I often use the expression, “One person can make all the difference in the world.”

That adage certainly applied to my friend Bruce Halle, who recently died. Bruce was the founder of Discount Tire, the nation’s largest tire and wheel retailer, with 975 stores in 34 states and nearly 20,000 employees.

Bruce was a self-made man, working as a paperboy as I did, and even working as a gravedigger to support his family. He tried selling life insurance before he opened his first tire store in 1960 in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was the sole employee. His original inventory consisted of two new tires and four retreads. Like many entrepreneurs, Bruce did everything from cleaning toilets to painting signs.

The company grew at record speed because of Bruce’s leadership and his three-pronged approach — provide reasonable prices, tremendous customer service and guarantee satisfaction. He believed that happy employees make happy customers. He taught his employees to live by the credo “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

I’d like to focus on one of Bruce’s quotes and offer my thoughts: “There are really just five simple lessons to life: Be honest, work hard, have fun, be grateful and pay it forward.”

Honesty

Tell the truth at all times to build solid relationships. Your word must be your bond. Complete honesty in little things is not a little thing at all.

Honesty, ethics, integrity, values, morals — all mean more or less the same thing; you can interchange them, because they all convey the single attribute that determines whether a person or an organization can be trusted.

Work hard

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. There is no magic formula for being a success. It takes hard work. Sure, natural talent can make a big difference. But show me a natural .300 hitter in Major League Baseball, and I’ll show you someone who bangs the ball until their hands bleed trying to keep that stroke honed. Ask any surgeon about how much sleep they got for the eight to 10 years it took them to get through medical school, internship and residency. Ask any concert pianist how much practice it takes to perform a 40-minute piano concerto from memory. All these gigs take more than magic hands. It takes iron determination and lots of hard, hard work. The harder you work, the luckier you will get.

Have fun

Business and fun are not polar opposites. In fact, another piece of advice that I share frequently is “Do what you love, love what you do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Adopt a “TGIM” attitude: Thank God It’s Monday. A positive work environment encourages fun. Quite often, those are the most successful enterprises as well.

Be grateful

Gratitude should be a continuous attitude. It’s very disheartening to see a decline in the use of “thank you” by so many. When I hold doors open for people, I seldom hear “Thank you.” When I go shopping and buy something, I’m usually the one saying “Thank you for serving me!”

For a while, I thought it was just me being overly sensitive. But a few years ago, I was watching the “Late Show With David Letterman” and heard about a man who went into a store looking for an item. He found no one to help him. The clerks were uninterested at best, rude at worst. After much searching, he finally found the item himself. At the checkout counter, he found a long line of people and a clerk who definitely worked only at her own speed. Finally, he paid for his item, and the clerk threw it into a plastic bag and shoved his change at him.

The man had to say something, so he asked the cashier, “Can’t you even say ‘Thank you?’ ” And the cashier said, “It’s printed on your receipt.”

Pay it forward

When you have the opportunity to do something kind or helpful for someone who doesn’t expect it, take it! It’s even better when the recipient doesn’t know who is responsible. We all have enough time and resources to lend a hand. You might even make someone’s day.

Thanks for sharing your lessons, Bruce. We will sorely miss you.

Mackay’s Moral: Never discount the importance of honesty and hard work.

 

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.