TPE S2 23 | Service Provider

 

Too fast may not be too wise. Some good things take the right timing and the right people to work out. This is exactly what Kamard Johnson, CEO/CVO at GTT Commercial Tires, learned. If you are thinking of taking your business to the next level, this is the podcast for you! In this episode, Kamard shares insights on how focusing on building processes, creating roles, filling them with the right people, and providing excellent service can give your business the leverage to take off. So tune in and learn about a platform that can teach you about starting, scaling, and owning your own tire store.

For information on how to work with Don visit Work With Don Williams

You can also reach out to Don Williams at https://donwilliamsglobal.com

Please join Don and his businesses in support of St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital in its Mission to cure Childhood Cancers. You can donate to St. Jude at stjude.org/donate

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Exceptional Service Provider – Kamard Johnson

I have a super entrepreneur. He’s a very young guy and had great success very early on. Kamard Johnson, thank you for joining us.

Don, thank you so much for having me. I’m super grateful to be here.

I’m going to take you all the way back to a little Kamard age 5 up to 18 maybe. The household where you were raised, whether that was with mom, dad or grandpa, however that work. It doesn’t matter. Was there an adult in the house that was an entrepreneur that gave you an entrepreneurial example as a young child?

I’ll give you the entire framework if that’s okay with you.

Sure.

Single-parent household. There was my grandmother, my mother, my brother and myself. We lived in an urban area, not the greatest but not the worst. My mother worked a traditional job, as many Americans do. I didn’t get it from her. I’m much more conservative. I want to know if I work X amount of hours, I’m going to make X amount of dollars. My brother, on the other hand, was very entrepreneurial for as long as I can remember. He’s tried some of everything. I can point to him early on subconsciously being an example and someone that I looked up to. That probably has played a part in my ability to become an entrepreneur.

When I first started the show, and we’ve now done about 100 episodes, I thought that every entrepreneur had an entrepreneurial example, but it’s only about 1 in 3 or 1 in 4. Most entrepreneurs are wired a little differently, and when an opportunity presents itself and they walk through the door. That’s the difference. Thanks for sharing.

We’re still with little Kamard. What’s your first job where you got paid or maybe your first job was entrepreneurial? I’ve talked with people who did a lemonade stand and that was the first place they made money. What’s the first place you made money, whether it was a job or entrepreneurial? Would you share that with us?

Live in the moment, in the experience. Even when you don’t get your desired result or outcome, still examine what good lies in it. Click To Tweet

I’ll give you the three stages for me. The first portion was in school, I was on the basketball team and I started to do homework for a lot of my teammates, which then turned into doing homework for a lot of the football team. It’s like anything in school. Things spread pretty fast. That was the first opportunity that I had where I earned wages for myself. The second stage for me was selling Pokémon cards, jerseys, and things like that my mom had purchased for me. I had either grown out of it or wasn’t interested anymore.

I saw an opportunity before I even knew what the word arbitrage meant. I knew I had no cost in it at all and I could sell it to another young child or kid for more than what I had in it. The third phase for me, my first official real job, was at TJ Maxx, where I was in the back working in the stock room. I then got promoted to working at the front desk or checking you out as a cashier. Eventually, I moved up to a part-time manager there. Those were the three stages for me that escalated the earning wages rollercoaster for me.

It sounds like your mother and grandmother instilled you with a strong work ethic. One easy way to beat your competition is to outwork them. It helps to outsmart them but you can beat them if you outwork them. That’s awesome. We’re going to leave young Kamard in history. At eighteen, did you join the Marine Corps or backpacked across Europe or take a year off and live on the beach? What did you do?

At eighteen, Kamard graduates high school. While in high school, I was working at H.H. Gregg. I escalated to a cashier, which was glorified customer service merchandise. That’s what they called me. I proposed to the sales manager at the time because I saw those guys. I figured they made money way more than what we did just ringing up people. He agreed to allow me to give the sales floor a try.

I went out there. I sold electronics first, then I didn’t like how that worked because if you came in and you wanted to get a TV but you had your wife with you. She also wanted to get a dishwasher then what had to happen was I would get the commission for the TV sale but a colleague of mine would get the sale for the dishwasher.

I’m like, “Why do we do things that way?” Up until that point, no one at least explored that with the manager and so I did. I’m like, “If I educate myself on the appliance piece of it and I also educate on the electronics piece of it, would you guys be comfortable if I cross-sold?” They did. I don’t know if they thought about what the repercussions would be from the other salespeople on the side of the appliance or maybe they didn’t care because it was about sales.

