I was recently afforded the opportunity to spend some time with Ricky Benton Sr. (Ricky) and follow his footsteps as he worked his way through the Black’s Tire corporate headquarters in Whiteville, NC. It’s amazing to watch the leader of a company that stretches over nearly forty-five retail outlets, four wholesale distribution centers, and one retread plant operating in North Carolina and South Carolina, employing over 700 individuals on his team. Not to mention, the folks at RBR Enterprises (Ricky Benton Racing) who work to keep his cars and trucks competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and most recently the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series at the Daytona 500. What’s so special about the experience is the way that Ricky treats everyone that works with Black’s Tire – like family. That’s the Black’s Tire Way. His customers are no different, yet he credits his success to hard work and good people. He believes in the strategy that as a TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.
Ricky Benton Sr.: Hands-On Leadership & Leading by Example
Born and raised on a farm in Cerro Gordo, NC, Ricky began putting in a good day’s work at an early age. He married his sweetheart Dianne when he was a junior in high school, and worked many different jobs growing up. In 1976 Ricky and his wife opened their own service station in their hometown and it was a team effort for the couple to develop their business from the start. His children, Ricky Jr. (Rick), Ryan, and Jeremy are involved in the operations at Black’s Tire today. Ricky sent all his boys to college, but the lure of the family business brought them all back home after graduation.
Black’s Tire and Auto Service – “Black’s Has Your Back”
In 1929 W. Crowell Black founded Black’s Service Station in Whiteville, providing tire and vehicle service to customers throughout Southeastern North Carolina. In 1981 Mr. Black and his son W. Donald “Buddy” Black enlisted Ricky’s help with their business. The founder of the business passed away in February of 1985, and in 1996 Ricky Sr. purchased the company.
“You’ve got to continue to get better in the field or you’ll be out of business.” – Ricky Benton Sr.
Family is important to the Benton’s and at Black’s Tire you will be treated just the same as anyone else who walks into one of their stores, because to Ricky business boils down to relationships and the more you support somebody, hopefully they’ll return the favor. Dianne says that Ricky always had the desire to succeed and he’s worked hard to make sure the business and its people do just that.
“A business is no better than the people you surround yourself with.” – Ricky Benton Sr.
Out of respect for the Black family, Ricky decided to keep the company name as the business grew to become the institution that serves far beyond the Cape Fear region today. Ricky calls his wife ‘The Boss,’ Rick handles purchasing and marketing, Ryan oversees retail sales and operations, and Jeremy controls commercial sales and manufacturing. Black’s Tire Service, Inc. is separated into divisions: Black’s Tire & Auto Service, BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors, Black’s Commercial Sales, and Carolina Retread. Although, the team works together to achieve the same goal. “We don’t specialize, we try to serve,” says Ricky.
“Through These Doors Pass The Best People In The World…Our Customers!”
In 2014, Ricky and the Black’s Tire family was awarded the inaugural North Carolina Tire Dealers Association (NCTDA) Dealer of the Year title due to its success, charitable work, and support of the industry. NCTDA Executive Director Reece Hester said at the time, “When a person speaks to Ricky, you quickly realize he is humble to his beginnings. Ricky credits his family for his success, and that includes all who work with him.” In 2015, Ricky was named Modern Tire Dealer’s National Tire Dealer of the Year.
“I ain’t worth a nickel at nothing, I just try to do a little bit.” – Ricky Benton Sr.
Commitment to Service & Giving Back to the Community
Since it’s initiation in 1954, Black’s Tire Founder W. Crowell Black played an integral role in the creation of the Boys & Girls Home of North Carolina in Lake Waccamaw, serving on the original Board of Trustees. Gary Faircloth, who called the organization home as a 15-year-old, now serves as President and CEO. He appreciates the value of the time, talent, and treasures that are allocated in giving a better life to abused or neglected children. He is very grateful for Ricky and Black’s Tire’s contributions to the organization and says that Ricky’s enthusiasm, passion, and excitement adds a lot to the efforts of the Boys & Girls Home.
On the Boys & Girls Home campus stands the Community Hitching Post, dedicated to Ricky and Dianne Benton. This restored building provides a place for people on campus or in the community to meet for special events. This recognition is well deserved, because for nearly 20 years the Black’s Tire family has hosted a charity golf tournament which has raised more than $100,000 annually in recent years for the organization. Additionally, their contributions afforded the campus to establish the Flemington Academy. This school allows middle and high school students on campus to catch up on their studies, since many of the children who live there have fallen behind significantly.
“We just feel like we are supposed to give back, especially in the community in which we live.” – Dianne Benton
In the Cerro Gordo community baseball is a way for kids and adults to have fun and practice the fundamental values that the Benton’s display at home and at work. They have played an integral role in the growth of the town’s ball park, not only monetarily but physically too. Raising money and volunteering time to help with the upkeep, the facilities now include two fields and an indoor practice facility. “They are constantly helping with the community,” said Kiley Hinson, who serves as the town’s Forest & Land Manager. Ricky’s former teacher, O.C. Jenkins told Tire Business® that even as a student Ricky was a natural born leader and fund raiser, enlisting the help of other students to reach out to community leaders to raise funds for his school’s recreation programs. Today the family sponsors many local little league teams.
“We’re put on this Earth for a reason, we’re supposed to help.” – Ricky Benton Sr.
Longtime Black’s Tire employee and designated chef, Michael Bass, estimates that the organization feeds over 20,000 people per year. Whether it is serving partner companies like Goodyear, customer appreciation days, community events, or the BTS Family Appreciation Day, Bass says they provide meals at least twice a month. One of the largest events that the family provides meals for is Relay for Life in Columbus County. “They just don’t tell all of the generous things that they do. Dianne is a great advocate for the American Cancer Society,” said Kay Bullard, who has worked for Black’s Tire for more than 20 years. Ricky’s best friend, and former district manager with the company, Kenny Bullard passed away in 2014. His wife, Delia, (who also works with the Black’s Tire family) presented Ricky with a medallion that was originally meant for her husband’s casket – today it sits on Ricky’s desk. It is inscribed with the phrase, “May the work I have done speak for me.”
Making Friends with The Competition
Ricky believes that his best customers are the stores next to his, which he refers to as partners. “We want to help each other. We want them to survive,” he says. To achieve these partnerships, the company established the BTS Academy in April 2014. It houses a 38,000 square foot shop that is fully functional, including a customer counter, full-service repair shop, conference room, class room and a full-service kitchen that provides meals for the BTS family and their guests. Ricky said, “It’s the best thing our company has ever done.”
“Quality service and work ethic sets us apart from the rest.” – Ricky Benton Sr.
Black’s Tire is equipped to handle any of your tire needs, utility and agricultural vehicles, commercial vehicles, personal vehicles, and they even have a full-service shop on Fort Bragg that takes care of our men and women in the military based there. If you are ever in need of vehicle repairs or new tires for your personal or business vehicles, know that Cape Fear Caller and its Editor-in-Chief Dan Bullard completely believes in the mantra behind Black’s Tire Service, Inc. From first-hand experience with many different service shops and dealerships throughout the region, you will be amazed with the product and service you receive with Black’s Tire and it’s highly recommended that you set an appointment in advance so that they can keep you and your family on the road!