Although I have been going to Les Schwab for my regular tire needs I have never really wondered what is behind the name and when I visited them last month it suddenly downed on me that the way in which they are running towards the car as soon as I enter is somehow reminding me of a movie scene in the 80s or even 70s. And while they were changing my tires for the winter ones I took out my HTC and started looking on line to see if I could find the history behind the name and I can honestly say that I did. And the fact is that when talking about Les Schwab you are really talking about the American Dream in the making.
Les Schwab the man was known as Leslie Bishop Schwab and he was born in a poor family and went to school in a railroad boxcar in Brooks Scanlon and put himself through high school after his parents died when he was 15. In those early days he worked delivering the Oregon Journal. He then married with his high school sweetheart and served in the Second World War. So far you wouldn’t have picked him for a business tycoon but the simple fact of the matter is that upon returning from the war he started with a little tire repair shop that he bought as a franchise and he was able to grow that shop into a multi-million dollars empire because of the simple, honest principle that guided all of Les Schwab’s business enterprises.
When he started he only had one employee so Les Schwab was working full time himself and what set him apart from the rest of the tire repair companies that were active than was his eagerness to provide the best customer service. That alone allowed him to make 5 times more money than any other tire repair shop back than and within a couple of years he was able to open 2 more shops and to buy out his partners so that the Les Schwab Tire Center was finally born.
But what took Les Schwab from being the owner of a mini chain of tire centers to running the biggest tire store chain in the US was a fact that many company owners today should learn to do again. He was loyal to his employees in the extreme. He actually gave them back 50% of the earning which for a small company can mean a lot. But because he showed them how much valued their service was they employees themselves worked for the company as if they were the owners themselves. The spirit with which Les would greet his customers is even now reflected in the way each Les Schwab employee greets today’s customers.
And Les Schwab was able to keep the spirit of thing being done his way because he always promoted from inside the company. So people had the chance to see that things really did worked, that it paid to treat customers a certain way and that their efforts would be met with adequate compensation and that way learn to compensate their subordinates once they were moved in a position of authority. And when you consider where Les Schwab started from you really gain perspective on these few basic qualities.