The Men Who Built Big O Tires
Better Investment, Greater Opportunity — How tire dealers formed a great auto franchise
Big O Tires was formed by maverick auto service providers who had owned other tire stores, but who felt they could work together to deliver a better product and better service while securing better profit margins through group purchasing power.
Big O began as a buying group before evolving toward the franchise model. The Big O Tires Hall of Fame honors those who built Big O’s business and created the culture that has helped hundreds prosper and made generations of customers into loyal fans.
Norm Affleck, Thomas Staker and Bill Thomas were inducted in 1993 as the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. Here are their stories:
Norman L. “Norm” Affleck
Norm Affleck started in the tire business as an O.K. Rubber Welder store owner in 1945. By 1960, he had six stores in Southern Colorado and New Mexico; he and a group of other O.K. franchisees formed Big O Tire Dealers, Inc. in 1962. Norm served as Big O’s president from 1962 to 1984 and was instrumental in establishing Big O Tires. For three years, he flew his own plane around the country, at his expense, meeting with independent dealers and selling the Big O Tires concept. Norm played a key role in developing many of the programs that make Big O Tires unique, such as our exclusive Big O brand tires, our lifetime warranties and our impressive speed and customer service. Norm developed and implemented the first speed lane in the tire industry, an innovation that speeds the process of putting new tires on a vehicle, allowing customers to get back on the road quickly while allowing Big O Tire stores to serve dozens — sometimes more than 100 — vehicles in a single day. He created a drive-through bay in his Denver store.
Thomas A. Staker (“Uncle” Tom)
To the Big O franchisees who knew him, “Uncle” Tom Staker was a source of inspiration and guidance. Because of his work as sole author of the original “Blue Book” and “Blue II: Blueprint for Success,” those who did not have the good fortune of knowing him can still, today, benefit from his wisdom and experience. The books explain the philosophy and techniques that go into running a successful Big O. “Uncle” Tom spent more than 50 years in the tire business and was regarded as a marketing genius. He worked tirelessly to improve the image of Big O Tires stores nationwide by emphasizing the importance of store appearance and displays. He provided many of the core principles for the course of study still taught at Big O Tires National Training School. His message was simple: We are all in this together; the glue that keeps the Big O Tires spirit and philosophy together is group activity and the sharing of ideas between dealers.
William B. “Bill” Thomas
Born in Southern Idaho, from an early age Bill Thomas displayed the kind of stubborn pursuit of his dreams that is associated with successful entrepreneurs. Penniless and, by his own admission, poorly educated, he hitchhiked to California where he took a series of jobs, ranging from dishwasher to heavy equipment operator. For eight years, he worked any job he could. He had seen some enterprising young men making a good living as independent tire dealers, and he opened his first O.K. Rubber Welder store in 1945. By 1960, Bill owned four O.K. Rubber Welder stores. In 1962, he and a group of other O.K. Rubber Welder store owners formed Big O Tires. Bill was the prime force behind the development of the Big O Tires committee system; he believed that everyone in the organization should have an opportunity to contribute. His commitment to building Big O from the inside out is perhaps his greatest legacy.
Learn more about our Hall of Famers
Big O celebrates its founders and those who have helped build the system; people like Guy Burgess, Millard James, Clarence Snow, James Stephenson, Darwin Gunnell, Dohn Graham, William “Bill” Taylor, Ron Asher, Grant Gunnell, Noal Long, Steve Cloward, Dan Howarth, Robert “Bob” Jones, Ronald “Ron” Jones, Arthur “Pete” Marrero, Gordon Walker, Tom Staker, Oral “Ken” Little, Mike Lyons, John Adams and Bruce Cherry.