Driving the Family Business: Sean Furrier '87 BSBA (Marketing and Entrepreneurship)

Oct. 31, 2014
Jack Furrier's Western Tire Centers
Sean Furrier

Arizona native and tire dealer Sean Furrier, a 1987 University of Arizona graduate, took his McGuire Center skills and blended them with a steady dose of rubber dust over the past three decades to help grow his family business into a premier national retailer in both the tire and specialty off-road markets. He jokes that being near the bottom of a family with seven boys and one girl kindled a competitive fire that drove him right back into the family business. Today Jack Furrier Tire & Auto Care and its sister company, Desert Rat Off Road Truck Centers, do business at 22 locations in Arizona and New Mexico.

Furrier’s daily routine covers a wide spectrum of business operations. You are as likely to catch him picking up an Internet phone call and selling a set of tires (he claims this is his favorite activity) as working on the financial plan or writing one of the dozens of radio spots he has produced with Jack over the years. If you listen carefully you might just catch one of his many voices, like Joey the troubled tire dealer or the dancing chicken that does market research – the fun never ends at the house of Furrier, he says.

On the more serious side, Furrier’s leadership has been recognized over the years by his industry which elected him to the national advisory board at TIA (Tire Industry Association) as well as providing more than a decade of service on Michelin’s national dealer council. However, like many of the Furriers in the business, he cares most about local matters, and you see these efforts in community outreach. Over the years, Furrier has played instrumental roles in citywide events, such as honoring first responders on Heroes Day (Oct. 2, 2014), providing thousands of soccer balls to Southern Arizona’s youth players, and providing thousands of bicycle helmets during the years they helped the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department with Jack Furrier’s Children’s Tour For Tucson.

“Tucson is full of people who want to give back to the community,” he said. “It makes it a very special place to live and our staff looks forward to participating in these important annual events.”

Helping drivers get where they want to go is more than a tire and auto repair philosophy; it mixes personalized customer service with community service to make for good business. In an industry that is known primarily for price driven competition, Furrier is standing out and having a little fun along the way.

“Everyone here is working hard and they have made sacrifices to keep things going,” he said. “The best example I can give is that during the ‘Great Recession,’ our staff got creative and used their resourcefulness to manage expenses in ways that prevented a single layoff or closing a single store. This is a testimony to their dedication and skill. We recently opened two new stores and we are optimistic that Arizona is moving back on the path towards a prosperous and healthy economy.”

Furrier credits the team effort made throughout the company as a testimony to their continued success and to the family that made it happen – all 200 of them.

Five Questions for Sean Furrier

What do you consider your biggest entrepreneurial success?

Survival. Making it to another year is success, the recent business cycle coupled with advancing rates of change create greater challenges and greater reward for those who adapt and find a way forward.

What has been the most surprising thing about being an entrepreneur?

Getting paid last can be more surprising in some years than others. That’s when it is important to remember that profitability does not guarantee cash flow and that owners are investors.

What was the most important lesson you learned in the entrepreneurship program?

You need to be able to write efficiently and succinctly if you hope to have someone read it. Thirty years ago, Management Professor Bob Tyndall made this point by not accepting a case study response taking more than two pages. Anything more was a failing grade and a failure to communicate to an executive audience. Today it appears an even more difficult task to get someone to read an email.

What impact has completing the entrepreneurship program had on your life/career?

At the beginning, I think it engendered a higher level of confidence after being exposed to curriculum uncommon and unavailable to most undergraduates. Over the years, the familiarity with these topics and tools created advantages in navigating through the wide range of challenges you face as a business owner.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring future entrepreneurs?

Since the McGuire graduates acquire a great base of business skills, I would offer a more personal kind of advice. Consider that in business, you will likely spend more time with your employees, teammates, and business partners than you will spend with your family, so choose wisely. If you can do this, you will celebrate wins with people you can’t imagine working without, which is winning twice.

Top image of Jack Furrier's Speedway and Craycroft location in Tucson, prepped and ready for Heroes Day. Photo by Jack Furrier Tire & Auto Center.