In 1976, Gegax co-founded Tires Plus, a retail tire business, with Don Gullett. Gegax served as Chairman and CEO (Head Coach) of the company and grew the business to 150 stores and $200 million in sales. In 2000, as the company’s majority shareholder, Gegax facilitated the sale of Tires Plus to Bridgestone/Firestone and currently serves as Chairman Emeritus.
Tom is a best-selling author with books published by Harper Collins and Random House; his management methods have been featured in multiple national newspapers and magazines. In 2001, Tom founded Gegax Advisors to provide consulting and coaching to business owners and high-level executives; he maintains offices in Minneapolis and San Diego.
Gegax serves as Chairman of The Gramercy Fund, LLP, an angel investment portfolio of early stage companies, as well as his philanthropic venture, Gegax Family Foundation.
Tom Gegax was born in 1946 in Connersville, Indiana to Elizabeth (Alexander) Gegax and Bill Gegax. Tom’s mother, Elizabeth, graduated from the University of Houston and became a social worker. His father, Bill, served in World War II as a First Lieutenant in Patton's Army 4th Armored Division, Engineering Corp. Following the war, Bill owned a service station, a construction company, and was a top salesman for Gibraltar Mausoleum Co. The couple had three other children: Gary, Tim, and a daughter, Lynn, who died of a brain tumor in 1956 at the age of two.
Gegax attended Indiana’s North Vernon High School where he lettered in golf, tennis, and baseball, and was an All State basketball player. After graduating high school in 1964, he received a Congressional appointment to West Point as a First Alternate. When the primary appointee failed his physical, Gegax successfully passed his own physical and was preparing for admission to the prestigious military academy when he was informed that the primary appointee’s failed physical had been waived. No longer headed for West Point, Gegax enrolled at Indiana University where he graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
In 1966, at the age of nineteen, Tom Gegax married Jan Pierson. Together they had two sons: Trent, born in 1966, and Chris, born in 1970. Trent Gegax was a long-time correspondent for Newsweek Magazine and currently serves as President of The Gramercy Fund. Chris Gegax is a film director and CEO of Signal Video Productions. Tom and Jan divorced in 1991; in 1993, Tom entered into a relationship with Mary Wescott, a top radio sales representative who now runs Gegax Family Foundation and is on site producer for Tom’s speaking events. They share homes in Minneapolis and San Diego.
Employment & Accomplishments
Gegax was hired directly out of college by Shell Oil Company in Chicago, IL and worked from 1968 to 1973 in Employee Relations (later called Human Resources) and as a Territory Manager servicing service station dealers with territories in the inner city of Chicago’s southside. He transferred with Shell Oil to Minneapolis, MN in 1973 where he worked as a Sales Manager until 1976.
In 1976, Gegax co-founded Tires Plus, a retail tire business, with Don Gullett. Tires Plus began as a small startup, emerging from an idea Tom sketched onto a restaurant napkin, and mushroomed under Tom’s leadership into a market leader with 150 upscale stores in ten states and $200 million in revenue. Gegax served as Chairman and CEO (Head Coach) and was able to bypass outside investors over the years by tightly managing his company.
Pioneering the unique pairing of tough-minded, hard-nosed efficiency with a warm-hearted “coaching” style of management, Tom developed Tires Plus into a company that was legendary in Midwest business circles for its focus on the well-being of its employees (teammates) and customers (guests). Tom was among the first to retitle to use sports titles in business (coaches, teammates, huddles, etc.) drawing from his athletic background. He also led the overhauling of the image of tire stores, transforming an industry that was previously viewed as dirty and unprofessional into an oasis of excellent customer service staffed by professionally dressed employees who offered cappuccinos to customers and toys for their kids to play with while they waited.
Tom implemented a variety of wellness programs, an unprecedented practice for the tire industry. Tires Plus had a full-time Wellness Coach and offered complimentary programs in weight management, stress management, and smoking cessation. Additionally, the company provided a corporate fitness center, a health-oriented Employee Assistance Program, lunchtime yoga classes, and shiatsu massage. Gegax was one of the earliest adopters of the corporate wellness approach.
In 2000, as the company’s majority shareholder, Gegax sold Tires Plus to Bridgestone/Firestone and currently serves as Chairman Emeritus.
