Volume 15 | Issue 1 | Year 2012

In 2011, Kauffman Tire marked a major milestone in its rich history: It celebrated 75 years in business. Kauffman Tire grew from a single Texaco station located in Wooster, Ohio – we’re talking about a two-pump gas station and automotive center – and into one of the country’s largest independent tire dealers. Growth has been substantial: By 2011, the company included 50 retail stores in the southeast, 14 wholesale distribution centers, four commercial tire centers, one Bandag retreading facility and one e-commerce company (Treadepot.com) – not bad for something that started out as your basic street-corner service station.
This is the company’s current focus and activities: Daily delivery to customers out of all wholesale centers, with a fleet of approximately 125 vehicles. The company boasts about its thorough knowledge of passenger, light truck, medium truck, farm, specialty, OTR, industrial and commercial tires. But the boast isn’t brag; it’s fact. Further, the company’s network of retail stores and wholesale distribution centers enable it to respond rapidly and effectively to customer needs.

Indeed, it has come a long way in a relatively short time. “The company was founded in 1936 by my grandparents Harry and Eva Kauffman,” recalls Mark Kauffman, the current president of this family owned business. “We’ve spread out to do business in seven states.”

These states include Ohio, where it all began, as well as Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia, where the company is now headquartered (Atlanta).

LEGACY OF INTEGRITY
At the outset, the Kauffmans offered customers the best products and service, delivered with the highest levels of integrity, an approach that enabled the company to not only survive the Great Depression but to expand throughout the years. “My grandparents worked hard to satisfy,” says Mark Kauffman. “In this way, they earned customer trust and developed long-term relationships.”

Even today, that remains a company hallmark. No matter how big the company has grown, customer relationship remains paramount. This organization doesn’t forget its roots.

Mark Kauffman is a third-generation member of the company. “My father, John Kauffman, helped advance the company,” he relates.

John Kauffman was Harry and Eva’s son, and he came into the family business after graduating from Ohio State University. In 1968, he oversaw the company’s first major operational expansion (when Kauffman Tire opened its first wholesale division). John Kauffman became president a year later, when father Harry retired. In 1972, he opened a wholesale facility in Atlanta, Ga., which became the company headquarters in 1975.

Why the move? Mark Kauffman replies succinctly: “More opportunity.”

ALL IN THE FAMILY
From this new business location/home, John Kauffman expanded operations by opening the company’s first two stores in Chamblee and Austell, Ga. From there, in the 1980s, he further expanded the business into other states. Eventually, Mark Kauffman and Tom Money (John Kauffman’s son-in-law) came into the business. Mark Kauffman came on board after graduating from the University of Georgia and working with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Consider that an apprenticeship. By the time he joined Kauffman Tire, he was ready to further advance the family-owned enterprise. Money, also a University of Georgia graduate, joined the company in 1992. He took over the Florida operations until he moved to Atlanta in 2005, when he became executive vice president and chief operating officer. In the same year, Mark Kauffman assumed the role of the company president.

Today, the company’s commercial arm is located in northeast Ohio. From there, Kauffman Tire operates out of four retail/commercial facilities that serve commercial fleets, the retail public and farmers.

MAJOR MILESTONES
Besides that 75th anniversary, the company’s history includes these additional milestones:

  • The company established its Bandag retread business in 1970, and today it boasts one of the nation’s state-of-the-art plants. Possessing a fleet of 15 service trucks, it can swiftly get to its customers, whenever and wherever they need help.
  • The company’s commercial arm is one of the nation’s top commercial operations, as it continues to attract the best talent in the tire industry’s specific segment.
  • In 2000, Kauffman Tire established its retail e-commerce Treadepot site, which represents great opportunities for the business.
  • In 2003, Kauffman Tire opened its combined state-of-the-art, 175,000-square foot distribution center, corporate office and training center in Atlanta.
  • In 2006, company sales exceeded the $200 million-level.
  • In 2009, Kauffman Tire became one of the 100 largest revenue generating companies in Atlanta.
  • By 2011, company sales broke the $350 million level.

Commenting about the growth and remarkable achievements, Mark Kauffman says, “We continually strive to enhance our organization and improve our processes to stay ahead of the competition. We reinvest profits back into the business to fuel growth.”

Further, this enables “associates” – or employees – the opportunity to experience professional growth and expand their careers. Currently, the company’s entire work roster includes about 3,000 employees – remarkable for an enterprise that began as a two-person operation.

MORE MILESTONES
The Kauffmans and Money are committed to keeping the company a privately owned family business, and their shared goal is to reach the $1 billion revenue level. “We’re not interested in selling the company or going public,” says Mark Kauffman.

This attitude led to yet one more milestone. In November 2011, Kauffman Tire received the 2011 “Georgia Large Family Business of the Year Award” from the Kennesaw State University’s Cox Family Enterprise Center. The Cox center has dedicated itself to the survival and ongoing success of family owned businesses. More than 1,000 companies were nominated for awards in four categories. “We were both honored and humbled to receive this award,” comments Mark Kauffman. “We couldn’t have done it without our associates.”

Organizational “family values” was an important factor in the award. Kauffman firmly believes in a balance of work and personal time for all employees. As such, no Kauffman Tire store opens on Sundays or holidays or extends working hours into the late evening.

The award was more than just about commitment to maintaining an extended family owned business; recognition was also based on community service. Dedicated to helping out the less fortunate, Kauffman Tire is involved with Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Junior Achievement and Atlanta’s Habitat for Humanity program.

FUTURE PLANS
The company has four divisions – retail, wholesale, commercial, and online – and these will be the quaternary engines that propel the future growth, the company believes. Meanwhile, the company – ever evolving – plans to deploy new communications media to advance its cause. Right now, it’s improving its website design, accessibility and function to allow it to become a larger and stronger business force in its industry.

But growth involves more than just electronic media. The human element remains a constant in the success equation. “To be an industry leader, you need to have a strong management team supported by staff aligned with retail, wholesale, commercial and Internet operations and goals,” says Mark Kauffman. “In all areas, we seek to reach levels unheard of in our industry. Attach that to fanatical customer service, and we will provide the best customer experience.”

Other companies would say that would be a good approach for the future business plans. But Kauffman Tire believes that the future is now. And the company is making the future happen, even as you read this article.