- Player: Rob Beaumont
- Company: Auto and Truck Tyres
- Contact: www.autoandtrucktyres.co.za
- Turnover: R700 million
There’s nothing average about Rob Beaumont. The 51-year-old founder of Auto and Truck Tyres, a business with a R700 million turnover, is a serial entrepreneur who has owned more companies than he can even remember.
An extreme sports enthusiast, he also survived a plane crash some years back that left him with a 40% chance of walking again – and yet gym, aerobatics and extreme offroad motor-biking remain his favourite hobbies.
Beaumont doesn’t think like others do. Confronted with a locked door and no key, most people would call a locksmith – he’s more likely to blow a hole in the wall to save time. It’s that non-conformist thinking that has led him to build an empire despite having little education.
He started his working life as a tyre fitter in overalls, but was soon determined to work for himself after becoming disillusioned with bad service and empty promises.
What made you go into business?
The short answer is that everyone I worked with were not true to their word. Seriously though, I am passionate about service and I was never satisfied with the way my employers treated their customers. At Auto and Truck Tyres, customer service is everything.
Also, I found that people don’t keep their word. After I became a successful sales rep, one of my bosses made lots of promises to me and when I doubled his business, he told me he could not afford to keep any of them. I owe my success to keeping my word.
That is more important than anything else. We recently made a mistake that upset one of our customers – I made sure that we paid him out ten times the value of the error to prove that I will always stand by my word and be honourable above all else.
What does success mean to you?
Ten years ago, when I bought a fitment centre that I used to work at in my overalls, the feeling was overwhelming – I had come full circle.
Now, when people ask me what I’m striving for, what I really want above all is for everyone who works for me to really, really want to work for me. I’m a people person.
I don’t think people always understand how much hard work is required. I did not have leave for ten years. I used to start work at 3.00am, head into the bakery/chocolate factory, and be at Auto and Truck Tyres by 9.00am.
I remember eventually taking my girlfriend for a holiday to the Wild Coast. I was so exhausted that I slept for three days. Success really does not come easy.
I also think most companies fail because people start spending their turnover. For a decade, I drove a bakkie. I put every cent I earned back into the business, and I still do that today. I love my toys, but I pay cash for them. I’m mad about cars and I own a few luxury vehicles now, but I don’t owe on them. I also have no attachment to them and will sell as quickly as I buy.
I advise people to get an education. I did not, and I believe success would have come more quickly if I had been a lawyer or an accountant.
Related: Are You Limiting Your Business?
How did you overcome adversity?
I crashed a jet in 1999, breaking my back in three places as well as almost every bone in my body. I was told I would probably not walk again, and that I could never run, ride a bike or fly a plane ever again.
A few years ago I was shot in a hijacking and I remember lying on the hospital gurney, looking down at the floor which was covered in blood.
I recovered fully from both incidents and I still have pain every day, but my approach to life is key to my success – I simply will not be stopped.
What does it mean to think ‘differently’?
It saved my life. I was practicing for an air show once, doing humpty bumps – a combination of ascending and descending lines with a loop between both.
I was flying over the highway, on my way down vertically and I pulled the stick but there was no response. I tried again, and by this time I was doing 400km an hour and the ground was rushing up towards me. I got a fright and pushed too hard, and the g-force was putting me to sleep.
I spotted a car on the highway and all I could think was ‘aim for the roof’, because then I could release as much of the g’s as possible.
I did, and the car actually drove off the road because I came so close, but I managed to fly out inverted and gain safe height for rolling the plane upright.
I’m not sure how many people would think of doing that, because essentially I could have ended up making a hole in the ground.
How do extreme sports fit into the life of a busy business owner?
My whole life has been extreme. I’ve ridden all types of bikes, driven racing cars and flown many different types of planes.
It’s part of who I am. I’m restless by nature and always looking for something new. Even in business, I’ve tried hundreds of different ventures, including a bakery, a chocolate factory and a cosmetics company.
I wouldn’t necessarily do that again because it can distract you from your main focus. However, it does give you the opportunity to experiment. One of my most successful ventures has been a private hospital in Rustenburg that employs 330 nurses.
My team know that I have a notepad next to my bed. They shudder when I come to work with rings under my eyes and a head full of ideas.