Jump to content

  • Welcome to Auto Parts Forum

    Whether you are a veteran automotive parts guru or just someone looking for some quick auto parts advice, register today and start a new topic in our forum. Registration is free and you can even sign up with social network platforms such as Facebook, X, and LinkedIn. 


Tri-State Enterprises: Pedal To The Metal

Recommended Posts

In the spring of 2020 – when it was becoming clear that the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon – a member of the Tri-State Enterprises buying team asked owner Tristan Taylor how the company should proceed. It was a conversation undoubtedly taking place in executive offices across the country, with a public health crisis – and the specter of an economic recession – looming on the horizon.

Taylor’s message to his buyer was simple.

“I said, ‘Don’t take your foot off the gas. Let’s keep going,’” Taylor recalls. “Looking back, the pandemic is lasting much longer than we thought. But at the time, my gut told me that we don’t want to take our foot off the gas.”

While it was a bold decision in the moment, it wasn’t out of character for Taylor or Tri-State Enterprises. The Fort-Smith Arkansas-based distributor of truck accessories, hard parts and mobile audio/electronics has enjoyed double-digital annual growth “for many, many years,” according to Taylor – and 2020 turned out to be no exception.

“We’ve never really had a month where we went backward in sales,” Taylor says. “We’ve always been very fortunate and very blessed as a company to be always moving forward.”

Tri-State’s unique mix of must-have products (spark plugs, motor oil, belts and hoses, etc.) and nice-to-have products (lift kits, truck-bed covers, window tint, etc.) gives the company a broad sweetspot that straddles the traditional repair/maintenance and enthusiast markets. When the stimulus checks hit consumers’ bank accounts in 2020, Tri-State was in a prime position to capitalize on the surge in spending that swept through the automotive aftermarket.

“We had a fantastic 2020,” Taylor says. When AMN/Counterman spoke to Taylor in late August, he estimated that the company was on-pace for 40% year-over-year sales growth in 2021.

Taylor makes no bones about the fact that “we’re a very aggressive company,” at least when it comes to Tri-State’s growth mindset. Case in point: In the midst of the pandemic, Tri-State acquired the O.W. Donald Co., a Fort Smith-based distributor of 12-volt electronics (speakers, back-up cameras, remote-start systems, etc.). Announced in April 2020, the deal expanded Tri-State’s 12-volt portfolio and provided a foot in the door for a market that the company had been eyeing for some time: Texas.

“We’ve always been a company that’s willing to take a risk,” Taylor says. “We measure that risk, and we measure it and then measure it again, so to speak. But we’re not afraid to take a chance on something if we feel like it’s got a good shot.”

Roots in Radio

The late W.O. Byrd, who founded Tri-State in 1977, probably was smiling down from heaven when the company acquired O.W. Donald. In the early years, Tri-State primarily sold Ford Motorcraft parts and radio equipment, out of a warehouse in Fort Smith. Prior to that, legend has it that Byrd – who was affectionately known as “Dub” – got his start selling AM/FM radios and antennae masts out of his van.

“The joke was when the doors were closed on the van, the warehouse was closed,” Taylor says.

Jim Miller – Taylor’s father-in-law – joined the company as a salesman in the late 1970s, and Byrd later appointed him as general manager. Together, Byrd and Miller grew the company, selling Motorcraft parts, along with accessories such as cruise-control kits.

“Cassette-tape players became a big business for them,” Taylor adds.

Fresh out of high school, Taylor joined the company in April 1987, helping out on the phones in the mornings and working in the shipping department in the afternoons. Eventually, he became a full-time salesman, and later stepped up to the role of sales manager.

When Byrd passed away in 2007, Byrd’s daughter, Martha, took ownership of the company. In 2015, Taylor (who was general manager at that point) and his wife, Kim, purchased Tri-State.

“My wife and I were fortunate enough to have a really good working relationship with our bank, so we were able to pretty much finance the company through the bank we were doing business with,” Taylor explains.

From its humble beginnings in three states (hence the name), Tri-State today boasts a footprint that reaches Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

link hidden, please login to view
W.O. Byrd founded Tri-State in 1977.

With the recent acquisition of W M Automotive (more on that in a bit), Tri-State now has around 600 employees. Taylor emphasizes that Tri-State’s team members are “the most valuable part of our company,” which is reflected in the company’s slogan: “People-Driven.”

“For the past seven or eight years, we’ve been focused on building a really good team of individuals who we feel can help propel Tri-State to the next level,” Taylor says. “And I think we’ve been very successful in doing that so far.”

The Tri-State team includes Taylor’s son, Devon, who has been involved with the company since he was in high school. After graduating from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith in 2014, Devon stepped into the open position of marketing director, and worked his way up to his current role, vice president.

Tristan emphasizes that he never pushed Devon to work in the family business, nor did he push Devon’s sister, Kenzie (who joined the company in May after graduating college). Fortunately, he didn’t need to, as Devon admits that he was hooked from the very beginning.

