Tom DuFore, Jr. – How to Survive in an Ultra Competitive Industry for 48 Years

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Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (00:03):

You’ve worked hard to build your business. And now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the multiply your success podcast. I’m your host, Tom DuFore CEO of big sky franchise team and a serial entrepreneur. Join me each week. As I interviewed leading entrepreneurs, executives and experts who share their misses makes and multipliers. If you are a growth minded entrepreneur investor or franchise company, then this podcast is for you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in business and in life it’s that you can always learn something new to make things better. Our purpose for this podcast is for you to glean some wisdom and practical ideas to implement on your expansion journey. We look forward to being your guide to multiply your success. And today we have a wonderful exciting day because this is the launching of our very first podcast. And so we’d like to thank you for tuning in and joining us and just a couple of housekeeping items for you to be aware of on each episode be on the lookout at the end of the episode, to hear a, a, a win, win explanation at the end, some kind of a win-win example or overview of what a win-win looks like.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (01:21):

Again, win-win is relationships is one of our core values at our company. And so we want to talk about some win-wins and you know, what, that’s pretty important in franchising too. So we think it’s important to highlight something and be on the lookout for an occasional franchise fact or other other thing tied in toward the end here. So on today’s episode in looking at it an opportunity to launch, I actually asked someone if he wouldn’t mind for me to give a, just a trial interview as I was thinking, as I was planning and practicing for building out the podcast. And so I thought, you know, I’ll just record this and try it and see how it goes. And we’ll see if it’s, if it’s usable, you know, I, I thought, okay, well, we’ve got some, some willing a test subject here.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (02:12):

And so so I recorded it, put it together and, and it’s someone that I’ve known for a very long time and someone that I trust and someone who has a lot of business background, and now as we’re launching the podcast right here, the week coming up to father’s day, and I thought, you know what? This is going to be the perfect podcast to release in the perfect person who, who we interviewed to release. And the reason for many reasons is that this is my father. So in honor of father’s day, here is my father. And also a way for you to learn a little bit more about kind of your me as your host in the preceding. And, and prior to launching the podcast is we to know one another

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (03:00):

Throughout this podcast journey that we’re embarking together. So without further ado here is my interview with Tom DuFore Jr. Why don’t you give us a little background here? Tell us, tell us a little bit about you.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (03:15):

Well, I’m 63 years old and I’ve been in an automobile business since I was 14 years old. I was back when I was washing cars at my dad’s car, lot back in Barberton, Ohio. Wow. Barbara tin, Ohio washing cars for him. So how long were you, how long were you washing cars for? Well, I wash cars, So the time I was 17 at a new car dealership for two years. And then at the age of 17, I became a salesperson I’ve been selling cars ever since. Wow. Wow. So what, what would that be? Is that what’s the math on that is that 47, 46 years, 46 years. I’ve been in the sales end of it. Wow. Wow.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (04:12):

That’s incredible to stay in one industry for that long.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (04:17):

Well, they always say, once you get in, you can’t get out, it’s in your blood and I think I’m a, a testimony to that.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (04:26):

That’s great. That’s great. So well so what, what what, what, what was it that got you interested in the car business?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (04:38):

Well, honestly, my dad had the car lot, but

Tom DuFore, Jr. (04:42):

He had moved to Chicago and I got a job working at five and dime store and they were going to make me assistant manager. You’re going to pay me $8,000 a year. And he told me when I finished high school to come and work for him and I can make 20,000 a year. I’m like, well, that’s big difference. I’ll come up there. I started, I was 17 years old. I was making 19 to $20,000 a year, just back in 1974, which was, it was really good money back then. Wow. So I just stayed there and I sold new and used automobiles for about 10 years and I got into management and then,

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (05:26):


Tom DuFore, Jr. (05:27):

20 years after that, I decided to open up my own place. Oh, that’s great. What I’ve been doing for the last 28 years? Wow.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (05:38):

Well, we, we have a lot of entrepreneurs and successful folks that tune into this and folks who are striving to be entrepreneurs. So I always, like, I’m always curious, you know, as you think about opening up that business to go from that the employee to entrepreneur you know, what, what, what was it, or was there that it, that led you to say, Hey, I want to run my own thing. It was, what, what was that?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (06:10):

Frankly, I wanted to spend more time with my kids, but when I opened up the business, I thought I was going to work less hours, little did I know I worked way more hours out of my own business. And I did work for somebody else. The big Netflix was as if I wanted to take a day off to do something. I could do it where, when I worked for somebody else, it wasn’t really that easy to do. And once I got into it, then I just never wanted to get out of it. I, cause I really enjoyed working for myself. Yeah. Yeah. I could kind of, I liked the fact that what I did I got paid for and if I didn’t do anything, I didn’t get paid. So I always made sure I was working.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (07:00):

