Larry Sutton is the founder of RNR Tire Express. Founded in 2000, RNR has grown to be the 17th largest tire dealer in the U.S. with over 120 locations (15 corporate locations and 105 franchise locations in 26 states). After a long career in the lease purchase industry, Larry sold his 30-store chain in 1997, and after a brief retirement, decided to try the concept in a new sector. Visualizing the potential of using the lease purchase transaction in the tire and wheel industry has proven to be a very successful idea. RNR has another 200 locations under contract with multi-unit developers in several markets.
How did the concept for RNR Tires come about?
I had sold my first company and retired. However, in my late 40s, I discovered I was missing a sense of purpose so I tried several different business opportunities but failed to fall in love with them! Heard about some folks that had begun using lease purchase for custom wheels and tires so I went to see it. Fell in love with the idea and opened our first store in October of 2000.
How was the first year in business?
Outstanding! Lots of learning on my side but the concept took off beyond our most aggressive models.
What was your marketing strategy?
Get the word out to as many potential customers as possible and build new business from continuous promotions and referrals.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Doubled revenue and store count every year.
How do you define success?
How many lives you have touched and changed due to what you created.
What is the key to success?
Hire the most motivated and talented folks you can find and share the proceeds with every associate.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Allow people to fail and teach them how to learn from every failure.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Success is not a destination, it is a journey.”
“If you spend time motivating an idiot, all you have is a motivated idiot.”
What are some of your favorite books?
Anything [Stephen] Covey, early Tom Peters, and my absolute favorite is The Energy Bus by Jon Gordan.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The decision to sell my first company!
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The fact that hundreds of families are relying on our success.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Find something you love to do! Find a few mentors and listen to them. Young entrepreneurs tend to believe they know all the answers. You have to fail at some things to truly learn.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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