Community//

Larry Sutton of RNR Tire Express: “Commit to something that you are passionate about”

I believe people like to shop in person and will continue to do so when allowed to. And in some cases, shopping in-person is necessary for safety. You wouldn’t buy a tire without making sure it’s the right size and material for your vehicle, right? More than likely, customers don’t know off-hand what size or […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I believe people like to shop in person and will continue to do so when allowed to. And in some cases, shopping in-person is necessary for safety. You wouldn’t buy a tire without making sure it’s the right size and material for your vehicle, right? More than likely, customers don’t know off-hand what size or material they need. This is where in-store associates are able to help educate your purchasing decision. At the end of the day, brick and mortar will always be a part of the shopping experience. In our business, people need advice from experts on which models to purchase. Since they likely need to have their tires and wheels properly installed too, an in-store, brick and mortar shopping experience makes sense and will not change as quickly as the rest of the retail world is.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Sutton, CEO and Founder of RNR Tire Express.

RNR is the fastest-growing tire and custom wheel franchise in the nation that offers customers a convenient, no hassle payment plan that fits every budget. Since its founding, RNR has seen significant organic growth with more than 137 locations in 24 states.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Just over 20 years ago, I sold my first business and decided to take an early retirement — it was time to hang up my sales hat and do what I love most. And I did just that, I played golf every day for 300 days that first year of retirement — but it wasn’t fulfilling. I found myself feeling worthless, missing the interaction with my associates, missing being creative and facing challenges. So, I turned to franchising. I bought a development territory for a well-known smoothie franchise and open a couple of stores, but I still felt like there was something missing. I decided to sell that business and decided to open a few check cashing stores. But I still found myself in the same boat — unfulfilled, but hungry for business-ownership. That’s when I heard about some colleagues experimenting with the rent-to-own tire retail model and I was fascinated — I loved the concept and decided to make it my own, developing the early model for what RNR Tire Express is today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

After opening the first two RNR Tire Express stores, several colleagues from my pre-retirement industry started coming in to see what we were doing. They were fascinated by everything that our stores were offering and basically talked me into franchising the concept. I had never once thought of myself as a franchisor, but my colleagues were very persistent. Fast forward to today, RNR is a 180M dollars company with 137 locations across the nation.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

When we first started out, I had ordered a set of wheels for a customer’s car, but when they came in and we installed them, the car would not move! Come to find out, I had ordered the wrong offset for that car. From that point on, we created a checklist with appropriate fitments for all sales folks to use moving forward. 😊

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We are! We’re actually in the first year of a very aggressive five-year corporate store expansion strategy. By building up our corporate stores, we are hoping to broaden up the impact that our stores make not only for customers, but for our in-store staff too. Our corporate stores will open up employment opportunities for new associates and advancement opportunities for existing associates, giving them the experience that they need to run the stores themselves and succeed later on down the road.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Commit to something that you are passionate about. Establish a mission that is fun to be a part of and will change the lives of all who participate. When I was looking for a new opportunity after golfing my way out of retirement, I tried out several new paths — all of which led me to RNR Tire Express where I’ve found what I am passionate about. When you enjoy what you do every day, it feels less like ‘work’ and gives you something to look forward to each day.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My late uncle, Norman Slatton, took me under his wing at as a teenager and basically treated me like a son. He taught me valuable skills and became my mentor in business. When the time was right, he let me go to pursue my own dreams.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our motto at RNR Tire Express has always been “Changed Lives Changing Lives.” We have changed a lot of lives both internally with associates and externally with our customers every day through simple interactions and serving our communities. I am so proud of this and lucky to be part of it. We are also very passionate about giving back — throughout our 20 years in business, RNR Tire Express has given millions of dollars in charitable giving efforts. Some include donating more than 10 cars to single moms for Mother’s Day over the past five years; honoring breast cancer survivors and fighters; donating backpacks and school supplies to families and need and so much more. It brings us so much joy to bring smiles to the communities in which we serve.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

At RNR, we did a lot to adapt to the new realities brought on by the pandemic. Here are just a few examples:

  • We acted quickly to establish safe shopping environments at all locations nationwide. Safety is of utmost importance to today’s shoppers, so making our staff and customers feel comfortable coming into our stores is a top priority. This will remain so for all retailers not just now, but in the future.
  • We held training classes with all of our associates on staying safe and making customers feel safe at our locations. Communication and education have never been more important. A lot of retailers learned that keeping their associates informed and up to date on the latest mandates would keep day-to-day operations running smoothly, allowing for customers to build trusting relationships with your staff.
  • We adopted liberal stay at home policies for anyone not feeling their best or unsafe. This is vital for all essential retailers — while many are shifting to online e-commerce strategies, in-person retail operations for essential products — like tires — need to maintain in-person retail presence. With this in mind, it’s important to keep staff and customers safe, encouraging staff to stay home if feeling unwell and staffing teams accordingly to prepare for such situations.
  • Increased online and on-air marketing and ad budgets to attract more consumers to our locations. Safe tires are an essential part of protecting yourself and your family, and we wanted to let our customers know that we are here for them to help do so.
  • Held the biggest sales contest in our history, giving away more than 40K dollars in prizes and rewards. It’s been a hard year for everyone and we knew our customers needed something to look forward to, something to bring a smile to their faces. Its becoming common for brands to look for unique ways to engage with their customers to spread positivity and excitement in a virtual way these days.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

I believe people like to shop in person and will continue to do so when allowed to. And in some cases, shopping in-person is necessary for safety. You wouldn’t buy a tire without making sure it’s the right size and material for your vehicle, right? More than likely, customers don’t know off-hand what size or material they need. This is where in-store associates are able to help educate your purchasing decision. At the end of the day, brick and mortar will always be a part of the shopping experience. In our business, people need advice from experts on which models to purchase. Since they likely need to have their tires and wheels properly installed too, an in-store, brick and mortar shopping experience makes sense and will not change as quickly as the rest of the retail world is.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

The success of retailers is 100% about the customer experience. Every shopper desires a delightful experience no matter who they are and where they are shopping. Retailers need to analyze the shopping experience they are giving their customers with every interaction and spend the time to focus the quality of this experience. When the quality is there, your customers will keep coming back.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Similar my earlier answer, the experience is truly everything. If you can find a way to make your customer’s experience fun, interesting and profitable to them in a way that makes sense for your brand, they will keep coming back to you.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to start a movement to educate and employ the homeless. I’d start by enlisting businesses to participate in a program that has the potential to teach new skills with a guarantee of a job after completion. The organization would also provide assistance for finding a place to live for participants.

How can our readers further follow your work?

For more about RNR Tire Express and our unique lease-to-purchase payment options for quality tires, visit www.RNRTires.com; for more about the RNR Tire Express franchise opportunity, visit www.rnrfranchise.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Larry Sutton of RNR Tire Express: “Don’t take yourself too seriously”

by Ben Ari
Community//

Tips From The Top: One On One With Larry Sutton

by Adam Mendler
Community//

Andy Chalofsky of SimpleTire: “Fail fast but always fail forward”

by Jason Hartman
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.