Lex Brodie’s Simple Secret for Business Success.

It seems as though almost every town has someone who runs a business in some sort of a unique, high-profile way that sets them apart and turns them into celebrities.

Cal Worthington, for example. He was a car dealer in the Los Angeles area and was famous for his semi-wacky television commercials which frequently included “my dog, Spot”. That was the gag. “Spot” would be, in fact, a leopard. Or a tiger. Or an elephant. You just never knew. Cal died not long ago, and his passing made news all over the country.

Honolulu’s answer to Cal Worthington was Lex Brodie, who owned a couple of gas stations and the biggest tire store in town. Lex was all over local TV and of course he wrote and performed the spots himself, staring into the camera and delivering the lines in a somewhat stilted, uniquely Brodie manner. And every spot, for 40-plus years, ended the same way: Lex looking dead-pan into the camera and saying, “Thank you (pause) very much” … an emphasis on the word “very”. It sounded a little off-center, but it became his trademark. People passing him on the street would grin, wave and shout at him: “Hey, Lex! Thank you very much!”

Brodie’s success as a businessman, however, was due to much more than media exposure and a catch phrase. My former partner, Alan Pollock, noticing he had a soft tire one day, pulled into Brodie’s tire store to have it checked. Almost before his car had come to a stop, a young man was there to open the door and ask how he could be of service. As soon as Alan pointed out the bad tire, the kid ushered him into a waiting area, gave him a copy of the morning paper, poured him a cup of coffee and hustled off.

Alan was impressed and, in fact, noticed that all the employees were bustling around “as though they were all on fast-forward”, he said later. Then, spotting Lex Brodie himself working at a desk on an elevated platform across the room, Alan went over to say hello. Hoping to uncover some secret management technique, he asked Lex how he managed to inspire his employees and get them all to work with such apparent enthusiasm.

Lex smiled. “It’s the No Walls Theory”, he said nodding at his elevated desk. “I can see all of them and they can all see me.”

About that time, the young man appeared and said they had found and fixed a slow leak in the offending tire. 

“Great”, said Alan. “How much do I owe you.”

“No charge,” said the kid. “I checked and these tires originally came from here and we repair all flats on our tires for free.”  Obviously, there was a lot more than a catch phrase behind Lex Brodie’s success. 

Oh, by the way … Lex put his celebrity to good use. He got himself elected chair of the Hawaii School Board and, typically, made frequent surprise inspections of public schools all over the state.

A local boy in his core, Lex kept a surfboard in a locker on Waikiki Beach and surfed several mornings a week until he was well into his 80s. Lex Brodie died not quite two years ago. He was 98 years old.