Yeah. That’s a great that’s, that’s, that’s great. And I remember cruising around in the the old Ford Bronco not the infamous Ford Bronco that we’re probably all familiar about with the car chase on, in the California interstate there, but rather your Ford Bronco, cruising around picking up cars and dropping them off. I remember riding around with you you know, as a teenager and, and you know, go into when you’re buying and selling cars, moving them and so on.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (07:32):

Yeah. That was the Bronco two. That was about after the size of the one that OJ had.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (07:42):

That’s funny. That’s funny. Well, as you, as you think back and, and, and having run a business for 25 years, is that 20 yeah. 25 years. Is that about right? Is that about right?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (07:57):

Yeah, I actually, I think actually I think it’s 27,

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (08:00):

27. Okay. 27 years. You know, when you’ve been operating a business for that long you know the, the test of time becomes your greatest enemy and the greatest combatant for any business really, I think is the test of time. No, it doesn’t no competitor, no anything. It just, the test of time eventually catches us all. And so how do you keep ahead of that? So I, I wonder for you as is what are some of the things that you did or tried to do over time to stay in business as long as you have so far? I mean, 27 years is a long time.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (08:42):

My, my basic idea was if I would treat my customers good and made sure that they got a good automobile when he bought it from me, that they come back and buy other cars in the future, and they would also send their friends and relatives in which has paid off because that’s where the majority of my business comes from is repeat customers and referrals. So that, that was my big deal.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (09:16):

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think I mean, it’s it’s it, it’s, it’s funny when you think about it, it’s a simple formula, but so many businesses mess it up. You know, and, you know, when you’re a Testament to employing that strategy and going through that you know, one of, one of the things that we talk about here at, on multiply your success is we talk about misses makes and multipliers. And so, you know, I think I, as I hear you talk about this you know, treating the customers well and making sure they have a good automobile and that they’re feel taken care of. And, and then they’re going to tell their friends and their family. And I, I mean, I can be a Testament for when I was working at the car lot washing cars and moving cars as a Porter, and then it, you know, kind of a quasi, it may be quasi sales guy and, you know, kind of doing a little bit of everything around the lot.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (10:23):

I mean, even for the few years that I was helping out I can’t, I can remember multiple clients that would come in and one person would buy it might be a, you know, a wife or a boyfriend or a girlfriend. One of them would come in and buy. And then six months later, her mom would come in and buy something. And then, you know, the moms, a brother would come in and buy something. And it just, it was this constant cycle. And, and you don’t want to think about that. That really, to me fits into this category that we like to talk about this multiplier category. I mean, literally that one sale to that one person, you did it right. And treated them well, you know, multiplied into many, many customers. I don’t know that. I think that that’s, it’s, it’s a I don’t know. What, what are your thoughts on that?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (11:19):

Oh, I always just tried to treat the customer how I thought I would want to be treated. I come in and buy a car and we always had sold a budget, price, cars, and, you know, he wanted to say, the people think they’re expecting too much for what they’re paying. However, these people were buying these vehicles and it might be a two or $3,000 car, but to them, that’s all the money in the world because that’s all, they’ve got a, you know, if somebody’s got a lot of money and they buy it and they’ve got four or five cars that are buying one for two or 3000, that’s one thing, but they’re buying a car for two or $3,000 and that’s all the money they’ve got. And that’s her only car, you know, that they’re looking for that thing to be right. So they buy it, they bring it back and they’re looking for this or that fixed. We’re really not covered under warranty. It just fix it for them. They told me, no, this is a cover on my warranty, but I’m going to pick spoil you, come back and buy another car from me another day or send somebody in and they do, and they appreciate it. So they, they, they think they know upfront that it’s not going to be covered. And when I do fix it, then there that are pleasantly surprised.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (12:35):

Wow. Well one of the things I’d like to talk about, we, we talk about, I was mentioning before these misses makes some multipliers and over the years, you know, when you’ve, you’ve been operating, as long as you have you’re bound to have a snafu or or a glitch along the way. Did you have any misses that kind of stick out to you a bigger, small, that, that you know, that you had to overcome?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (13:04):

The biggest miss? I would say I did is at one point I w had carrying, I was carrying about 150 vehicles in inventory, and I had about 12 employees. And at that point, what really becomes tough. It’s not the inventory and it’s not the customers. It’s the employees. The employees are as the tough cookie right there. And there’s an old saying, if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. The employees, that’s not true. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a hundred miles. And I always tried to treat them like I treated my customers. And just, if they need time off to do this, or need time off to do that, regardless, I never asked them what it was. They asked for time off. I’d just give it to him. Well, that works for the select few will, will do what’s right. But the, probably 60 to 70% of them, once you start giving them what they want, then they really start taking advantage of taken off time all the time. You tried to tell them that GA I need you. That’s why I hired you. And they just, they just take advantage of it. And my biggest mistake was letting them get by with that. So that would be one suggestion. I’d tell anybody who’s starting a new business. Don’t let the employees run your ship. It’s your ship. You’d be the captain.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (14:32):

