April 30, 2018
The Rainmaker

Three lessons from a million-dollar entrepreneur

Ken Cook

Jim Click is the co-owner of the Tuttle-Click Automotive Group. It is a multi-location auto dealership group, with 16 locations throughout Arizona and Southern California. By any measure, Jim and his partner Bob Tuttle are a success, with gross revenues approaching $1 billion per year.

I spent some time with Jim recently. My curiosity was high because the auto dealership business is tough. The competition is fierce, the products are similar if not almost commodities, and the margins are super thin. Yet, despite these apparent obstacles, Tuttle-Click beat the odds.

My question to Jim was simple, "You are 73 years old and a very successful entrepreneur. If a 23-year-old aspiring entrepreneur approached you and asked what are the top three things she should focus on in order to be successful, what would you tell her?"

The three insights he shared are:

1. Have a mentor who truly cares about you.

2. Overcome the "I Quit" moments.

3. Focus on customers first.

Regarding having a mentor, Jim was fortunate in this regard. He had two mentors – his father Jim Click Sr. and his uncle Holmes Tuttle.

Jim's father taught Jim about hard work. He taught him about the need to learn, and how education is the foundation for any success. He taught him to take pride in his work and in himself. He taught him loving what you do is essential for success. If you do, you will retire for the rest of your life doing something you love.

Jim learned a lot about business from Holmes Tuttle. Jim started as a salesman at the Tuttle dealership in Beverly Hills. He learned and succeeded at sales, then sales management. The dealership became the second-highest grossing dealer in the nation.

Jim concluded on mentorship with this thought. Listening to and learning from a mentor who cares provides deep and rich life and business lessons.

The second recommendation Jim has for an aspiring entrepreneur is to overcome the "I Quit" moments. Being an entrepreneur is tough, and there will be many moments where quitting seems like the best answer (at least seemingly the least painful at that moment).

When that moment occurs, remind yourself how much you want to achieve the goals you set. Envision the goals, and just don't quit.

Jim attended Oklahoma State University and played on the football team. A new coach took over in Jim's second year on the team, and the new coach was tough, really tough. A lot of the players quit. Jim hung in there, but after one particularly tough day, Jim called his dad and said he wanted to quit.

Jim Sr., being the mentor that he was, responded by saying "Well, you know what, people won't buy these damn Chevrolets and the mechanics are no good, and I'd like to quit, too. But I don't know how I'd support your brother and two sisters." Jim overcame his "I Quit" moment, stayed on the team, and later became team captain.

Jim's third recommendation is to focus on customers first and foremost. Jim began selling cars well before there were online platforms to monitor, shape and manage sales activities. He worked with a prospect book, a customer book, and a 3x5 card file with activities organized by date. These tools were simple in comparison to what is available today. However, the tools shaped Jim's priority of focusing on customers.

The books contained reams of information on customers, prospects and their friends. The file cards detailed activities on a daily basis: who to call, action to take, reference to past conversations, etc. When the call is completed, the card and book are updated, and the card placed in the date slot for the next scheduled call.

Jim disciplined himself to engage on a personal level, doing the things necessary to stay connected with customers and future customers. Jim succeeded because he had a focus that was personal and disciplined, but not robotic.

The Bottom Line – Jim and his partner Bob Tuttle have a 50+ year track record of success. Jim's insights regarding success focus on personal things: mentorship, pride, determination, hard work, and a focus on people and your relationships with them. Jim didn't talk about systems, processes, products, prices, features, etc. Success for Jim is about who you are, who and how you relate to others, and the openness and passion you demonstrate every day.

Ken Cook is the co-founder of How to Who, a program on how to build strong relationships and how to build business through those relationships. Learn more at www.howtowho.com.


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