Either way, they gave me the opportunity and I took it. Now, when you came in, I could sell you whatever you wanted and your wife, whatever she wanted. That made a great opportunity for me to bring in some decent money as a young 18 or 17-year-old kid, even 16 is when I originally got over there and I liked it.

At the time, an individual walked in. He was dressed sharply and I didn’t allude to what he did. At the end of the transaction of selling him a dishwasher for his wife for their anniversary, he was like, “Nothing against this place but I feel like you got more talent than what you’re being able to utilize here. Would it be okay if I gave your name to a recruiter where I work?” I’m like, “Yes, but what do you do though?” He was very vague. He never told me anything, so I thought nothing of it.

TPE S2 23 | Service Provider

Service Provider: Our customers are everything; we don’t just understand that but magnify what it really means. Without raving customers, all we have is a building, tires, a logo, and a name.

 

Fast forward about 3 or 4 months later, a recruiter reaches out to me. I agreed to go in and meet with her. This place happened to be Northwestern Mutual. I’m like, “This is finance.” I’m still in high school. I don’t know anything about it but I’m intrigued. It seemed like a money-making opportunity. That was something that was a motivator for me because I wanted to contribute and I was contributing to the expenses in the household. That was one of the ways I’ve always been able to show my mother how much I appreciate everything that she’s done and sacrificed for me.

I went and in the first couple of conversations with the lady, as we’re maybe 10 to 15 minutes into it, she was like, “We think you will make a good intern here.” I was like, “Intern? Interns don’t make money. There must have been some miscommunication. I apologize but I’m here to make money. This is a job opportunity, right?” She was like, “Do you think you can cut it?” I was like, “Yes.” She was like, “You don’t even know what we do.” I was like, “Explain it, then I’ll learn it and I can do it.” Fast forward, after about seven interviews with different people within the organization, they finally ended up getting me a meeting with the managing partner.

I knew it was going well. It was only supposed to be a ten-minute meeting. I look up and we’re over an hour. As people rise through the ranks, they don’t tend to waste time. For him to spend an hour with me, I figured I was doing all right. They ended up offering me the job. It was a Friday and I told him that I needed to take the weekend to think it over. It blew him away because he was like, “Do you understand the opportunity that I’m offering you? What do you mean you have to think about it?” The reason was, and not to be arrogant or anything, I did have other alternatives.

H.H. Gregg was willing to move me to Schaumburg, Illinois to be a store manager. I was considering that. I’m young and moving to another place, a big city. I had another financial opportunity with MassMutual and I had this opportunity. I had to think it over. I ultimately decided to go with them. By far, it was one of the greatest things I did because I learned a ton about finance, managing money, and a lot of high-level things that one coming from my background and circumstance probably would not have gained.

Especially due to the fact that I forewent going to college. Also, I made some great relationships with some dope individuals that have helped aid in my progression and development in my life. That was eighteen-year-old Kamard. Right out of high school, going and working for a top financial institution with no college experience and no financial experience.

Were you on the insurance or the broker side?

I started on the insurance side and then quickly grew to do the broker side as well. It was a great time for me.

You don’t know this about me but we’re brothers of different mothers. At eighteen, I went to college for about a minute or maybe two minutes. I had a sales job, which I’m not sure about. I had a buddy who made quite a bit of money and I was like, “I want to do that.” I took the sales job and within eight months, I was the top salesman in the country. Selling is a foundational entrepreneurial skill.

What you focus on matters. Focus shapes your emotions. How you feel emotionally usually dictates how you perform. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t matter what your product, service or experience is. Somebody has got to buy it and sometimes, they need a little help to buy it. We need somebody who can communicate the offer in an appealing and non-threatening manner where people say yes. You are my brother from another mother, for sure. Tell me your current business. You’re in the commercial tire business. Did you go from Northwestern Mutual to the commercial tire business?

No. The transition was out the Northwestern Mutual, my brother and I launched his idea to start our car dealership together. I parted ways and went to do that with him. Financially, it wasn’t a success because it was too little for too much. It was a lot of headaches for very little payoffs for us. After about three years, I was like, “We got to get out of this.” The last car that we sold allowed us to unwind the business. We celebrated it as if it was the first car that we sold. That creates such excitement for most.

That was the transition there, then I left that. My brother continues to start something else as he always has done, as I said, as early as I can remember. I went to work at CarMax because there was a manager there who was my manager at H.H. Gregg. It was a lot of synergies there and it made sense to me. I went in there and did well, just as I did at Northwestern Mutual.