Mm Hmm. That’s great. Yeah, I mean, that’s a, that’s a big one right there. That’s great advice too. Great advice. Well, let’s flip it around the other side, you know, what, what about some make, you know, something that, that happened or you did where, you know, again, a bigger, it could be bigger, small, but something where you, you did something or made the decision that really, you know, it was, it was like, yeah, you got it. You hit a home run or you got it. Or sometimes you, you, you you know, you hit a ground ball in the infield and somehow you beat the throw out, you know, you made it to first. She couldn’t believe that.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (15:13):

Yeah. well I’d been open for maybe a year, year and a half when I first got my business up and I had an old timer working for me, selling cars part time, and we worked so many cars. He goes, Tom, take some of these cars and put them out on the street. I go, what do you mean? He says finance them finance. And he said, yeah, he said, these people that got bad credit, he says, you finance it. You hold the note on it. And I’m like, what are you crazy? He goes, no, I’m telling you. He says, you can do it. He says, they’ll pay. He says, you might have to hound them a little bit, but they’ll pay. And so we weren’t doing anything. And a customer came in, he had, at that time, 600 bucks to put down and which barely covered the plates and attacks on the car and his credit was shot. And I’m like, all right, let’s give this a whirl, put him out in the car. And little by little, he’s making his payments. We started doing more and more. It started to snowball. And the next thing you know, I got big business, all these people making these payments and, you know, we did have to repost some of them, but it really was a good business decision. It was a good business decision. Wow. Wow. Wow.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (16:31):

So, so literally your first you know, your first year, a year or two in operation businesses, new maybe slow. And you get an idea from an employee. I mean, and you acted on it. That’s impressive.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (16:47):

Well, it’s, I thought I knew everything there. Wasn’t no about automobile business. I’d been in it for 20 years at the time. And little did I know what it’s like, you don’t know what it’s like to own a business till you have one you think you do until you get your feet in there. And I went from selling the last place I worked at a new car dealership was an Acura dealership. And we sold obviously nice new automobiles. And we sold late model used automobiles that were quite expensive. And it was a big difference for me going from that to selling at that time, 1500 $2,500 automobiles. It was a whole new world. So I like, well, the one thing I’m smart enough to know, at least I always thought I was, is that I know that I don’t know everything and I can learn. And if somebody says something to me, I’ll consider it. So that’s what I did in that instance. I tried it, it works. So try it again, then it worked.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (17:52):

Wow. Wow. To me, that’s, that’s that’s impressive. I really think so. You know, that’s a great story. And hearing you say that I had forgotten about that story that that he had given you that idea and use suggested he suggested, and you listened and you were open-minded you know, I think that’s, that’s a big deal. I mean, when I’m, as I’m thinking about, you know you know, these, these multipliers to your success, I mean listening being, being open minded that’s a big deal. That’s a really, really big deal.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (18:35):

Does it cost you a dime to listen, cut cost you a few minutes of your time. I got plenty of time.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (18:44):

True, true. So are there any, you know, as we talk about some of these other things, are there other you know, we talk about these multipliers that come through here. I think we’ve hit on some big ones that you’ve already touched on, but are there any things that you can think of you know, that, that you did personally, professionally at the business or other people may have done, or that, that helped you really you know, multiply what you were doing?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (19:20):

One, one suggestion that I could tell somebody who’s just starting a business, or maybe somebody who’s willing to run for awhile is what always worked for me is at least once a week, I would sit at my desk or in an office or home, wherever it was for between a half hour to an hour by myself, no TV on no phone phone, shut off and just think,

Tom DuFore, Jr. (19:48):

What can I do to make my business better and just think of whatever comes into your mind and just explore that and run it out and in your mind. So what would happen if I tried this and what would happen if I tried that, and if I try this, what’s going to happen for the employees and the customers, just that kind of stuff, it could be about how can you sell more automobiles? How can I make things better for my employees? I can make it better for my customers. How can we do accounts payable better? How can I buy inventory better? Just whatever might apply to your business, take a few minutes, a half an hour, once a week, be quiet, lock the doors, shut the phones off, and just think to yourself, what can we do Then? That, to me was a big deal

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (20:44):

That that’s, that’s huge. I never knew that I never knew that you did that. That’s, that’s really

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (20:53):

Who knows maybe I subliminally limo subliminally unknowingly you know I don’t know if you know this dad, but our our, one of our core values. We have three core values. One of our core values is continuous improvement and you know, making it better, constantly thinking, how can we make it better, make it, whatever it is better. And I can’t help but think that that unknowingly spilled into me and didn’t even know it. That’s a, that’s really neat. That’s really, really neat. So you know, one of the things we like to ask all of our guests before we, before we end here, is what does success mean to you as you think about that? What does success mean to you?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (21:50):

