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Last Update: Monday June 21, 2021

Key Idea: Coach Yourself First

Tom Gegax learned the hard way that you have to coach yourself before you can be an effective coach to others.

Key Question:


If you like Tom's idea of seeing himself as a coach instead of a boss, then perhaps you'll like his idea of nurturing, encouraging, and getting the best out of himself as well as his employees. Tom calls this "self-coaching".

How do I coach myself?

Someone once said, "If you don't keep growing, you get ripe and rot." It's true! We must continue to learn and improve ourselves if we expect our employees to do the same. Tom suggested that we focus on modifying our "dysfunctional" behavior as a means of improving our business. "Dysfunctional" may be too strong of a word, but let's say, for example, that you are a shy person and would like to be a little bit more outgoing with your customers, employees and vendors. You might read books, listen to audio tapes, join Toastmaster's International, or any combination of the three to address this. You might notice a particular "dysfunction" in one of your valued employees and assist him or her in developing a plan to address it. The point is that each of us has weaknesses, and by addressing our personal weaknesses, we make our business stronger.

Think about it

If you were your coach, what would you say to yourself?

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.

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Gegax Management & Tires Plus

Tom Gegax, founder

Gegax Management Systems
PO Box 16323
Minneapolis, MN 55416

Visit our web site:

Office: 612-920-5114

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Coach Yourself First

And actually, in the early years of Tires Plus, my people skills were not good. I don't believe I cared about our people to the degree that was healthy. I don't believe I was as honoring and respectful to them. So it was 1989 when I went through a divorce, had cancer and the business was very financially challenged and we were very short. My CFO came in and said, 'We're a million dollars short in the bank account. Our credit line's exhausted, what do we do?'

HATTIE: So you were sort of stressed, stretched to the limit. You personally.

TOM: Health, love relationship, and financial/career. So in all three of those, I went through a very difficult period for about a year and ended up looking at things differently. Re-looking from my life from an emotional, psychological standpoint. I took counseling/therapy.

HATTIE: Right.

TOM: For X number -- for four or five years.

HATTIE: Like once a week you went to a therapist.

TOM: Yes, once a week. I did both group and individual. When we don't manage our lives properly and things get out of whack, it's very hard to be nice. And by the way when I'm saying being nice, that doesn't mean there isn't tough luck, because my new book talks about the mix of both.

HATTIE: Right.

TOM: About being a nurturing, servant leader who really cares about their teammates. Yet also one that's very exacting, and requiring, but to the degree that you believe in your vision and your mission. To the degree that you have people that you're surrounded with that you know are helping make that a reality, and you want to help them, and help guests. It's really important to keep the overall perspective in mind. Because if you don't you'll get so -- you'll get so beat up over the -- the challenge of day to day.

(Voiceover) I feel very blessed with the personal health that I have, with the love relationship. As this company grows, then, even though I'm not present physically, I'm attached and have a spirit connection with that.

HATTIE: You said your absolute slam dunk, marketing technique is buzz. You had it, you had the 'it.'

TOM: Exactly, exactly. Exactly, yeah. That's it. We had it. We had the buzz. We had the people that would say, 'Yeah, you should go there.' And we loved that. But again I told our people, don't treat them nice just because of that. Treat them nice because it's the right thing to do.

It's the oldest rule in the book - the golden rule.


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