J.R Hyde III

Inducted 2004

Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde III entered the automotive aftermarket business late in his career, but that did not deter him from revolutionizing the way automotive replacement parts are sold. In the 1970s, Pitt Hyde was running Malone & Hyde, the grocery wholesale business founded by his grandfather in 1907. But the wholesale grocery business is traditionally about high investment and low returns, and Hyde was looking for a more profitable endeavor. For years, he had watched the Atlanta-based Genuine Parts Co. become the largest automotive parts wholesaler. Hyde’s focus soon shifted to auto parts retailing and opened the first Auto Shack store in Forest City, Arkansas. By 1988, Hyde was running more than 400 stores with $384 million in sales. That same year, he changed the name of the business to AutoZone and sold his interests in Malone & Hyde. In the late 1990s, AutoZone embarked on a growth strategy that would expand the number of stores from 1,000 in 1995 to more than 3,400 today. Even the rapid growth of the company could not distract Hyde from his core philosophy: Customer Service. While at Malone & Hyde, he served on the board of directors of giant retailer Wal-Mart, and witnessed first-hand how a dedication to customer service can differentiate between a good company and a great one. Hyde initiated standardized training for all employees and has made customer service the core business, not selling auto parts. Employees, known as AutoZoners, are required to assist customers within 30 seconds after entering the store. All AutoZone employees wear the same company uniform, even corporate officers when they visit stores, all of whom are expected to assist customers the same way. Hyde pioneered the use of computerization in stores so that parts can be quickly found for any make and model and for any customer’s need. “It’s not enough to give courteous service,” according to Pitt Hyde. “We must give knowledgeable service.” Starting with little more than one store and a vision in 1979, J.R. “Pitt” Hyde built a company that broke into the “Fortune 500” just 20 years later.

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