“I was coming in during the summers pulling stock adjustments, and that isn’t the cleanest stuff in the warehouse,” Devon recalls. “I would come home dirty from head to toe, but I saw Tristan’s passion for this business, and I saw the people who were involved in this business. I knew that this was what I wanted to do in the long run.”

Like Devon Taylor, many Tri-State team members are in it for the long haul. Turnover is low – especially in management and supervisory positions – and Tristan points out that “we’ve always been blessed with being able to find good people.”

“I’ve been here for 34 years, and I have employees who have been here longer than I have,” Tristan adds.

Tri-State’s identity – the way the company treats its team members, customers and suppliers – is rooted in the Golden Rule, which Tristan attributes to its founder, Dub Byrd.

“I think we’ve always had a reputation in the industry for honesty and integrity,” Tristan explains. “ … We feel fortunate that we’ve always had a company that really stood on good Christian values and principles and always tried to do the right thing.”

A Great Fit

Reflective of its unique product mix, Tri-State is a proud member of both Pronto Automotive Distribution Network (formerly the Automotive Distribution Network) and the AAM Group. The AAM Group, which caters to distributors and manufacturers of automotive accessories, named Tri-State its Member of the Year in 2017 and 2021.

“We put a high value on both of those partnerships,” Tristan says.

Tri-State joined the Automotive Distribution Network in 2014. It was through Tri-State’s involvement in The Network that the Taylors got acquainted with Garry Castles, the former president of W M Automotive in Fort Worth, and some of his team members.

The parallels between Tri-State and W M Automotive were readily apparent. Founded in 1976, W M Automotive – like Tri-State – is a family-owned and family-oriented warehouse distributor that came from humble beginnings. The late Wilson McMillion shepherded W M from a small operation with a handful of employees to a full-line regional warehouse distributor with more than 200 employees and a strong presence in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

link hidden, please login to view
Tri-State now boasts about 1 million square feet of warehouse space throughout the Central United States.

And like Tri-State, W M has a company culture steeped in Christian values. McMillion, who passed away in 2018, was a religious man, and his approach to business was intertwined with his strong faith. At company functions, he would hand out 12-inch rulers with the Golden Rule printed on them.   

Those parallels served as a strong foundation for the Taylors to establish a genuine camaraderie with the W M Automotive leadership team – which culminated in Tri-State’s acquisition of W M in May.

“I know they had other suitors,” Tristan says. “At the end of the day, I think they looked at our culture, and they knew that we were a Christian-based company, and that was probably one of the big factors that led them to make the decision that they did.”

In any merger or acquisition – regardless of how well the companies mesh – there will be challenges throughout the process of bringing the two organizations together. Devon recalls one difficult patch that revealed a lot about the character of both companies’ leadership teams.

“We got together and just prayed to put peace over the situation,” he explains. “That was something that doesn’t happen in every acquisition.”

If the O.W. Donald deal was a foot in the door to the Texas market, the acquisition of W M Automotive was Tri-State’s decision “to really go there in a big way,” as Tristan puts it. W M has 38 independently owned Parts Plus stores in Texas, and it sells to more than 100 independently owned stores in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It supplies these stores from its 110,000-square-foot warehouse in Fort Worth.

The W M acquisition inspired Tri-State to lease a 492,000-square-foot warehouse in Arlington, which the company is outfitting with the latest robotics and material-handling technologies. The warehouse is strategically located “pretty much dead-center in the heart of the [Dallas-Fort Worth] market,” according to Devon.

With the new warehouse in Arlington and the addition of W M’s warehouse in Fort Worth, Tri-State now boasts approximately 1 million square feet of warehouse space throughout the Central United States. On the heels of the W M acquisition – Tri-State’s biggest yet – the company will continue to look for new opportunities, with an eye on expanding its footprint into the Eastern and Western parts of the country.

The Taylors also are open to branching out into more product categories, such as RV parts.

“There are so many opportunities out there right now, it’s kind of scary,” Tristan says. “The challenge we have today – and maybe we’ve just been fortunate to have so many opportunities presented to us – is trying to figure out which ones to take advantage of.”

The post

link hidden, please login to view
appeared first on
link hidden, please login to view

link hidden, please login to view

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Similar Topics

    • By galaxy3dm
      Galaxy3DM factory provide following service:  
      Rapid Prototyping and Low volume production:  
      3D Printing: 100+ SLA,SLS,SLM 3D printing Machines    
      CNC Machining: 20+ CNC machines, including 5Axis    
      Casting :  Small batch production + customized material    
      3D Modeling : Design from solidworks,CAD, Rhino,etc.
      Surface Treatment: Painting, silk screening, electroplating,etc.
      High volume production: injection molding, LSR,MIM,LRTM,Die casting,
      Zheng Zhao
      Shenzhen Seetop Technology Co.,Limited.
      Tel: 86-755-23000620      Fax: 86-755-23000621
      Whatapp&Wechat: 8613143415646
      Address: A3 , Dingfeng Industrial Zone, Fuyong Town,  Shenzhen,  China

