On the Rise: Clayton MIllay
President of commercial operations and manufacturing | McMahon’s Best One Tire & Auto Care | Age:39
What was your first job in the industry?
I started my career in the commercial truck industry as a mechanics apprentice. This is where I was introduced to commercial truck tires. It was one of the first jobs we were trained to do. In time, this led to heavy truck and trailer repair.
What attracted you to the industry?
Who doesn't like a cool truck! My family owned a small restaurant and there was a gentleman who would come in nightly for dinner and drinks. He was always happy and appeared to do well for himself. I introduced myself and offered to work for free if he would teach me. He gave me a job and $15 an hour. The rest is history!
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
I cannot pinpoint any one particular obstacle. As I have progressed in my career, the fear of failing my coworkers and employees is my biggest motivator and a continuous challenge. Being part of a growing company has its fair share of wins and losses. It is minimizing the losses and making the right decisions for the collective group and their families that can be a real challenge. When we make large scale decisions, you always have to be aware of the impact it can have. This in itself can be just as rewarding at times as well.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
There are five! Keith Wetoskey, who helped me establish self-discipline and the importance of a positive attitude. Rick Rinehart, who gave me my first job and took the time to mentor me. Bubba McMahon, who showed me that putting people first is the key to success. Kim McMahon, who taught me poise and rationality. Last but not least, my wife Sara, she is my biggest fan, motivator and the reason I can do "one more" at the end of a long day.
What’s your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
Founding our commercial truck and trailer repair division. We literally built a complimentary business from the ground up. It has allowed us an additional $6 million in annual revenue and created an additional 30 jobs. Currently we are in our 10th year and continually growing and seeking continuous improvement.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
Currently I work with four of our nine locations. The core of my responsibilities revolves around ensuring each location is meeting or exceeding its financial goals. I also work with each of the department leads and technicians to remain current with safety and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. I am constantly striving for continuous improvement at every location. Stagnation is a very real fear. We are continuously evaluating production, shop and office processes to determine how we can improve the customer, employee and company experience. I play a major role with the inventory and purchasing for all of the locations as well. With the current supply chain issues we are still facing, we have to ensure that we keep a variety of products in the correct quantity, and at the proper price point. The part of my position that I enjoy most is the culture building! I am continually working with our department heads as well as our technicians regarding training, self-improvement, career development and cross department opportunities. I genuinely want all of our staff to succeed and make it a point to reach out to as many individuals as I can on a daily basis to build and maintain relationships.
What’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before you took your current job?
Don't just delegate, delegate with clear expectations. I had to learn very fast that nobody can do it all by themselves. Trying to take on more and more work only leads to undue stress and resentment. It is also important to note that no one individual will do things the same way you would, and there is nothing wrong with that. With clear expectations and communication, a lot of times the result can be better than the expected outcome. Through real collaboration with our team members, we empower them and build trust.
Tell us about your family.
I am very blessed! I have been married for 10 years to my wife Sara, who works as a registered nurse at a local hospital. The tire industry can be demanding at times, and she has been unbelievably understanding that "if it's good for the customers, it's good for us!"
Our oldest daughter Jenna, is currently a junior at Indiana University and studying to become a nurse. She is our adventurer! I never know where she is going to end up. This past summer, she spent time in Chicago, Ill.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Denver, Colo.
Laney, who just turned 16 this summer, is a junior in high school. Laney is our athlete by far! Throughout the year she participates in softball, competitive swim and cheerleading. She is following the path of her sister and my wife and is currently enrolled in a college level nursing program through her high school. I guess you could say it runs in the family!
Our five-year-old son, Cohen, is just like me, a nerd at heart! He loves video games, comic books, board games and Pokémon. Cohen is the tender one in our family, he is always providing words of encouragement to his siblings and looking for opportunities to make someone laugh. Last but definitely not least is our 2-year-old daughter Sattison. What can I say, this one tugs at my heart. We call her our sour patch kid. If there is mischief to be found, she is going to find it, and then immediately bat her eyes and tell you she loves you! Once again, I am a very blessed individual and I have a very good support team at home.
