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Practical management tips: Gegax writes a business-oriented book with heart

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Practical management tips: Gegax writes a business-oriented book with heart

Two words jump out at the reader at the beginning of Tom Gegax's new business management book: empathy and synergy.

Empathy was the word his father considered the most important in the English language. Synergy is the secret to how Tires Plus, at one time the largest independent tire store chain in the Midwest, successfully competed against the world's largest corporations, according to Gegax.

Both words play up the importance of your employees in business. Gegax calls them "teammates" in the book he co-authored with Phil Bolsta, "By the Seat of Your Pants: The No-Nonsense Business Management Guide."

The title is actually a misnomer. The book tells you how to run a business in an enlightened and efficient manner rather than by the seat of your pants. Over-reliance on instinct can lead to cutting corners, says Gegax, who writes from experience. "Sustainable success requires a healthy blend of intuitive skills and efficient processes."

In the 62 chapters, he breaks down everything from strategic planning ("It's the cornerstone of a proactive, healthy organization") to doing business overseas ("you may have to reallocate and add resources"). There's even a chapter on exiting strategies.

But the pervading theme throughout most of the book centers on the employee-business relationship, from hiring to firing, or, as Gegax defines it, "freeing up someone's future." He believes in the axiom "Hire slow, fire fast."

"What do the hiring process, a romantic dinner and walking a tightrope have in common?" he asks in the "Embrace Your Hire Power" section. "A rush job produces dire consequences."

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Tires Plus employees possessed six qualities, according to Gegax. The employees were:

1. caring,

2. optimistic,

3. passionate,

4. persistent,

5. systems-disciplined, and

6. spirit-filled.

"Air is to the tire as spirit is to the human body," Francois Michelin once told him.

Gegax also wanted teammates with attention to detail, world-class service skills and innovative thought processes. Self-motivation was a plus. "Great employees seek fulfillment and flexibility. They expect to be held accountable."

How do you get people with these character traits to work for you? "In the ongoing war for talent, possessing an ethical advantage can be the hook that lands the best people," he writes. And once you have them on board, how do you keep them? Define your expectations of them, inspire them, teach them -- and then follow-up. (Making sure your benefits package is current and competitive doesn't hurt, either.)

Gegax, Modern Tire Dealer's Tire Dealer of the Year in 1998, certainly has the credentials and experience to write a business management book. He helped grow Tires Plus into a chain of 150 upscale stores in 10 states grossing $200 million in revenue. Harvey Mackay, author of "Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," calls the book "the best one-stop shop for running first-class organizations I have seen."

The greatest strength of the book is the confidence Gegax brings to the table. He allows you to learn from his mistakes -- both personally and professionally -- and successes. And Gegax loves bullet points. If you are short on time, pick a topic in which you are interested, read the key bullet points, and then go back for more specific information when you have time.

"Always remember, coach people, manage everything else that keeps an organization running smoothly, like strategic planning, financial analysis and information technology," he notes. It's this straightforward advice that comes from his heart, not the seat of his pants.

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