Creating a Sense of Community in Northeast Tennessee & Southwest Virginia

Mitch Walters

CEO, Friendship Family of Dealerships

Growing up in Ohio, Mitch Walters’ first job was a lawn mowing business and a Kool-Aid stand; both experiences that helped shape the boy into the man he is today. “As long as I can remember, I have worked and I expect I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. People say I work too much, but I promise I do have lots of fun in my life. “ ‘Work Hard So You Can Play Hard’ is a philosophy that I practice and share with others. Work is not work to me. I have always heard ‘If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life!’ This is how I feel and this is how I hope others feel as well. I am fulfilled by providing good career paths for others and for sharing our success with those who may need a boost in life.” It could very well be said that the automobile business is in Mitch’s blood, along with the joy of work, since both his father and grandfather worked in the industry as well. “My grandfather started a garage and service station in the early 1900’s and it eventually evolved into an automobile dealership. Upon his passing, my dad took over operations, so I have always worked in the business. As a young boy, I kind of fell in love with it and even wrote a career book in the fifth grade about wanting to become an automobile dealer. I guess if my dad was an astronaut I would have wanted to be one too, but I do not have any regrets. This business has been very good to me and my family over the years.”

The Friendship Family of Dealerships is something that Walters should be proud of running. What started in 1993 as a dealer with 32 team members has grown to 17 locations with 350 team members and the business is still growing. “We want Friendship to continue to be an employer of choice because in our area the more successful we are the more we can help both our team members and our community. I want to be remembered as a man that gave back more than he took in life. This is a strong motivation for me to continue our mission of successful businesses and sharing our rewards with others in the communities we serve.” When asked what sort of trait he feels is important to his success, Mitch Walters is quick to say, “finding talent!” He goes on to say, “I focus so much of our energy on recruiting, hiring and training the best talent in our area and because of this, Friendship is able to attract the best and have turnover that is so much less than other businesses in not only our area, but the nation. We focus on going from Good to GREAT in everything we do and it pays off handsomely. Friendship has been recognized as one of the Best Dealerships to Work for in America for the last five years straight. There are only seven other dealerships in America that have earned this honor as much as Friendship has. This is such a great accomplishment. Success in business is so much about people and processes and Friendship is a success in both areas.” People are important to the inner workings of a business, but people on the outside are important too and it is these very people that Walters is proud to cater to everyday.

“My mother taught me to share and give back so it was always part of my DNA. I strongly believe in working hard and playing hard too, but I have the bible verse Luke 12:48 taped near my desk, “To whom much is given…much is expected.” This motivates me so much as I have been blessed beyond belief and I do want to do my part to give back to others.” Growing up in a lower middle class family is something, Walters tells me, which deeply influenced who he is today and how he operates. “Our life experiences guide us, so I am thankful I did not grow up affluent. Growing up as I did provides me with the motivation to work hard and try to help others get what they want and need. To that end, Mitch Walters helped to establish The Friendship Foundation, which he considers, “my greatest accomplishment and where I see me focusing as I someday phase out of the day-to-day operations of Friendship Automotive Enterprises. I have been blessed to create a great group of team members in our business and without their efforts I would not have the resources to share our success with others.” Working with others to make the Tri-Cities area even better than it is now is a task that Walters feels we should all be keen on participating in.

“The Tri-Cities area is awesome in many ways. The great location, the great climate, the great people, the great natural resources all make it a wonderful area to live, work and play.” He acknowledges that, with the topography of the region working against any physical joining of the regions, everyone in the region should strive to cooperate as much as possible between the cities and counties. “We need to continue to try and work together for a common goal and agree that what is good for one part of our region benefits the other areas. Hopefully more regional cooperation will happen and make the Mountain Empire a bigger player in the future. The best thing every resident can do is to speak positive about our region and its opportunities to everyone we meet…every chance we get.” I think that this is advice that we could all get behind. Let’s all be cheerleaders for the place we all love so very much.

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