It was easy for me. I came in. I’ll sell you a car, I’ll sell your buddy a car, and I’ll sell one other person a car, then I go home for the day. That is how it worked for me up until the point where my mother started to press me on joining forces with my brother again in the tire company that he had started with seven used tires in his backyard in 2016.

Fast forward to 2018, he had grown it to 317,000 and had very limited overhead because it was one other employee other than himself. He had a warehouse that was only about maybe $1,500 per month. His model was very simplistic in the sense that it was just cash and carry, pick up and take with. Guys would come with their pickup truck, take eight tires or one tire, and that would be that. That was the transition for me.

It had gotten to a point to fill it out. You want to honor your mother’s wishes. I was like, “Let me see what he got going on.” I would go up to the warehouse that he had, take my CarMax shirt off, put on a regular shirt, and listen to the lingo of the conversations. I look to educate myself yet again about the product. On January 1st, 2019, I made the decision to join him 100% in full capacity and we haven’t looked back since.

I love that and I love the family aspect. I love that you did your best to honor your mother with you and your brother in business. The name of your company is GTT Commercial Tires. You have two locations, so you’ve got two links to the chain.

The third is on the way. We’re breaking ground on a new construction project which is going to be in Hampton Road, which is about two hours from Richmond, Virginia.

TPE S2 23 | Service Provider

Service Provider: It’s very important to focus on positive things. Negative things can happen in different shapes, but that doesn’t mean you have to give all your attention to those things when they happen.

 

Congratulations. I want to read a testimonial off of your web page. “I’m passing through Richmond at 10:30 PM and blow one tire on my trailer.” I’m guessing that’s a tractor-trailer. “I called GTT and they jumped at the opportunity to help me. At 10:30 PM, I called three places and got no answer from many of them, but they got out and did the road call for me. I ended up needing three tires, which they had. Can you imagine that?”

“They hooked me up for under an hour for under $1,000. These are expensive tires. What place do you know doing that? Three tires and the road service this time of night for under $1,000 on a holiday weekend on Monday Memorial Day. These guys were a real godsend for me tonight as I head back to Florida. Thanks a million, GTT, for the great service, timely work, and awesome price.”

As I was going through your website, maybe you know this. I don’t know. I wrote this book called Romancing Your Customer, a few years ago, which deals with delivering such exceptional experiences that your customers. Not that they’re fans but they literally love doing business with you and your company. I want to compliment you because it seems like a lot of people talk that talk like, “It’s all about the customer all the time.” Lots of people talk that talk but very few companies walk that walk. They’re always wildly successful because it is all about the customer all the time.

Thank you for pulling that up. That’s pretty funny. Our customers are everything. We not just understand but we magnify what it means. Without raving customers, all we have is a building, tires, a logo and a name. None of that makes money without raving customers. It’s very important to us to understand that and acknowledge that and do things that make them feel that. As you said, it’s one thing to usher that lip service around it. It’s a great statement to say but a lot of people don’t truly embody it in their process and their service. Ultimately, who gets the fair share of the deal?

We understand that if we take care of those guys, put those guys in opportunities to save time and make more money, all of that is in addition to us having a pretty superior process to the status quo of the industry. With us having better prices than the majority of the other options out there, why would they not do business here? That has been a win in our sales in terms of how we’ve grown. We haven’t spent a dollar on advertising up to this point.

That’s amazing for the type of industry that you’re in. If you turn every customer into a walking and talking advertisement, you may not need any traditional advertising. I want you to think back across your career and even the stuff that you did as little Kamard. Do you have a hard lesson? Something that happened that was like, “That hurts.” Maybe now, you look back at it and you’re like, “That was a blessing in disguise,” but at that moment, it was a hard event or a hard lesson in your entrepreneurial journey.

It happens to me often because I’m present and cognizant of how everything is connected. Before I answer the question, I always tell people to live in the moment and the experience. Meaning that as things happen, even when they’re not your desired result or outcome, look to examine what good lies in it. Sometimes that won’t happen immediately. Sometimes it may take a day, a week, a month or a year to be able to find that connection point. I am a true believer that it all flows together.

One example that I can tell you is my brother trusts me 100%. He possessed so much humility around the direction that I wanted to go. He’s stepping aside out of the driver’s seat and getting into the passenger seat. The aggressive young Kamard, the little brother says, “Let’s open up a location in Fredericksburg,” which is about an hour away from Richmond. This was done two months after I joined the company officially in January of 2019. I’m still learning about the education around the different tires and all of the nuances with our model that I’m trying to craft out and here I am talking about opening up another location, which we did.