Following the sale of Tires Plus, Gegax founded three companies: Gegax Advisors, The Gramercy Fund, and Gegax Family Foundation. Through Gegax Advisors, Tom provides consulting and coaching to business owners and high-level executives. As Chairman of The Gramercy Fund, LLP, an angel investment portfolio of early stage companies, Gegax, along with his son, Trent, serves as an investor, director, and advisor to a variety of businesses. They include: Current TV/Current.com, Pacific Booker Minerals, Cardiovascular Systems Inc, Stemedica, younity, Knewton, buuteeq, EnergySavvy, ShopKeep, FGTCMovie.com, and GlobeTrotr.com. Gegax Family Foundation serves as Tom’s philanthropic venture.
As an author, Tom’s Big Book of Small Business: You Don’t Have to Run Your Business By The Seat Of Your Pants (Harper Collins, 2007), has gained endorsements by America’s leading business minds, including Ken Blanchard (The One-Minute Manager), Harvey Mackay (Swim with the Sharks), and author of the Foreword, Richard Schulze, Founder and Chairman of Best Buy. The first incarnation of the book, entitled By the Seat of Your Pants, was a best seller, with Sam's Club selling 60,000 copies to its small business clients. His co-author on these books was Phil Bolsta. Tom's first book, Winning in the Game of Life: Self-Coaching Secrets for Success (Random House, 1999), is a blueprint for creating a productive, well-balanced life. It received critical acclaim from publishing industry bellwethers Publishers Weekly and Booklist, from self-help and spiritual guru, Deepak Chopra, and from national business and political leaders, including Curt Carlson, Founder/Chairman, of Carlson (formerly “Carlson Companies”), as well as former Vice President of the United States, Walter Mondale.
Wellness & Healthy Living
Tom first developed an interest in healthy food in 1977, at age 31, after experiencing low energy, high anxiety, and a fifty-pound weight gain; he changed to eating a somewhat more healthful diet. In 1989, at the age of 43, a bout with cancer caused him to refine his diet even further to focus on organic, natural, whole, plant-based food and occasional fish.
Gegax’s long-time interest in healthy living motivated his implementation of wellness programs at Tires Plus and inspired his interest and involvement in environmental advocacy.
Board of Directors’ Service, Keynote Speeches, & Consulting Clients
Tom’s extensive Board of Directors’ service includes several health and environmental organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Deepak Chopra Enterprises, John Robbins’ EarthSave, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance, and Chairman at Center For Science in the Public Interest, an organization that has always been at the forefront of health (organic standards, food labeling).
In addition to his service on the boards of health and environmental organizations, Tom has served on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. They include: Pacific Booker Minerals, Great Clips, ABRA Auto Body & Glass, APU Solutions, Engineering America,World Business Academy, and Center for Ethical Business Cultures.
Tom has been an advisor and coach to a number of high-level executives such as former Vice President Al Gore, whom he helped transition from politics to the business world following Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential race. Additionally, Gegax has been a featured speaker and/or advisor for a wide variety of companies, including those of which he serves as a board member. Following is a partial list of Tom’s other speaking and consulting clients: 3M, ADPA (Automotive Dealers Parts Managers Association), Al Gore Enterprises, American Association of Micro Business Owners Small Business Expo, Bridgestone/Firestone, CIECA (Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association), Detroit Chamber of Commerce, Domino's Pizza, Farmers Insurance, Indiana University Kelley School of Business, International Franchise Association, John Deere, Marquette Financial Companies, Merlin Corporation, Michelin Tire Company, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Society of CPAs, National Association of Women Business Owners, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sandler Training, SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), Sun America, U.S. Bank, University of Minnesota.
Tom’s management methods have been featured in national newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times and Fast Company and earned him the honor of being named a 1995 Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. magazine and Ernst & Young. In 2004, Tom became the youngest inductee into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.
Tom has also been featured on or in the following: ABC’s America This Morning, ABC News Radio – Money Talk with Bob Brinker, American Way, CNBC, CNN, Money Matters Today with Mary Caraccioli, Dallas Daily News, FOX, Franchise Times, Lexington Business Journal, Miami Herald, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Modern Tire Dealer Magazine, PBS, St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Small Business Brain Trust with Jim Blasingame, [http://www.tcbmag.com Twin Cities Business, Ventures Magazine, and WCPT AM & FM – Chicago’s Progressive Talk Radio.
- The Big Book of Small Business: You Don't Have To Run Your Business By The Seat Of Your Pants, HarperCollins (Feb 2007) ISBN 978-0-06-120669-6 Foreword by Richard Schulze, Founder and Chairman, Best Buy
- Winning in the Game of Life: Self-Coaching Secrets for Success (1999) ISBN 0-9740675-0-4 Introduction by Deepak Chopra