The Stewart file Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007

Age: 62

Born: Detroit

College: Attended Wayne State University for three years

Points of interest: Stewart sold his first car when he was 14, working at his father’s used car dealership. Following his father’s death, Stewart ran the dealership while attending college. He purchased his first dealership, a Chevrolet dealership in Augusta, Ga., in 1979 before formally starting Stewart Management Group in 1980.

What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?

The best business lesson I have learned is that whatever business we are in, regardless of the product we sell, manufacture or whatever, one thing holds true: We manage people and money first and foremost. Once we realize that, the rest is much easier.

What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?

Tenacity is No. 1. The unwillingness to give up. Few business leaders survive without the old ‘fire in the belly.’

Compassion is No. 2. To some that may sound like a weakness rather than a strength, but it is very difficult to get people to work for you unless you exhibit some human traits.

What is your definition of success?

My definition of success used to be how much money I made. After many fortunately successful years, that began to switch. Now, I measure success by the thrill I get from the competition and the excitement I get from watching people that work for me achieving their personal goals and feeling successful.

The retail business is obviously, by nature, very competitive. If you get a tremendous rush from competing and succeeding, I view that as every bit as important as how much money you make.

As you get older, you get a kind of personal enjoyment from watching your key employees develop over time to a level that makes you both proud. Since they are such a key part of your own success, you get a real sense of gratification watching them achieve their own personal goals.