Wes Tatum grew up in the tire industry, but never felt pressured to join the family business.
“I actually went to college with the intent to become an engineer. Admittedly, there are some days I question that decision to change career paths,” he says. “But seriously, my parents were good about not pressuring me into the family business so the decision was completely mine.”
Tatum has been working in the industry full time for nearly 15 years. As vice president for the dealership, Tatum’s responsibilities are diverse.
“Like most small business owners I wear many different hats. Almost every day is a juggling act. I do everything from inventory management, supporting my store managers, supporting outside sales, personnel issues and HR work,” he shares. “Some days I think I should have skipped the business degree and majored in HR! I feel that trying to mesh so many different personalities together in the workplace is the most challenging part of this business.”
Being younger in the industry also comes with some challenges, Tatum adds.
“Early in my career, I definitely looked younger than someone that would normally be in my role. I would often experience older customers and even staff doubting my ability to lead and pushing back on my new initiates or ideas. These experiences only made me push harder to prove my value and leadership abilities,” he says.
Outside of the dealership Tatum is involved in the Virginia Automotive Association’s Next Generation Advisory Council.
“As many state tire and auto organizations are quickly dying off, I’m fortunate to be in a state where one is still flourishing and growing every year. The VAA’s willingness to change with the times is a recipe for success. They are encouraging and listening to input from younger members and not sticking to the old adage, ‘Well this is the way we’ve always done it,’” he notes.
The group hosted its first event at the VAA’s annual meeting and there was a large attendance of “young blood,” Tatum shares.
“Not only did they attend but they were engaged and really connecting with each other. Despite what our elders would think, there wasn’t a cell phone out in the room,” he says.
Fun Fact: The best piece of advice Tatum’s received: “If you aren’t changing, then you are moving backwards.”