How do you recover from a bad or stressful day?
We live in a small lake town in northeast Indiana. The best way to end a long day is on the lake! Fishing and boating are opportunities I have had since I was a small child. If you didn't grow up on a lake it's a hard nostalgia to explain, but if you have the opportunity for a day on the water, don't pass it up.
Name one thing you wish the average American better understood about the tire industry.
We do care! We do want to help! The aftermarket repair industry as a whole has always had a hit and miss relationship with the "average American". Education by far helps break down some of the negative stereotypes. All segments of the industry have seen massive gains in safety, convenience, technology and longevity. Unfortunately, the cost to remain current with these advances has driven the price of repairs and tires to unforeseen levels. I believe some consumers have the impression that they are being taken advantage of, which is exactly the opposite of the goal of most reputable repair shops. We want to give accurate evaluations, perform accurate repairs and give accurate recommendations to all individuals. We want to earn trust and continued business, and we take pride in the services we perform and the individuals who perform them.
If you could have lunch with a celebrity, who would it be, and why?
Arnold Schwarzenegger! What an interesting journey he has had. He immigrated to this country, became a world-famous body builder and actor, and finally a state governor. All of this he attributes to self-discipline and hard work. What an amazing success story on multiple topics.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I never learned to play an instrument. I have great interest in learning to play the piano or the violin, but I have never invested the time to learn.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
This is a fun question, and I literally had this conversation with my boss this morning. Diversity! The industry has been predominantly male dominated for a very long time. I believe there are a lot of individuals who are intimidated by the industry because of this, and tend to focus on other career paths. We continually hear of labor shortages, but there are many individuals who may show interest, but do not know where to start. Internally, we have designed a program that focuses on this very issue. We have opened our own training and development center that not only focuses on our current staff, but individuals from all walks of life who have interest in the business or the trade. This is an entirely new venture for us, and one that we believe will set us apart from others in the industry.
Tell us your biggest pet peeve.
Lack of accountability. I feel like a failure when I hear or see it. I try to promote integrity and accountability to all staff members. We are the only ones who can control our own actions. I believe pushing others to be accountable also helps them to think freely and abstractly. If we see an obstacle, it is easy to say I could not go any further because of this. I love to hear others say, "I had a problem, but I did this, and was able to work around it."
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
“Be Water” by Shannon Lee. Shannon Lee is the daughter of martial artist Bruce Lee. Bruce had a famous quote, "If you pour water into a glass, it becomes the glass. If you pour water into a bowl, it becomes the bowl. If you pour water into a teapot, it becomes a teapot. Be water my friend." I always found this as such an inspiration. To give a brief summary of the book, Shannon explains the importance of self-awareness, living in the moment and being as adaptable as water by conforming to your surroundings as compared to trying to conform your surroundings to yourself.
If a tire dealer asked you for advice to find good employees, what would you suggest?
First, define a good employee. We all have different ideas of what makes a good employee. All employees have their own idea of what makes them good. I have had the displeasure of parting ways with a few employees and there have been a few that were blindsided. In reflection, that is a fault on my behalf, not theirs. I honestly believe that the vast majority of individuals want to do well and want to perform well. As leaders, it is our responsibility to give clear expectations, have hard conversations, give praise, find the strong areas in our team and utilize them, and see the weak areas in our team and develop them. There are no bad students, only bad teachers! As employers, we cannot expect every individual who comes through the door to know every aspect of the job. Individual development is key to recruiting and retaining employees. If we are not building individuals to take our place in the future, we are wasting everyone’s time.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Continuing a legacy. I have had the privilege of working with three of the most outstanding individuals in the industry. I would be doing them a disservice by not building on their foundation. There is a wonderful culture that has been built and will need to be maintained. There are over 150 staff members with families that rely on this company to continue their own individual and professional growth. There are thousands of customers who rely on this company to maintain their vehicles or business operations. There is a community at the heart of this company that benefits from its growth and endeavors. I want to remain a part of that, something much bigger than myself, that does so much good for so many people. Continuing that legacy is where I will be in 20 years.