    • By Counterman
      The AAM Group honored Tri-State Enterprises as its 2022 Member of the Year at the organization’s annual Membership Meeting held May 10-12 in Frisco, Texas.  
      Each year AAM makes this selection based on five key metrics: Active Participation; Growth as a Percentage; Marketing Participation; Participation in Group Buys; and PRO Rebates Participation. In recognition of its win,
      link hidden, please login to view received a custom trophy and an exclusive painting commissioned from automotive artist Jim Caswell. “I’m so proud of the Tri-State team for all their hard work and dedication,” said Tri-State Enterprises owner and President Tristan Taylor. “To once again be chosen out of a great lineup of members is truly a privilege and an honor. The AAM Group is a big part of our overall success, along with a host of supplier partners. Our motto is ‘People Driven,’ and we would not be the company we are today without the support of all our partners. Thank you!”
      “In a year when so many members contributed so much value, Tri-State demonstrated tremendous support for our supplier partners, edging out many deserving members to earn this year’s coveted award,” AAM President Tim Odom said. “This win puts Tri-State in the rare category of back-to-back Member of the Year honorees.”
      The AAM meeting also saw awards given to the winners in each of the aforementioned individual categories. Recipients included Midwest Wheel and Midstates, Inc. (Active Participation); Alamo Auto Supply (Growth as a Percentage); Dix Performance (Marketing Participation); overall winner Tri-State Enterprises (Participation in Group Buys); and AllPro Distributing (PRO Rebates Participation).
      Automotive Accessories Marketing USA Inc. (The AAM Group) is the largest distribution group in the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) marketplace. 
      link hidden, please login to view now includes 21 member-companies operating 68 distribution centers throughout North America. The post
      link hidden, please login to view appeared first on link hidden, please login to view.
      link hidden, please login to view
    • By Mighty Auto Parts
      The post
      link hidden, please login to view appeared first on link hidden, please login to view. The shop had performed a service on the customer’s 2015 Silverado equipped with a 6.6L Duramax Turbo Diesel, which included a fuel filter replacement. Weeks later the customer contacts the shop owner requesting re- imbursement in the amount of $14,000 to cover the repair cost of the fuel injection system due to an alleged defective […]
      The post
      link hidden, please login to view appeared first on link hidden, please login to view.
      link hidden, please login to view
    • By Erica Zhu Feilong Jiangli
      Chongqing Feilong Jiangli collects the latest information for you, so that you can get the most cutting-edge technical information. A private company focused on developing the first rechargeable lithium-metal batteries in the United States announced that it would cooperate with SKI, Korea's largest energy and chemical company, to develop lithium-metal batteries.
      This cooperation will focus on solid-state lithium anode laminates, which can double the energy density and cycle life of rechargeable batteries. The initial goal was to produce and test prototype batteries to prove whether the increase in volume and weight led to an increase in energy density and cycle life relative to existing lithium-ion batteries.
      SK Innovation plans to complete the research on conductive glass separators by the end of 2021 and apply them to the development of lithium metal batteries. Conductive glass separator is the key technology to promote the stability of lithium metal batteries. The company hopes to successfully develop conductive glass separators to accelerate the commercialization of lithium-metal batteries.
      A battery company based in Berkeley, California, USA, has invented and patented a technology to protect the electrodes of lithium-metal batteries, which is the core technology of sulfur-lithium batteries, lithium-air batteries and water-lithium batteries. Scientists at the battery company have invented a patented process that combines lithium metal with a continuous monolithic glass electrolyte. Battery validation in the laboratory indicates that continuous monolithic glass prevents dendrites and promotes lithium metal recycling.
    • By 袁春凤 (Tiffany)
      According to foreign media reports, the German car companies represented by BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen have been working hard to develop electric vehicles and self driving cars, but the pressure is still relatively large. In North America, China and Europe, the world's largest automobile market, all automobile manufacturers have joined a new wave of competition. However, the German automobile industry has obvious disadvantages.
      Automobile electronics is the trend of the times, and digitalization is also the future direction of automobile development, including automatic driving. This means that in addition to the traditional automobile manufacturers, technology companies will continue to enter the competition in the future automobile market.
      From another point of view, for German auto companies, the opening of the era of electric vehicles is also more difficult. First, from the profit point of view, the profit of electric vehicles in the early stage of development is obviously less than that of traditional energy vehicles. For example, Toyota and Volkswagen, the traditional car giants, have annual operating profits ranging from 15 billion to 20 billion euros, while high-tech companies such as Apple make about three times their annual profits.
      Pressure bears the power, because Feilong Jiangli's parent company, Xipu, is supporting German brands such as Volkswagen and Daimler, we are full of expectations and confidence for the development of German brand automobile enterprises.

  • Create New...