My Library and Courses
Last Update: Saturday September 18, 2021

Key Idea: Hire COPS

Tom Gegax's people philosophy is: hire attitude, invest heavily in training and coach, coach, coach.

Key Question:


Know what you are looking for.

Tom and Don formed Tires Plus University to teach new teammates what they need to know to be successful at Tires Plus. They are not very concerned with the knowledge that new employees bring to the company. Knowledge can be taught; the raw material is what Tom and Don care about. They are looking for COPS, people who are Caring, Optimistic, Passionate, Systems-disciplined and spirit filled.

Finding the right kind of teammates is so important to Tom and Don that they pay a $500 referral fee to a teammate who successfully attracts another teammate to Tires Plus.

How do you decide what kind of employees to hire for your company?

A: Tom and Don's feelings are appropriate for any business. Who you hire is more important than what they know. True, training employees is time consuming and costly. But an employee who has the necessary skill set to jump in and needs no training is of little value if (s)he is not motivated, sensitive to customers' needs or a team player whom other employees have confidence in. Better to invest the time training the right person than offer the wrong person a position in your business.

Most companies, when advertising for a position, will include both job requirements and preferences. Requirements are the mandatory criteria that the person filling the position must meet. Skills or experience that are "preferred" indicate that all other things being equal, the applicant also meeting those criteria is more likely to be offered the position. Remember, though, that all other things are not equal. In the end, most companies have found that the intelligent and motivated applicant, who might require a more extensive training period than the applicant with more relevant experience, provides the business with a greater return on investment.

The next time you are hiring a new employee for your business, make two lists. One, list the required and preferred qualifications for the position. These are the technical criteria and required skill sets and will be included in the advertisement for the position. The second list, which you will review just prior to each interview for the position, will include the personal characteristics you would like to see in the new employee. These characteristics will include those most likely to ensure success for the company and the individual if they are appealing to your customer base and current employees. You can make that second list right now!

Think about it

Do you know the type of person you want to hire?

Clip from: Tires Plus with Tom Gegax and Don Gullet

Minneapolis: In 1978, Tom Gegax and his partner Don Gullet, bought a few gas stations and opened for business. By 1998, they had 150 tire stores with 2,000 employees generating $200 million in annual sales.

That's a good story unto itself, however, in this episode of the show, we learn from a master entrepreneur about the meaning and value of life. Tom Gegax is pulling and pushing us up the ladder. When they sold this business, he became an author. His third book, The Big Book About Small Business  builds on his first two,  By the Seat of Your Pants: The No-Nonsense Business Survival Guide, and Winning in the Game of Life.

The first editorial title for Tom's book was The Enlightened Executive. And with all these self-help books and continuous improvement cycles within our lives, enlightenment is actually breaking out all over.

Tom Gegax was a founder, the Head Coach, as well as Chairman and CEO.  In 1999 they were being courted for acquisition.  In 2000 Bridgestone/Firestone sealed the deal to buy 100% of the company.

Go to all the video clips and key ideas... 
Go to the homepage for this episode... 

Gegax Management & Tires Plus

Tom Gegax, founder

Gegax Management Systems
PO Box 16323
Minneapolis, MN 55416

Visit our web site:

Office: 612-920-5114

Business Classification:

Year Founded:


HATTIE: So do you think beauty has an impact on our feelings, our attitudes, our productivity?

TOM: Definitely.

HATTIE: Having sold the business, there are new challenges for Tom. But I wanted to learn more about why Tires Plus was so successful. I met him at his home in La Jolla (San Diego).

What were some of the key decisions that that two of you made that you know now looking back were the right things to do?

TOM: Well, the decisions were:

  • Have an environment that people were able to feel comfortable.

  • Really spend money in having the store environment to look nice.

  • Spend a lot of time, effort, and effort in hiring people that we call COPS -- people who are: Caring, Optimistic, Persistent, Passionate, System discipline and Spirit filled.  So, we found people like that would come in and we trained them well.

Employee #2: The reason I'm here is I want to find out what makes business work.

TOM: (talking to his teammates) We have Tires Plus University, a place that takes what you're already able to do but enhances it. I sleep better at night seeing the quality in this room, because you're our future. This kind of goes in tandem, because the more that our company's reputation is built, the more people would want to be involved with.

We also did a referral process, because we felt that when we had a group of people with us that we felt were COPS. Well COPS know COPS.

So we gave them a $500 referral fee for anybody they brought in, that they recommended to come to our company whom we hired. And after 90 days, if they're still there and everything worked great, we paid them. So rather than go pay a recruiting, employment agency, I'd rather see our own people get that.

Now, as far as the interview, it was critical to be able to find out, are they really COPS? And we did it in two ways. We asked them out of the box questions that were very different ...


TOM: Like, what makes you happy? What makes you sad? What makes you mad?

The second major way we did it was we got into role playing situations with them. Where we actually said, 'Don't tell me how you sell, sell me this pencil. Sell me the product.'

HATTIE: So you really almost do an audition then more than an interview.

TOM: It's a combination.

TOM: An out-of-the-box interview plus audition.

TOM: (addressing his teammates) This is what we call spring training. What do sports games do, you work on at spring training? The basics, fundamentals. That's where we're going to go back. We're going back to fundamentals.

TOM: Tires Plus University is an educational system that we set up. Because one of the things that we saw in this industry and in many other industries. When times get tight and budgets get tight, it's like, 'Oh, let's cut education.'

Well, I say, 'Wait a minute. That's our R & D.' You know, we're not manufacturing a product. Our R & D is we want to have advanced knowledge and advanced products. Well I want to advance our people. So I'm going to spend a lot of R&D, Research and Development, on developing our people and try to be a student of management and leadership.

Anybody that is a small business owner that wants to grow their business is going to need to be a student of management and leadership because it is tough stuff.

HATTIE: So this is harder than it looks. It's hard.

TOM: Oh, it's hard. Leading people is difficult. It's challenging stuff. You can't grow faster than your systems will grow or else you'll implode.

Plus, you need to have the people that are able to fill the leadership positions created by growth, that's the second piece. The third piece is money. And, because it takes money to be able to grow because you're opening new locations … whatever the type business it is.

TOM: It doesn't make money right away. You invest money in that, and then sometimes it takes a few years to be able to make that money.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!