Drop the chip on your shoulder and be more open to others’ instructions, stories, and suggestions for guidance. Click To Tweet

The challenge there was it was an epic failure because we didn’t even know what we were hiring for yet. There weren’t designated positions. There weren’t designated roles and responsibilities for those positions. There wasn’t a system in place for those people to play a part in the system. It ended up being a catastrophe. We’re getting calls from customers and this was in the earlier stages of us attempting to establish a brand.

We’re getting calls from customers saying, “I’m here at the Fredericksburg location and your doors are shut.” “What do you mean the doors are shut? Don is supposed to be there.” I called Don and you’re like, “I have to do this and do that.” I’m like, “That’s fine but why didn’t you let me know so that we could have made proper arrangements that still keep the store going?” It was a nightmare because I found myself questioning myself and how good I was. It wasn’t the right decision for my brother to trust me. Were the strategies that I wanted to deploy accurate and potent enough for being able to penetrate new markets?

Ultimately, all of that stuff was because we moved too fast. That was the core lesson there. It wasn’t about any of those other things having any truth to them, which they could have but that wasn’t what it was about. We were able to take a step back. Financially, we lost a little bit of money there, but we didn’t lose the opportunity to continue to move forward to improve upon something that he had clearly etched out as successful and that we could expound upon. That would be that example. It was wild.

I forget which business guru quotes this but it’s something along these lines, “If you want to go fast, go slow.” There’s some real truth to that. The other thing I loved about what you said and I too am one of those people who believe that things are connected if you get enough distance and you can see that. My latest book is Gratitude: Stories From Our Hearts. I’m a big believer that everybody can be grateful if you win the lottery, if you buy a new car, if the girl says yes to you or whatever. There’s something positive there, but the best practitioners of gratitude can find a way to be grateful for their challenges.

That takes a little higher level of gratitude but also delivers a higher level of life. I love how you shared that. We talked about a hard lesson. Let’s talk about a warp speed moment. Things are going pretty good. You make a hire, change a strategy, execute a plan, and all of a sudden, things take off. Do you have one of those you can share with us?

I’ll tie it right into the hard lesson story. I learned all of that, which then led to not derailing us from wanting to continue to scale through multiple locations. What it did is it made me focus on the things that aren’t sexy in business, creating standard operating procedures, creating systems for people to be able to plug into and become a part of a machine and not necessarily have to carry the load. Creating distinctive roles and responsibilities for different positions based on what I felt we could execute at a better clip than any of the other competitors.

All of that assisted with creating a framework. Fast forward to 2022, when we opened up our second store in January, we’ve already done over half a million at that location. That is because of all of the things that were learned, not necessarily through just the Fredericksburg scenario with the debacle there but what it then led me to start to think about things that needed to have time, energy, activity and effort put into it. That’s the connection of the dots.

It now has positioned us to be able to take off like a plane on the runway. It gives me even more confidence and conviction around wherever I put these things, I’m going to be able to have similar, if not better showings right out of the gate due to the fact that we now feel we have an established blueprint and formula for our recipe of success.

TPE S2 23 | Service Provider

Service Provider: I could be much further ahead had Kamard, at twenty years old, been more receptive to the assistance that some people attempted to offer me.

 

I always ask the old guys this. What’s a nugget of wisdom? Something that you hold in your personal treasure chest of entrepreneurial learnings. What’s a nugget you would share with us?

I know one thing that’s super important for me in business entrepreneurially as well as personally in my life is being very cognizant of your focus and your thoughts because it is a real thing. I am a living testament to what you focus on matters. To me, it’s like, that shapes your emotions. How you feel emotionally dictates how you perform. It’s very important to make sure that the things you’re focusing on are positive things.

Negative things are going to happen for all of us in different shapes. That’s how it works but that doesn’t mean that you have to give over all of your attention to those things when they happen. Take a couple of minutes and deal with it. You get through it. You grieve or whatever the case may be but you can’t hold on to it too long because it is a true derailment to progress. How I do things is like, “As a result of doing this, am I going to be better, the same or worse?” That helps me to speed through things. It’s like, “Am I going to be better if I sit here and think about the nasty thing that Don said to me in the grocery store?”

I never say nasty things to people in the grocery store.

It’s just an example. To me, that’s a simple tactic to deploy. You can answer that for yourself. You don’t need to talk to your father. You don’t need a mentor. You can answer that like, “No, I’m not going to be better for that.” When you can make that decision, it’s like, “I need to move on from this.” I think it helps either speed up the moving on from it or after you practice it a while, like anything else, you get to a point where those things don’t even penetrate you at all. It would definitely be being very cognizant of what you focus on and what your thoughts are.

