Zolman shares four pieces of advice at Green Flag Day
Show up 15 minutes early. Smile. Have a positive attitude. And don’t compromise your integrity.
“Your life choices will haunt you or springboard you to success,” Zolman said. “Nobody likes being around negative jerks. There were two sides to Babe Ruth. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also a drunk who cheated on his wife and told rookies they sucked and would never be as good as him, so why try? Do you think that person is going to blossom?”
“Don’t give in to social pressure and cut corners. You will get caught and it will bite you,” he said. “Everything you ever posted is on a server somewhere and can harm your career. That’s me being an employer and a dad. I’m being intentionally blunt and real because at the end of life all you’ve got is your reputation.”
The automotive industry hires accountants, service writers, parts managers, service managers, sales associates, social media and marketers.
“Don’t just think ‘mechanic.’ There are hundreds of jobs in the field,” Zolman said. “I have accountants and bookkeepers that are almost making six figures and five technicians in that range. Technicians in the middle earn $50,000-$60,000. Entry-level, $35,000-$45,000. But you have to work hard. You’re not going to show up at a job and, poof, make $25 an hour. You’ll advance faster with a degree, a good attitude and arriving early.”
His industry “used to be a man’s world,” Zolman said, “but women who have come in are usually smarter, faster, better communication skills, better work ethics and more efficient. I have nine females in key roles and two apprentice technicians who are so outgoing and friendly they are probably going to be service writers very quickly — a difference between $10 and $16 an hour.”
Zolman talked about his “heroes,” parents Bud and Diane from Kosciusko County.
“My dad was from Beaver Dam, my mom from Silver Lake,” said Zolman, accompanied by his wife, Tabitha.
“At 14, my father’s dad passed away, making him head of the household. His mother cut hair. He had an older sister and a younger brother. He started working at a salvage yard for free to get items. He first built a bicycle so he could get to and from places. Then he built a lawnmower he towed behind him to mow yards for 50 cents. He rode to school with a .22-rifle. Anything that moved was family dinner.”
“My mom was on the tractor plowing fields at 7,” Zolman said. “Very meager beginnings. I tell you that because regardless where you’re from or your economic status — Mom and Dad never went to college — if you work hard and have integrity, you can change whatever situation you’re in.”
In 1966, Bud, a mechanic and local race car driver, helped Ray Monteith start Monteith Tire in Warsaw.
“In 1978,” Zolman said, “there was an opportunity to go out on his own in Mishawaka, where my dad knew no one.”
With 21-percent interest rates, “It was not a good time to borrow money,” Zolman said, “but when you’re in that chapter of your life sometimes you don’t know that. They got through that bad financial time and I went to Ball State University, where I was a varsity swimmer. They wanted me to do something else than the family business, but I decided if I was going to work hard, I’d rather work hard for Mom and Dad. When I came back I worked two years at the main store.
“In 1995, we knew the owners of Granger Tire and bought them out. That was my first opportunity to be an entrepreneur. We bought two more stores in 1997. With four, I had to find people I trusted because I can’t wear all the hats. In 1999, we bought out Ron Martin Tire and tore down the Niles building about seven years ago for our first new build,” which opened Aug. 29, 2011.
In 2004, Zolman acquired Tire Service, a family business since 1952.
“Of two owners plus seven employees, five are still with us, including Bob Ross, one of my right-hand people,” Zolman said. “Relationships are very important to my family and in business.
“In 2007, we added on to our building, starting a fleet department that grew. We bought the building behind us. It’s now three acres, a 26,000-square-foot building and 30 people in that division. We do semi tires, wheels, retreads and 13 diesel mechanics work on semis, tractor trailers, Bobcats and Ditch Witches.
“We’ve been fortunate to win favorite auto repair 15 years in a row. We also won favorite tire store, 2016-17, because of hard-working employees who do the right thing every day. In March I bought out a competitor for our eighth location, an 80,000-square-foot commercial tire center.”