Mike Rizzo has walked a long road to get to where he is today. That’s true not only in his ascent to become the president of Lex Brodie’s Tire, Brake & Service Company, but a reflection of the sheer number of miles the New York native has traveled from to wind up on the sunny shores of the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
Rizzo started college at St. John’s University in his home state before moving to Arizona. Needing a job to support himself and pay for school, he took the advice of an acquaintance and applied for a position at Discount Tire. He enjoyed the work, so after finishing his degree in Hawaii, when an opportunity to stay on the island presented itself, he took it.
“When I was graduating, the job market was pretty soft in New York,” Rizzo says. “It just didn’t make sense to move back at the time. And (Lex Brodie’s) CEO Dave Sands offered me a full-time position as a sales associate. So I said, ‘Sure!’”
Though he’s now the president of Lex Brodie’s, Rizzo initially had some reservations about entering management with the company, especially when his future manager had reservations about his promotion. But Sands showed faith in Rizzo’s prospects. He also shared a frank bit of advice that gave Rizzo the confidence to handle whatever the job would throw at him.
“He basically just gave me a smirk and said… and I’m paraphrasing what he said, but ‘It’s not that hard.’ I took that and ran with it, and haven’t looked back since.”
The advice and examples set by Sands, other mentors and his father have stuck with Rizzo, giving him the confidence to meet every obstacle that he faces, not just the easy ones.
“I like to fail. And one of the things that drives me is knowing that I can overcome these obstacles and get to the next one, and then get to the next one, and get to the next one, and it comes from always trying to improve, always trying to be better than I was yesterday. And that’s been instilled in me through families, parents, mentors. It’s been instilled in me for a long time and that’s how I get through my days.”
In terms of overcoming unique obstacles, Rizzo has certainly picked a great place to find them. In addition to the struggles and changes that everyone in the tire business has to endure in a changing industry, being based in Hawaii adds a few layers of challenge to the business. In addition to a very long supply chain, the high cost of living in the state makes personnel issues that much more challenging.
“Logistically, I think we’ve hit our stride and we hit it a long time ago,” Rizzo says. “As far as personnel, we have a very low unemployment rate here in Hawaii, so it’s very difficult to acquire and retain people, but we do spend a lot of time recruiting in the local community college.”
As far as his personal definition of success, how he handles challenge and adversity reveals how Rizzo judges his own success.
“I’ve always strived to challenge myself,” he says. “I’m very ambitious when it comes to overcoming obstacles as far as personal, professional. And you know, I’m stubborn as well.”
Fun Fact: Speaking of great role models, as a child, Rizzo wanted to be an architect. “Just like George Costanza,” he says.