Family-owned businesses are the primary form of business in the country, but few of them are able to last for a second or third generation.
One local business is proving that wrong.
Scott Tulloss, now president and CEO of Tulloss Equipment Co., is the third generation of Tulloss men in the role. At the helm of a company that was started in 1946, Scott follows his father, John Jr., and his grandfather, John, at the helm of the company.
Fresh out of college, Scott began a career in finance, where he worked for several years. Something, though, was missing, he said.
“Behind the desk just wasn’t my thing,” he said.
He was ready to leave the world of banking behind and join his father at the family business.
“I said to Scott, “This isn’t like the bank,’” John Jr. said. “Every two weeks you get a check, but here you’re only going to get a check if we have the money. My concern was when he started was if we could do enough business to pay us, pay the rent. But I guess it worked out alright since we’re sitting right here.”
Although Scott is now in the driver’s seat, John Jr. isn’t planning to retire anytime soon.
“I don’t want to retire,” he said.
Scott said that’s fine with him.
“We’ve already talked about it, and I told him he could come into the office for as long as he wants,” Scott said. “He’ll retire at his desk with his head down.”
John Jr. said building a career outside the family business didn’t even cross his mind. He said that he finished his last class at N.C. State University at noon and by 1 p.m., he was back in Rocky Mount working.
“One of the keys to us staying in business is being smart with our money and with the equipment we sell. We pride ourselves on getting our hands on product that people are proud to have,” Scott said. “When we’re selling good equipment and people are happy, you don’t hear much. But as soon as you put something out there that’s subpar, people talk. That’s when a business suffers and it’s not acceptable to us.”
Both John Jr. and Scott said they expect perfection and won’t settle for less.
“It’s unnerving to me when something’s not perfect. We try to be perfect and do the absolute best we can,” Scott said.
John Jr. echoed that sentiment.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do here, and we aren’t a multimillion-dollar corporation, so we can’t accept anything less than perfection,” he said.
It’s not likely Tulloss Equipment Co. will be passed down to a fourth generation. Scott’s two adult sons excel in their own careers of engineering and forestry management.
“I don’t see either one of them saying, ‘Hey, I want to come work over here.’ It’s just not going to happen,” Scott said. “I take a lot of pride in what I buy and what I sell, and for all of my clients, I owe it to them to be perfect. This attitude is why we’re three generations in. We owe it to our customers, and ourselves, to be better than the best.”