Big Ten Tires - A Classic American Business Story

The story of Big Ten Tires could very well be one of those classic case studies that are taught in business schools ...

By Karl Drew an Australian-based business writer with 20 years experience in entertainment, transport and security.

The tale of Big Ten Tires is one of those many wonderful American business stories that you can discover if you dig around. Growing from humble beginnings, Big Ten Tires grew to the success story it is today thanks to a little luck and a lot of determination.

big ten tires logo

Then the Global Financial Crisis occurred and, like most organizations, urgent action was required to allay the fears of employees and profit partners, as rumors that the company was in trouble began to circulate. So what really happened? Where did all the profits go? Most importantly, what has been done to make certain that it doesn’t happen again?

The Business Profile and What You Get When You Walk In The Door

Glancing over the Big Ten organization’s website, it’s easy to glean the story of an American dream. In its original form, Big Ten Tires started its life as a franchised dealer for OK Rubber Welders back in 1954, selling mostly retreads and used tires in Pensacola, Florida. The business grew and grew and was soon ready for the next step.

The name of the organization was changed to Big 10 Tires in October 1962 and was mostly associated with the Dayton Tire and Rubber Company, as well as selling Michelin and Bridgestone brands. Today, the organization proudly boasts  that it is one of the Southeast's largest independent tire retailers, with over 100 locations in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

In addition to tires, Big 10 offers the following services:

  • Rotation
  • Alignment
  • Transmission
  • Brakes
  • Wheels
  • Oil Change
  • Batteries
  • Belts
  • Hoses
  • Suspension
  • CV Boots/Joints
  • Shocks
  • Struts
  • Flat Repair
  • Computer Balance

The Troubled Times of Big Ten Tires and How it Played out in the Media

Like many businesses in the USA, whether it was a micro business or a national organization, the global financial crisis created a landscape that was like that of a disaster zone which soon caught up with Big Ten. And it soon spread worldwide, too. Every new day, people were waking up to the news that another business was losing millions, or even billions in some cases. It was like a disease spreading across the world, staff numbers were being reduced, businesses were closing and concern was turning to panic.

On April 4 2009, WSB News reported that Big 10 Tires had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the same time, company officials annouced that the organization expected to operate as usual and honor all product and service warranties.

Reuters reported that Big 10 had taken these steps to improve its capital structure and reduce debt, strengthen its financial and competitive position and get the organization back on a growth track. Don Kennemer, Chief Executive Officer of Big 10 was quoted as saying, "We strongly believe that volume levels and premium product sales will return as the economy picks up, and as an outgrowth of the successful reorganization of the company."

Big 10 received special financing from an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc. to help pay employee wages and benefits. Records in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, where Big 10 was incorporated, showed the company's debts and assets in the $10 million-to-$50 million range.

A New Beginning for Big Ten Tires or Just Business as Usual?

In July, 2009 Reuters reported that Big 10 Tires was sold to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners and would be legally known as New Big 10 Stores, Inc. Don Kennemer, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "Through the bankruptcy process and with the support of New Big 10, we were able to successfully reorganize the business while maintaining normal operations with our vendors and employees and providing continuous service to our loyal customers. We have emerged with a stronger balance sheet and a leaner, more focused organization that will strengthen our value proposition and reputation for superlative service."

Matthew N. Garff, who is the principal of Sun Capital Partners, Inc., added, "New Big 10 Tires has completed an important step on its return to financial stability and future growth. The restructuring has allowed the company to reduce its costs and improve its capital structure. We look forward to working with Don Kennemer and the management team to position New Big 10 for future growth."

Keeping Their Eye on the Ball
at Big Ten Tires

With all the business negotiations happening in the background, it’s been up to the people of Big Ten to continue with business as usual. I’m talking about the regular people now, the ones like you and me who go to work each day and support their families. In the midst of all the ups and downs, it’s been their job to hold the fort and continue to offer Big Ten's customers the service they expect. There would be times when this would be very hard for many of them as they continue to recommend quality tire choices, advise on things like wheel alignments and other typical suspension and drive train problems, or just simply smile when someone walks in the door. While they do all of this, in the backs of their minds, they must have been wondering if they would even have a job next week.  

Big Ten Tires is a long-standing identity for shoppers who are looking for a name they can trust when purchasing tires, or seeking out the other services you expect from a quality tire dealer. Whoever owns Big Ten, it’s in their interest to continue the service that Big 10 is known for. And that means so much relies on those employees who fit the tires, change the tires, and sell the tires. While they may not get the attention from the press that some of the company’s CEOs and other executives receive, it’s up to them to keep the focus on the tires and service their customers expect.   


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