Finding a niche

Dean and Scott Mueller built their first company, Mueller Tire & Brake, from a single store with six employees to 24 stores with more than 400 associates.

As they grew their business, they began to explore the concept of Dealer Tire as they applied their retailing skills to their car dealer customers. They recognized a need in the market by seeing that a common problem at dealerships was tire replacement, and without tires readily available, the dealerships’ service departments often sent customers to outside shops. It was a $10 billion market, and they wanted a piece of it. So in 1999, they decided to build Dealer Tire by focusing on the wholesale side of Mueller Tire, but this proved to be a difficult task during a difficult
business time after the dot-com bust.

During an early meeting with some Mercedes-Benz executives, the Mueller brothers realized the executives hadn’t even brought business cards to the meeting as they most likely assumed the meeting would be over in 10 minutes, but the Muellers proved them wrong by outlining a business plan that hadn’t yet been executed in the industry. Mercedes-Benz
bought in, becoming Dealer Tire’s first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) client.

The Muellers needed to raise $20 million in venture capital during the worst capital market in 50 years and personally guarantee the company’s indebtedness to banks and vendors. Dean and Scott Mueller — who serve as president and CEO, respectively — also constructed a business plan that included creating a new management team, a Web-based information technology infrastructure and building a national warehouse infrastructure.

While they certainly had failures in implementing some things they had outlined in their business plan, the brothers learned from their mistakes to make the company stronger. And despite the struggles, the company succeeded. In seven years, the Muellers have taken an idea for a niche in the market and ran with it, and the business has grown to more than $400 million in sales. Today, Dealer Tire’s client list includes Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Lexus, Infiniti, MINI, Saab, Chrysler, Kia, Audi, Volkswagen and Nissan.

HOW TO REACH: Dealer Tire LLC, (216) 432-0088 or