As a man think of so shall he go? It’s also true that if you’re looking to elevate, be certain that you’re spending time with people that are elevated. Many of us are the product of the five closest people that we associate with. It’s very important to do that. I’m going to put you in a time machine. In your case, it’s not going back very far and that’s a testament to you.

I’ll put you in a time machine and take you back and you’re going to get about 60 seconds to tell twenty-year-old Kamard something that you think he should know that would have made things easier, faster, and better in the next coming years. Into the time machine you go, here’s twenty-year-old Kamard. What do you have to say to him?

I would tell the twenty-year-old Kamard to drop the chip on his shoulder and be more open to others’ instructions, stories and suggestions for guidance. There are probably a lot of things I can point to in my upbringing that created the chip or contributed to the creation of the chip. You get so reliant on things like that, Don, that it becomes your superpower. It becomes the thing that you value the most because you see it as the thing that protects you. At the same time, in certain scenarios of such, as much as it protects you, it can hurt you.

Don’t hold on to negative things too long because it is a true derailment to progress. Click To Tweet

It’s almost like the closed fist analogy. If you don’t let anything out, that might accomplish the one goal that you are holding on to or whatever it is that you are holding onto. On the other hand, you don’t let anything in either. Ultimately, you remain in one specific spot and that is the epitome of stagnation and that doesn’t work for me. I know as far as I’ve come or as fast as it seems that I have come, I do know or at least I believe without a shadow of a doubt that I could be much further ahead had Kamard at twenty years old been more receptive to the assistance that some people attempted to offer me.

That’s great wisdom. Thank you so much. How can we support you? What can we do for you, Kamard?

For me, the support is, by virtue, allowing in assisting my support to others because that is something near and dear to my brother and me. We’ve created an education platform that we want to roll out to anyone interested in starting and scaling and owning their tire store. You can go to KamardJohnson.com to get registered because we will be rolling this out. The reason that we’re doing this is I’ve gotten questions from a lot of people like, “You create a competition for yourself,” but the demand in the trucking industry is growing at an enormous clip. I don’t foresee it slowing down anytime soon.

Look at 72% of the goods being transported on a truck and that’s a commercial vehicle of some sort. Look at the rise of eCommerce. Even looking at what the administration is doing to help further the quality of life as well as the attraction to getting into trucking. For us, we understand that those truckers can’t do what they do without tires. It’s not enough for us to provide the supply of the demand that’s there. I don’t look at it as creating competition. I look at it as being able to give people the tools to be successful.

A lot of the ingredients that have made our stores successful could do that in different parts of the region or different parts of the country that maybe we touch or maybe we don’t. Even if we do and we don’t do it tomorrow, potentially, somebody else can take this information and get it done in a quicker timeframe because that’s their natural area. That will be one way to support because that’s going to allow us to support the opportunities of ambition for others who may be interested in this particular field.

From there, we’re always doing things in our local community. I would have your audience be encouraged to do things in their local communities for those that are not as fortunate, that they don’t see an avenue that the person or people can do something for them. It’s easy for me to do something for you, Don. You have a great platform and think about how I can leverage that up for you and something for me on the back end from you.

I’m talking about doing things for people that you can identify with that can’t necessarily bring any value to your life. To me, that is where the character shows. I would use your platform to encourage others to do these types of things that mean something to them, more so means something to those people who need help in their local areas, whether that’s children, women or the homeless.

You don’t know this about me but my mission is to help others who help others. I love helping others but I get excited if I’m helping other people help other people because the ripples are larger and reach more people. Kamard, thank you very much. I’m grateful that you joined us and shared a little bit of your story. I reserve the right to recall the witness and call you back and talk on other subjects in greater depth. I’m grateful.

I would be delighted. Thank you so much again for having me on your show. I’m super grateful to be here, Don. Thank you so much.

That’s for this episode. See you next time. Bye now.

 

Important Links

 

About Kamard Johnson

TPE S2 23 | Service ProviderKamard D. Johnson is the CEO/CVO at GTT Commercial Tires, a chain of truck tire stores on the east coast.

Kamard is a serial entrepreneur who has companies in industries including commercial tires, real estate, and entertainment. Additionally, he also serves as an equity partner in several privately held companies.

Altruistically, Kamard also heads up a non-profit organization concentrating on empowering the youth with skills, resources, and practices to compete in the future.

 

For information on how to work with Don visit Work With Don Williams

You can also reach out to Don Williams at https://donwilliamsglobal.com

Please join Don and his businesses in support of St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital in its Mission to cure Childhood Cancers. You can donate to St. Jude at stjude.org/donate