adjustments necessary to try and adapt to what their needs are.
“Our long-term vision right now is to be able to continue to expand and fill in territories. What we want to do is not necessarily be the largest distributor on the east coast but we want to be the best distributor.
“The one thing we know for sure is that the world is constantly changing, and if we’re not sensitive to that and ready to adapt to that then it’s very, very hard to survive for the long haul.”
Reliable Tire’s ethos
Reliable Tire works on three basic tenets, something McLuckey said were without doubt the keys to its continued success. A tight-knit, family-run operation, the cornerstones Reliable Tire does are “relationships, teamwork and commitment,” which are enshrined in the business’s work practices.
“Our number one tenet has always been taking good care of and developing our relationships. The second has always been teamwork, working closely with not only our vendors and our customers and our own people. And finally the last one is our commitment to those people,” McLuckey said.
“Being a family-run business we know an awful lot about what our dealers’ and our customers’ concerns are because we’re living the same thing. It’s not like being a corporate-owned entity where most of the management doesn’t have a stake in the business.”
McLuckey said this longevity and communication mean Reliable has relationships with some of its customers going back two and three generations. New customers, too, find Reliable quick and easy to communicate with and get answers from.
“In this fast-paced world, what customers are really needing is communication, and we feel that’s one thing we are able to do: to offer that communication, that link, that access to people who do the decision-making so these guys can go home and do what they need to do to be successful in their business,” McLuckey said.