On the Rise: Gary Lambert
Director of Purchasing, Inventory and Information Technology | McCarthy Tire Service Co. Inc. | Age: 32
What was your first job in the industry?
While in high school and college, I worked in various departments each summer learning the business from the ground up. These departments included the warehouse, truck service, the retread plant, and commercial/retail sales. This model is how the two generations before the fourth gen learned the business and it was expected of us as well. After graduating college, I entered the manager trainee program before becoming a store manager. This background has helped me understand each area of the business so when an employee is asked to handle something, I have the general knowledge of how it should be done. It is also nice to be able to relate to an employee on that level, and share with them my own experiences, good or bad, when I was in their position.
What attracted you to the industry?
I have always had a passion for cars, so working in the retail bays was appealing and ended up being a lot of fun for me. When I was younger, my father would take me to work with him on Saturdays so I could “help” work the counter. Having kids of my own now, I realize that it was probably more work for him, but it allowed me to see how things worked on a daily basis, so for that, I am grateful. I was also drawn to the family aspect of the business, knowing that family run organizations are becoming more rare as time goes on. Working together and having day to day interactions with family members is something that I value a lot. It’s nice to sit in a meeting and be able to make real time decisions together as a team.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was learning how to interact with employees who had much more seniority than me in the company. Whether it was related to a process or a technology, I couldn’t just walk into any situation and think that my way was the better way. I believe in order to be most effective, it’s important to be able to articulate ideas without stepping on anyone’s toes in the process. There is no textbook case study to teach that, it is learned through mentoring and real life experiences.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
This, without a doubt, would have to be my grandfather, Jack McCarthy, who I spent a lot time with over the years. Whether is was a Saturday morning trip to Lowe’s, or going to the car dealership to look at the latest model cars, we always had a good time. My grandfather suffered from a stroke the same year I got my driver’s license, so I became one of his ways to get around. While driving around and conversing, we covered a wide range of topics, from business practices to where you could get the best fast food. His favorites included Wendy’s chili, and a cheeseburger from McDonald’s, which he liked to call the “Golden Arches Supper Club”. So while we discussed a lot of trivial things and had many laughs, we also talked about some more important things. He taught me so many things related to the business, with his wisdom and guidance being the key. He had many sayings, but the one that stands out the most to me is, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” It took me a few years to fully understand and appreciate those words, but I now know exactly what he meant.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
I would have to say my biggest accomplishment is streamlining our purchasing programs and inventory procedures. The work we have done has helped us maximize our buying potential and has built relationships with some class A vendors. Even with the use of e-mail and video chats, I still find it essential to meet with a vendor face to face, even if it is only every six months. The key is to discuss the challenges on both sides of the fence; they need to understand ours needs as a dealer, and we need to understand their limitations as a supplier. Once these issues are on the table, we look to see what can be done to make it work for both parties. We also have to work to increase our inventory turns and product placement. Sometimes a tire is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and having a strong vendor network allows us to handle these issues when an emergency arises.
How do you spend your workday?
I currently oversee purchasing, inventory and IT. I have a strong team that works with me including some outside vendors to keep everything going. Overseeing all three departments keeps me on my toes as each have their own challenges that arise. I spend most days working with team members handling problems, streamlining processes, and reviewing sales trends for forecasting.
What did you do before you entered the tire industry?
I have always worked in the tire industry.
If a friend expressed an interest in joining the industry, what advice would you give them?
The tire business is very rewarding, but it requires hard work and putting in the time needed in order to reap the benefits and be successful.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
That puts me at the age of 52, the company will be 113 years old and we will hopefully be celebrating $1 billion in sales.
Aside from the basics like health insurance, what’s the most important perk/benefit an employer should offer?
I think employers should offer education programs to teach employees how to budget and save for the future.
What’s the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
Attracting talented people who are willing to get dirty when they go to work. Tires are not clean and also heavy depending on size. Finding people who are able and willing to do our type of work is sometimes challenging.
Tell us about your family.
My wife, Tara, and I have been married for 7 years and have two daughters, Nora and Anna, who are four and two years old respectively. My wife and I met while in college, after both having grown up in the greater Wilkes-Barre area.
What’s the worst cliché or generalization made about your generation?
The worst thing I hear said about our generation is that we are lazy.
Name a talent you wish you had.
The ability to be in two places at once; I would be able to cover twice as many locations as I do now.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Spending summers at my grandparents’ lake house with all of my cousins.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Henry Ford. I love the idea of taking an existing concept like building cars and making it faster and simpler by adding the assembly line.
Do you live by a mantra or motto? If so, what is it?
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I had a weird obsession with Christmas lights. As a kid, I would go around the neighborhood putting up everyone’s Christmas lights. When I was in high school, it turned into a nice little business around the holidays, and I had friends help me decorate 40+ houses. When I was younger, I always wondered why no one else enjoyed putting up their Christmas lights. Now, 15 years later, I wish there was a kid like me in my neighborhood to put up my Christmas lights.
What’s your go-to song for a road trip playlist?
Dave Matthews Band – Ants Marching
If tomorrow you could move into any other position in your company, what would you choose, and why?
I am happy with my current career path at this point, I have been able to be involved with several aspects of the business which has given me a better understanding of how it all comes together. I guess if I had to work in another department it would have to be retreading/manufacturing. I like how you can take a previously used tire and give it new live by putting a new tread on it. It is also environmentally friendly and helps customers control costs by not purchasing new tires each time.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
Spending time at the beach with my family.
Who’s your role model?
My grandfather, Jack McCarthy.
If we gave you $1,000 and one hour, how would you spend the money?
I would probably treat my team to a nice lunch/dinner.
What advice would you give your high school self?
Always remember to be yourself and don’t let others influence what you believe in.