Paul Zurcher might be 88 years old, but he is still considered a national leader in his field of industry, namely the tire business. The way he learned to be a successful businessman and help others see their dreams come true was inspiring.
It was a pleasure and honor to interview him this past summer for this article that appeared in Sr. Living. He shared more than an hour of his time giving me a tour and allowing me to meet members of his family. This is one man that is constantly learning to appreciate life.
“We all have problems,” said Paul Zurcher, 88, owner of Zurcher Tire of Monroe, Indiana. “How we choose to respond makes the difference.”
Paul Zurcher was one of seven children born to a tenant farmer and his wife on a farm in Adams County. Though the family didn’t have much money during the Depression, Zurcher learned many lessons from his upbringing that helped him later as a husband, father, and Christian business owner.
“When I was six years old, we children were told there was not enough money for us to receive the traditional gift of a quarter for our Christmas presents,” he said. Not wanting to see his family disappointed, Zurcher and his brother approached a neighbor, asking if they could glean crops from his harvested fields. The boys collected enough to sell and buy presents for everyone in the family. “I learned then that life was 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond.”
After being drafted and serving 13 weeks on the front lines in Italy in WWII, Zurcher was wounded and sent home. The war ended while he recuperated. At that point he had to choose an occupation. His father wanted him to be a farmer. His mother wanted him to be a mail carrier or banker.
Paul Zurcher didn’t want to work at either job. He had worked at a car service center and liked it. In 1947 he bought his first one-bay service center, calling it Zurcher Tire (www.zurchertire.com). “It took all of my money, which was $300, to purchase gas to fill the tanks,” he said.
At first Zurcher ran the business alone. As his business expanded, he hired employees, expanded products and services. Today, he has more than 100 employees, 29 service bays, and service centers in 18 states, mostly Midwest. Several family members are employed with the business, including sons, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
He and his wife Betty, married in 1950, had two sons and one daughter. Paul and Betty have lived in Monroe and attended Trinity United Methodist Church in Berne throughout their marriage.
Twenty years ago, Paul Zurcher considered retiring but resisted. “I thought if I enjoyed what I was doing, I should keep my mind and body busy. Besides, there is no reference in the Bible telling people to retire.” Today, he continues to work with his company, working in his office and traveling to other states to oversee operations.
A lifelong Christian, , Zurcher resolved early in his career to maintain biblical standards in his personal and professional life: Worship God, obey Him and keep the Christian faith; Develop effective relationships based on trust; Treat everybody with honor, dignity, respect; Be self-disciplined and motivated; Do the right thing in the right way; Be positive, passionate, enthusiastic; Never compromise integrity; Plan tomorrow today; Enjoy every moment of life.
“The world is changing fast, but ethics will always stay with us,” he said. One of his favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength.’ “Nothing I’ve done is on my own strength, but through the power of God,” he said.
Upon starting his life as a businessman, Zurcher also determined to spend an hour each day feeding his mind. “I read positive thinkers like Norman Vincent Peale, studied famous people, and talked with people smarter than myself,” he said. He continues this practice today. If his week is busy, Zurcher catches up on Sunday afternoons.
Zurcher has volunteered on a number of committees in his community and beyond. After spending three years as a member of the Taylor University Board of Trustees, Zurcher was issued an Honorary Degree of Business in 2008. He was also inducted into the National Tire Dealers Hall of Fame and in 2010 received an award from Junior Achievement of Allen County for his volunteer efforts to the program.
“I enjoy helping others,” he said. “In the morning when I wake up, I pray, ‘What would you like me to do today, Lord?’ At end of each day when I lay my head on the pillow, I ask, ‘God, did I make a difference in the lives of people?’”