To me, success to me is if I have just slowed an automobile, my customer’s happy and I see them a year later In a grocery store, or maybe I’m out having a drink and they come up to him and go, Hey, Tom, that’s really a nice car. You sold me up. Thanks. Thanks for the great deal. That that’s success to me. That’s what I like. Wow. And I just that’s, that’s, that’s success to me.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (22:24):

Well, that’s great. I love it. I love it. And one of my favorite things about this about this show is hearing what it, what it means, you know, for, for me, I think that part of the reason I like asking this question is I think that there is a, there’s just a misconception of the world success or the word success that, that it’s tends to be tied to things to the money you make and to things you own. And there may be some that may mean being successful to to that may mean success to a lot of folks, but what I find interesting as to the entrepreneur and the successful small business owner it’s interesting hearing your story you know, having someone to come up to you a year after doing business saying, Hey, thank you. That was a great vehicle. You sold me. I think that, I think that means a lot. I think that means a lot and you can’t buy that, right? You can’t buy that. You can’t put a price on that.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (23:28):

Not really. No, no. It’s quite, quite honestly if I had done things differently, I probably could have made a little more money. Well, I know I have made more money. However, I wouldn’t have had as many happy customers. And to me, there’s value to that when I can go somewhere, I don’t have to hide my head going, Oh boy, there’s that guy. I sold that car to, I go walk right up to him, say hello, because I know they’re going to be happy. And that, that to me is what success is. You know, that’s, that’s a feeling you get in your belly when that customer, a year later, you meet them and shake their hand, say, thank you. That makes you feel good. That’s priceless to me. That’s priceless.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (24:16):

Well, I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful. And thank you for sharing that. And are there any, you know, any parting words you’d like to share with with the folks here that, that might be tuning in today that you’d like to share with them that, that that’s thinking about maybe growing their business or franchising or whatever it might be?

Tom DuFore, Jr. (24:38):

The only thing I could tell somebody or would suggest is if you’re thinking about doing it, and you’ve been thinking about doing it, go for it, jump in and go get it. Once you get in it, once you start, you’re going to be so happy because you’re on your way. You’re on your way. You’re on your way. You can’t, you can’t get the car to move, to push the gas pedal, give it some gas and get going. You’ll be glad you did.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (25:08):

I couldn’t have said it any better. Wow. That was awesome. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for being here and sharing your words of wisdom and your experience with us. We’re so thankful to have had you on the show today.

Tom DuFore, Jr. (25:22):

Oh, good luck to everybody and God bless all.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (25:24):

So that was the interview with my dad. And I think that we can take away some key nuggets out of that interview. Number one, I can funny how the golden rule seems to kind of apply all over the place. And he he referenced treating the customers that he would like to be treated. And you know, I think that’s a good reminder for all of us in business. Sometimes you may run into a customer that gives you a little grief or a little a challenge, and I think it’s a good reminder. You know, you are here to serve your, your customer here to serve, serve that client. And I think another important thing to, to take note of out of the podcast you’re are out of the interview is that he mentioned that he listened to the ideas and listened to his staff and his employees.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (26:19):

And I think that’s an important thing. Oftentimes when you’re the owner or the leader of your company, it’s easy to get caught up and really get, get dialed into thinking that you have all the answers because you’ve been so used to being able to provide the answers. And the other piece we can take away from this is what he said about just going it. And I think that’s a great just a great takeaway. How often do we get hesitant and as an entrepreneur, when you jumped into this, you went for it and you went to decided to go for it, or maybe you’re sitting on the sideline thinking about entrepreneurship. So I think go for it, jump in, go all in, make it happen. So I think that’s a really, really great lesson. The, the, the other piece that I, I think we can take out is, you know, if you don’t manage your staff and your employees and keep a handle on it, they will manage you.

Tom DuFore – Big Sky Franchise Team (27:18):

And that’s a good, good learning lesson for all of us as we think about going through it. So, you know anyway, I think in honor of father’s day, this was a great, great first podcast. And before we go, let’s go ahead and leave you with today’s win, win. So today’s, win-win as we go through, this is in honor of father’s day again. And what I’d like to talk about is a win-win between you and your children. And if you have children or very, very close people where you may be a father figure to them don’t lose sight of spending time with them. It is absolutely important, and this is a win win, because you will never, ever, ever regret one time spending that extra minute or that extra hour, or that extra practice with your, with your kid, you will never ever regret that that’s a win for you. And I promise you, your children will never, ever, ever forget that either they will know that they are loved and cared for. So that’s, today’s, win-win spend time with your kids and spend that extra minute if you can. So until next week, thanks for tuning in, on the multiply, your success podcast.

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