Jim Click

What makes a living legend? What can we learn from a business leader’s attitude, habits, and fortitude? We are about to find out.

This is a story about a man from humble Oklahoma roots that has taken the automotive industry and Tucson by storm. And deservedly so.

Jim Click, Jr. was taught the elements of achievement at an early age. His dad, Jim Click, Sr., a self-made man and car dealership owner, was Junior’s mentor, coach and disciplinarian. As a young junior high school student, Jim brought home his first “C” on his report card. The next conversation says it all. 

Jim’s dad, in a very somber tone, confronted his son about the grade. 

“What’s this?” his dad inquired. 

“Well, I guess I am just the average all-American boy,” Jim retorted. 

After the severe lecture that followed, Jim knew that projecting himself as average was totally unacceptable and would never see himself as average again. From that point forward, he learned to visualize himself as a success.

Success visualization is not just a key habit for Jim, it’s a rigorous practice. He talks about his success in college and his selection as a Scholastic All-American football player. As the team captain at Oklahoma State University (OSU), Jim saw the plays and blocks on the field before they happened; he visualized his team’s success and he had learned how to conceive his own future.

There was another lesson from OSU that taught the young Jim the importance of tenacity. One day when things got really tough, Jim decided to quit the team. So, he called his dad first. His dad always reminded him that signing on to OSU was a four-year contract. 

Jim Sr. listened to his son’s reasons for quitting, and then shouted, “Ok, so you want to quit. Ok, quit! So will I! I will quit on your mother and my dealership too!” 

Junior got the message.

Instead of going to graduate school, Jim was enticed by his great uncle to go to work in a Ford dealership in L.A. It wasn’t but about two weeks later when Jim, who hadn’t sold a single car, called his dad again and asked to come back home to work in his dad’s dealership in Oklahoma. The answer was flatly “no” and another intensive discussion ensued. 

“Son, there are no short-cuts to success,” Senior emphasized. 

Jim has never forgotten that phrase. He went back to work the next day, and with the help of a mentor, planned the work and worked the plan and within another short interval, became top salesman consistently. 

As they say, the rest is history. And, the influence of his dad intercedes again. When Jim was in high school, one day, Senior and Junior stood outside a dealership and Senior encouraged his son to see his future. “Look up at that sign,” Senior said. “One day that name on the building will say Jim Click Chevrolet.”

Jim moved quickly from sales to sales management to general manager. In 1971, Tucson was blessed. Knowing no one here, and with his wife who was five months pregnant with their first child, he purchased his first dealership (Pueblo Ford). At age 27, he was one of the youngest automotive dealership owners in the country. Today the Click/Tuttle organization owns 10 dealerships in Arizona and six in California. 

How did that success happen? Again, the voice of his father propelled him forward. 

Senior said, “Son, there is no substitute for hard work.” This is the theme in the life of Jim Click.

Aside from tenacity, and the willingness to work hard, there are other characteristics that built his enormous success like acting with integrity … no matter what. For example, it’s extraordinary that Jim and his equal partner, Bob Tuttle, have had no written contract in over 40 years. 

“My word is my bond,” Jim said. 

Another key to Jim’s success … love your job and your industry, and be great at it. Click Senior always said, “If you love your what you do, you will retire for the rest of your life!” 

Then, there is enthusiasm. 

“Act enthusiastically and you will be enthusiastic,” Jim predicts. “And don’t give up on yourself!” His counsel to young professionals is to remind them, “Don’t beat up on yourself. Other people will do that for you!”

And, no one doubts that Jim has personal discipline. Even at 70, he rises at 4:30 a.m. and hits the gym. He believes that energy drives energy … and every person has a responsibility to take care of themselves physically to be able to give their best to their business and family.

Jim also has placed a lot of emphasis on learning from his peers. From the inception of his first dealership, his competitors like Buck O’Reilly, assisted his introduction to the community. Jim emphasizes that the dealerships in Southern Arizona all have great respect for one another and have never intentionally demeaned one another. 

Over the years, the Click team has adopted the best operating tenants from the industry and added a family-oriented spirit to the culture of his company. 

“A great leader needs to lead with unequivocal strength in the good times and the bad, and needs to care about people and give them the opportunity for upward mobility,” Jim said. “If you take care of your team and ensure that they treat every customer fairly, you create a built-in salesforce … the customers will automatically go to work for you with their referrals.”

Jim Click’s success stems from a multi-pronged approach to his work. His drive, discipline, enthusiasm, and his love of marketing and branding permeate his entrepreneurial story, but he also embodies genuine care, first for his immediate family, wife Vicki, and children, Chris and Carrie, and granddaughter, Sophia. Jim also demonstrates deep caring for his extended “car family,” the partners and the whole team. And, as will be evident in Part Two, Jim is devoted to his community. 

What Theodore Roosevelt said long ago is still true today, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Click cares.

*This is a two-part article describes the life and legacy of one of Southern Arizona’s greatest leaders. For this story, the writer had to overcome writer’s block. After all, how do you capture a living legend in 1000 words or less? 

(Linda Drake is a 25-year, seasoned global entrepreneur, author and Certified Professional Middle Market Consultant. As a CEO for CEO’s, Linda founded Trailblazer Advisors to catapult economic growth and leadership skills for business owners and management at any stage in the business lifecycle. She believes that strong business leadership and entrepreneurism are the heart and promise of America.)

 (Editor’s Note: Linda Drake is a 25-year, seasoned global entrepreneur, author and Certified Professional Middle Market Consultant. As a CEO for CEO’s, Linda founded Trailblazer Advisors to catapult economic growth and leadership skills for business owners and management at any stage in the business lifecycle. She believes that strong business leadership and entrepreneurism are the heart and promise of America. Contact:  Linda.Drake@TrailblazerAdvisors.com.)