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'Pride in Performance:' Schwab Book Still Inspires

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Les Schwab, who founded his namesake dealership in 1952, was named MTD's Tire Dealer of the Year in 2000.

By now, most MTD readers are aware that Les Schwab Tire Centers, the fifth largest independent tire dealership in the U.S., has been acquired by  Meritage Group LP, an investment firm.

This is obviously big news for a number of reasons. Last but not least, the announcement puts an end to nearly 10 months of industry-wide speculation about the identity of the dealership’s eventual buyer.

In a press release that Les Schwab issued on Sept. 29, Meritage executive Alex Magaro said that “it only took reading 50 pages of Les’ book to realize the company was a great cultural fit.”

The book he refers to is “Pride in Performance: Keep It Going,” which was written by Les Schwab himself in 1986, when he was 68 years old.

“Pride in Performance” chronicles the birth and evolution of Les Schwab Tire Centers - the ups and downs, the trials and triumphs, and even the tragedies. 

It also doubles as a fascinating glimpse into the mind of Schwab himself, who used the book to impart hard-won business wisdom about a wide range of topics in a rough-hewn, no-nonsense style. 

“I encourage you to share profits with your employees. I encourage you in every way possible to build people. This is good for America, it is good for you and it is good for your employees. If you do share, do it openly and honestly, and don’t get jealous if they start to make some money. That’s the whole idea. If you make people under you successful, what happens to you? Aren’t you also then successful?”

“A company starts, it grows, and as it grows, more and more of the decision making moves to the main office. And this is one hell of a big mistake. The decision making should always be made at the lowest possible level. People at the lower end begin to feel like puppets. Pull a string and they are expected to react.”

 “The most forgotten man in any business is the man who just works, does his job day after day, doesn’t cause problems, seldom misses work and doesn’t demand or ask for unreasonable things. Usually this man doesn’t have a desire to get up to higher-level management jobs or sometimes he just has a problem in asking. He’s not only the most forgotten. He’s often the most abused.”

 “Most men are starved for personal recognition. Any boss who, unknowingly or otherwise, destroys an employee’s self esteem also destroys the employee.”

“Sell tires, give service, keep expenses low, make sure everything is billed out, keep good communication with employees, be careful with credit, watch for leaks - do these things and you’ll come out alright.”

“A company - any company - should work up programs and policies that are fair to stockholders, to management and to employees. And then we should have very open communication. Follow the ‘open book’ policy. If you can’t defend it, it must be wrong. If it is wrong, then make it right.”

“I am optimistic about the future, in spite of everything. If we are smart, if we earn our way, if we do the job, then the future will be optimistic to us.”

I encourage you to grab a copy of “Pride in Performance.” (Copies are still available online.) It just might be the best business management book you’ll ever read.

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