A man’s character is not measured by the obstacles he faces but by the actions he takes to overcome them. Stories of success, in which persistence and hard work triumph over bad fortune, inspire us. We crave someone to root for, an underdog. Bill Simmons, the founder and chairman of MasterLube, believes in the underdog. He believes in persistence and hard work clearing life’s obstacles. He believes because he has lived it.
“If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the father in the story of MasterLube’s beginning,” Bill quips.
In 1980, Bill had spent nearly three years unemployed. He had a young family, a wife and two kids. Something needed to change.
“Luckily for me, despite a lack of employment, I still had some solid people in my corner, which led to a coffee meeting with Jerry Woods,” he says.
Jerry Woods was one of six owners of Minit Lube, a local business struggling to find its place in the community.
“The conversation that day led to a deal in which I would run the store for one year with an agreement that if in a year I can make it work, I would take over the business and its debt.”
After a lot of the aforementioned persistence and hard work, they began the takeover for Minit Lube on Feb. 16, 1981.
“It was around this time that my good friend Rod Davidson sketched an idea on the back of a placemat while having lunch on 24th Street. This sketch of his would become the logo for MasterLube, the same logo design and colors that you see to this day.”
A pillar of the Billings community was born, rising from the ashes of misfortune that had plagued both Bill and the former business model.
In building his business, Bill maintains a few rock-solid principles that have propelled him to success.
“There is a line you will find on posters and cards throughout MasterLube that reads, 'Because the act of serving others is where, when and how transformation occurs.'This is the heartbeat of MasterLube, service to others. Through service to others, you can not only make someone else’s day better but go home feeling 10 feet tall because of the many moments of elevation throughout the day. Making life better for people is why we exist. Good business is a result, but it does stand on its own.”
Bill believes strongly in the power of the individual. Each person has their own unique set of circumstances, history, family, goals and aspirations. There is something exceptional in everyone. MasterLube and its founder want each individual employee to reach their goals and achieve their highest potential.
“We realize that no one dreams as a child that they will one day change oil on other people’s vehicles, so the best thing is to embrace that fact and use our time together to help them develop skills and habits that will help them become what it is in their heart that they most want to be. What if a paycheck is the least important thing one receives from MasterLube?"
He encourages employees to view their job as a tool, utilizing MasterLube and its resources to learn, grow and even fail in order to direct each individual in the direction of their dreams.
In order to fully empower his employees, Bill enacted a training program, now in its sixth iteration. It was an epiphany about the value of his team, early on in MasterLube’s history, that led Bill to create the program.
“These guys are worth about three times more than what I can afford to pay them,” he says. “Which means each hour they are working, I am going in debt to them, and that just isn’t fair. So an agreement, sealed with a handshake, is made with each individual…to ensure MasterLube is not taking advantage of them. They should expect—even demand—from MasterLube the training and resources they need.”
Due to these strong ideals, the training consists of much more than just product knowledge, vehicle knowledge and customer service. While Bill regards those aspects as crucial to delivering a high level of service, his training program also emphasizes health and human behavior, personal development, goal setting and leadership.
“Currently we are privileged to have some great friends and mentors to work with: Nich Pertuit, a professor at Rocky Mountain College and founder of Healthy Is; author and public speaker Russ Cherry; and sales and communication guru Joe Thomas of Impact Advantage all have a consistent and vital part in the program," Bill says. "There are and have been many others over the years that have contributed to our training, and we are grateful for each and every one.”
When asked if there is a particular success story that stands out in his memory, Bill has difficulty narrowing it down to just one.
“So many wonderful people have been part of the MasterLube family and story,” he says. “On the walls in each of our stores, as well as on our website, you will find stories of some that have gone on to do wonderful things in their life: college graduates, business leaders, teachers, doctors, Marines, mothers, fathers—stories we are very proud to tell.”
Bill has been able to consistently foster an atmosphere of opportunity, growth and achievement for his team, which in turn has granted the community a strong business dedicated to providing excellent service.
Many, in some part, owe their accomplishments to MasterLube. Bill would credit MasterLube's success to them.