Michael Welch – Fast 50 2003


Michael Welch has proven to be a tireless innovator in the British tire business. A veteran of Kwik-Fit, one of Europe’s leading tire retailers (it was once owned by Ford Motor Co.), Welch built his company around a collection of savvy e-commerce applications and marketing relationships with leading companies, including Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s, and Marks & Spencer. When employees from these companies need tires, Welch’s company supplies them–fast, cheap, and easy. Black Circles claims that it’s already in the black.


Michael Welch
Managing director, Black Circles Ltd.
Peebles, United Kingdom


Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Black Circles is born out of Michael Welch’s understanding of the tyre industry. Leaving school at 15 Michael became a tyre boy in the local garage. His career progressed to tyre buyer with a competitor. He then began his own business after deciding he knew the business better than the owners. Tyreforce was born at 18 years old. Off the back of this Michael put himself through University to ‘broaden his business skills.’ With no qualifications he completed his degree, whilst being courted by Europe’s biggest tyre dealers Kwik-Fit. Michael single-handedly built dial-a-tyre a subsidiary of Kwik-Fit specializing in high performance tyres. After working with Sir Tom Farmer Michael got the bug to go it alone again. At 24 he set up Black Circles. Starting with a mobile and a loaned desk in someone else’s offices he has built Black Circles to a projected first year turnover of £400,000 with no debt. Securing corporate clients like McDonalds, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s.

What was your moment of truth?
I had taken a very nominal fee from a minor investor to cover my first 2 months working alone. The investor decided that his original promise of 8-12 months cover wouldn’t extend beyond this first couple of months inception. I had to start making serious trade to cover costs within the next two weeks. Within the next week Black Circles secured the official supply of tyres to the following car clubs: TVR, BMW, Maserati, Subaru, Lexus, Renault. As well as beginning staff discounts schemes for Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Plc. The Sainsbury’s deal gave Black Circles almost immediate exposure to over 30,000 members of staff. The telephones then began to ring. The car club trade also grew as Black Circles started become almost a cult brand amongst the car club members. This was certainly a defining moment as there was more than just my own aspirations on the line. I had to ensure the mortgage was paid for both myself and my member of staff. The growth has been exponential here-on-in. The situation I feel simply speeded up the growth of the company. We have been self funding and profitable since. (The exact date? 2/1/2002)

What were the results?
We are able to cover the bills and operate independently. It is very satisfying to know that a) my concept works and b) I am an effective business person. It has certainly built my confidence as well as given me valuable experience.

What’s your parting tip?
Believe in yourself and never make any decisions you don’t feel comfortable with.