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On the Job with Billy Thompson

Billy Thompson Jr. is the owner of Bill Thompson Tire Service on East Oglethorpe Boulevard.

Billy Thompson Jr. is the owner of Bill Thompson Tire Service on East Oglethorpe Boulevard.

W.H. “Billy” Thompson Jr. grew up in the tire business, working for his dad, Bill Sr., at summer jobs to buy a car.

In 1974, after graduating from the University of Georgia, the two started Bill Thompson Tire Service on East Oglethorpe Boulevard.

Thompson’s interests are wide and include politics, languages and hunting and fishing in his spare time. Thompson recently took a break to answer questions for Herald reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. Started work as a summer job in the tire business with my dad.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I saved my money to buy a car. I bought an Oldsmobile for $4,200. I had to work four summers to get there.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Just personal leadership, being right up front with everybody and trying to motivate everybody at the store to have them do what you want, and for the customers.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. We started a long time ago in ‘74. When I graduated from college, my dad and I went into Bill Thompson Tire as a corporation.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My dad was my role mode. He was the best salesman I’ve ever known. I’ve got more to go to get where he was. Then there was Ronald Reagan. He was a great motivator and communicator.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Not to trust the government.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. The answering machines that people have that you have to go through to get to a live person. You spend so much time on the phone just trying to get to someone. It’s nice to call somewhere in a business and a person answers the phone and takes care of what you need.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. Computers. Computers make things so much simpler. All your information is in one spot, you can access everything very quickly. It’s just an easy tool for business — or anybody.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. One of my traditions is with my son. We used to go duck hunting together on Thanksgiving morning, and we’d go to Lake Seminole together. That was a great tradition we had when he was a young man.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I’ve really gotten into reading lately. I got a Kindle for Christmas and I’m reading like crazy so it’s wonderful. My last book I really enjoyed was “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Very poignant for what’s going on in our society right now.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. Well, the alarm goes off at about six. I snooze till about 6:30, because I like to snooze, then I have to get up. My wife has MS so I have to help her, get her a breakfast meal, get her situated, then I take a shower, get dressed and come to work. I usually get to work around 8 or 8:30 a.m.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. Ronald Reagan, because I’d like to bring him back. I’d like to put him back in the executive branch and let him start leading us and motivating us and communicating to us and getting America back to where it used to be.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I love to hunt and fish and it’s about equal between the two. They’re both kind of similar because you try to find out what the wild animals are doing and you’re in the mix, so it combines you with nature and everything that’s going on. I love to eat most of the animals, too. They’re wonderful as food.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. Not opening a second store in the Northwest region or in Lee County.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Working with people.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Working with people.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Latin. I had two years of Latin and it helped me a lot. A lot of our words and other languages derive from Latin, so in the Latin course and the words I remember, a lot of it comes from Latin — the structure of sentences, even how foreign languages structure their sentences. I learned a lot from that.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I’d like to be a benevolent dictator of the United States of America to get it back on track where business is growing instead of slowing down so much as we are now.

Q. Finish this thought: “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…

A. Quitting retirement and going back to work. I can’t hold still. I got to be doing something.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. I think it’s personal motivation and motivating your employees to get things done.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. That’s a real tough one. It’s in such a mess it’s going to take decades I think. I hate to say that but it’s what I feel.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I’m an oldies person so I play 60s, 70’s and 80’s. That’s what I keep on my radio or whatever I use to listen to music.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. We went to Cape San Blas and the whole family, my wife’s family, the sisters, everybody got together and we had a nice week together and I forgot about business for a whole week. The fishing was wonderful.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The terrible increase in the cost of doing business. In just about every category you go to, in any business, everything costs you so much more to be in the same place you used to be. It’s just sapping businesses. Businesses are really hurting now and friends of mine who are in business tell me the same thing. With the economy down, sales are down but expenses are up. It’s a bad situation to be in and some people are not going to survive.