• October 2018
  • A PUBLICATION OF THE SIOUX FALLS AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Community Leadership
Sturdevant brings regional perspective to Chair role

By Jennie Doyen
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

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Tim Sturdevant describes himself as "more of a workhorse than a showhorse."

Sturdevant, the third-generation owner of Sturdevant's Auto Parts, takes pride in the hard work it has taken over the last 96 years to build the business to what it is today. An accounting major in college, he entered the family business by working in the back office, focusing on inventory management and product flow. He prefers to work behind the scenes and has crafted an operational model for his company that is based on partnership and empowering his employees.

It is a leadership style that has helped him grow his company to 50 retail locations in five states. Most of those stores have a local active equity partner – something Sturdevant believes is critical to their success. "Having some local ownership really ties the store in to the community," he said. "So, you have partners who are not only invested in the success of the business, but invested in their community as well."

In almost every community where they have a store, Sturdevant's is a member of the local chamber of commerce. "We believe in our chambers of commerce," Sturdevant said. "We believe in the role they play in supporting businesses, especially for those just starting out."

Sturdevant encourages his partners to access the chamber for training, networking, advocacy and more. "The chamber is in your corner, pulling for you and trying to help you be successful in your business. This is especially true in today's environment of regulation and hoops – with so much risk and restriction. The chamber wants to help you succeed."

Sturdevant states that he has an even greater appreciation for chambers since he began serving on the Board of Directors for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. "The Chamber is such a strong advocate for the business community and for our region and state. Board service has given me a better understanding of the tremendous effort put into the initiatives of the Chamber."

He points to public policy as one example of this. The Chamber's Issues Management Council studies every issue on the ballot in detail, seeking an understanding of the pros and cons before making a recommendation to the Board as to what the Chamber's position should be. "An incredible amount of time is invested to make sure we are making informed decisions. The Chamber doesn't take a position on every issue, but we try to get involved in anything that might impact the business community in a direct way," said Sturdevant.

On Oct. 1, Sturdevant became Chair of the Board of Directors. As he begins his year in the Chamber's top volunteer leadership position, Sturdevant says he is looking forward to collaborating with Chamber partners to continue to promote our city and grow our regional economy.

"We have this great story," he said. "Sioux Falls has become quite a regional hub and our business environment is second to none. The quality of our community is something to be proud of. We need to be telling others, inviting others, to join our community. I think we have some good momentum on this and we need work together to keep that ball rolling."

Members will be challenged to consider the ways we tell the Sioux Falls story at the Chamber's 112th Annual Meeting, which will be held Oct. 16 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. Keynote speaker Matthew Luhn is one of the original story creators at Pixar. He regularly works with businesses, entrepreneurs and other professionals to craft their stories in a way that strengthens their communication and builds their brand.

Also at the Annual Meeting, Sturdevant will share more about what he sees in the year ahead for the Chamber. A continued focus on workforce development is certain to be a part of the work. It is an ongoing challenge, with no single solution.

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"Workforce development is one of the larger challenges we face as a community," said Sturdevant. "It is important that we continue to both train and support the workers we already have here, and work to bring new qualified workers into Sioux Falls."

One of the ways Sturdevant's Auto Parts supports their workers is by being intentional in their support for employees in the military. As a result, 21 percent of their employees are veterans. Sturdevant's has been recognized by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve organization, and in 2014 they were honored by the American Legion at both the state and national level for having the most veterans employed by a large business. "These are good, solid folks with a desire to serve our neighbors," said Sturdevant. "We're proud to have them on our team."

A strong culture at Sturdevant's contributes to impressive worker retention. The company employs roughly 450 people, with about 100 of them based in Sioux Falls. The average tenure is more than 10 years – and that includes part-time staff.

"We encourage our employees to look out for each other as well as hold each other accountable," said Sturdevant. "By being honest and straight-forward, with both coworkers and customers, you can build trust. That's good for culture and good for our business."

Just outside the training room at the Sturdevant's corporate headquarters is a wall that features pictures of long-term employees. A picture is added to the wall when an employee has been with the company for 20 years and a gold star is placed on the photo as that person hits subsequent employment milestones. The picture gallery was started just two decades ago but it filled up so quickly that a second wall had to be added.

Sturdevant considers each of those employees as family. "I've seen children and grandchildren raised for many of our employees. I feel privileged that Sturdevant's is a part of their lives."

With 30 stores in South Dakota and the rest spread out across North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, Sturdevant spends a fair amount of time traveling.

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"I have a perspective that is more of a regional umbrella. In my work, I spend a lot of time outside Sioux Falls and I see firsthand the mutually beneficial relationship between Sioux Falls and the smaller towns and rural areas around the region," said Sturdevant. "Growth and a strong economy is good for everyone."

Sturdevant is quick to tell you that he is a farmer at heart. He owns a hobby farm near Arlington and looks forward to spending more time there once he starts to slow down and partially retires.

Being involved with the Chamber's Agri-Business Division is another way Sturdevant stays connected to ag. "I remember attending my first meeting and feeling very much at home with that group of volunteers," he said. He appreciates the way volunteers support each other and work together to make things happen. "Everyone comes together, and just steps up to serve. It is really amazing to see."

The many opportunities to network, the educational offerings and advocacy programs are all reasons to invest in chamber membership according to Sturdevant. "There are so many facets of membership that can benefit your business, it is just a smart business decision to participate in the chamber."

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