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Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made? It All Depends, Say Jim and Tommy Duff

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“Some people naturally have” an entrepreneurial spirit, says Tommy Duff, right, with Jim Duff. “It’s innate to them. Some people learn it. And we find there can be a great mixture of both.” 

“Entrepreneurship is a tough road,” says Jim Duff. “You’re exposed all of the time to pressures. But we like it.” 


“Some people naturally have” an entrepreneurial spirit, says Tommy. “It’s innate to them. Some people learn it. And we find there can be a great mixture of both.” 


The Duffs - who are the recipients of MTD's 2021 Tire Dealer of the Year Award - encourage their store managers to think like business owners, according to Tommy.


“Our store managers are entrepreneurs. They know their pricing. They know their programs. They know their support structure. 


“The big thing is they have backing, so they won’t fail financially. They can concentrate on their people and customers. And as they progress, they make more money. 


“We have store managers who make seven figures and I don’t know of other tire companies that can walk around saying that.” 


“You’ve got to have people who believe in you and want to follow you,” says Jim. “There’s been a lot of great, brilliant business people who just can’t get people to follow them.” 


“It really comes down to trust,” adds Tommy. “When we interview people, we’ll tell them, ‘This is what we expect of you and this is what you can expect of us,’” says Jim. “And I’ll ask, “Do you agree with this?’ 


“If we’re having a problem with someone, we’ll explain what the problem is and will ask, ‘Do you agree with us?’ And 99% of the time, they will say, ‘You’re right.’” 


“We had no mentor” during Southern Tire Mart’s early days, says Tommy. “We just came up with ways we thought we should operate and it was mostly ways we thought other people would want to be treated.” 


Southern Tire Mart does not offer employment contracts. “When a company has to make an employee sign an employment agreement, that’s not a good way to operate,” notes Tommy. 


“Is that the correct philosophy?” asks Jim. “I don’t know if it is or not. That’s just what we’ve always done. It’s worked for us.


“We’ve also been smart enough to say, ‘If something is not working well, we need to address it.’ People say, “If you have good judgement and common sense, you’ll be successful.’ But I also think if you can’t self-analyze and realize ‘The problem might be me,’ then you’re in trouble.”

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