June 14, 2022

Generational Leadership: An Armstrong Perspective

In honor of Father’s Day, we sat down with the father-son duo that has had a huge part in leading our organization for many years. We heard countless stories of hard work and dedication that started at the beginning and have shaped what Armstrong is today.

In late 1956, brothers-in-law Jim Watson and Clyde Springer decided to go into business together and buy a small local moving company. Though neither of them had much money to their name, they were determined to take the next step. They gathered small loans from friends, neighbors, church members and others in order to reach the down payment goal of $6,000. Over time, the two were able to buy the rest of the company and begin expanding.

Today, Armstrong has 31 locations and operates under the same family ownership in addition to its local equity partners.

We sat down with Tom (father) and Todd (son) Watson to hear more about the characteristics they have learned from their father and will continue to pass down.

jim watson and tom watson with beagle puppies

Jim Watson with [son] Tom Watson

How did you get started in the business?

Tom: I started working for my father when I was 15 years old. Back then, it was normal to work 70–80-hour weeks and that is what I did. I eventually went to college and when I got out, I came back to work for Armstrong. While every day was tough, I am thankful I never gave up.

Todd: I started coming in with my dad at a young age and helped where I could. As a kid, this usually meant sweeping floors in the warehouse. During high school, I started working on the trucks and in the warehouse. After college, I moved into operations and then into sales. Learning the business from the ground up really helped me gain a full knowledge and appreciation for this industry.

jim and tom watson

Jim Watson and Tom Watson at Tom’s induction into the Memphis Society of Entrepreneurs

What memories come to mind when you think of your father?

Tom: I have some great memories with my dad. He was a great guy and everyone loved him. When he walked into a room, it just lit up. Growing up, he was very tough on us. It was his way or the highway – and as a kid, you couldn’t really choose the highway. He taught me great work ethic. He didn’t just make me work, he himself would leave for work around 5:30 a.m. and come home at 8:00-9:00 p.m. He also taught me generosity. He had to be the most generous guy I know. He bought people cars, houses – whatever they needed. He did not hesitate. He taught me how to treat others. We grew up treating people well – no matter who they were. I still try to do that today.

Todd: Tom did an amazing job teaching me the same values my grandfather taught him. I also learned a tremendous amount from my grandfather and was fortunate to have some really good years with him too before he passed. Tom taught me how to  treat people and to always try to do the right thing. His influence doesn’t stop with me and my family – Dad has been a father figure to a number of our agency partners as well. I have always said that my greatest advantage in life is having Tom as a father. No matter what I ended up doing, I feel like I would been successful because of Dad’s influence in my life.

tom and todd watson

Tom and Todd Watson

What advice would you give to other men navigating fatherhood?

Tom: Your children will learn by example. So, you certainly want to live in a way that sets a good example whether you are at home or at work. You want to teach them what is important. They need to see you treating their mother well and with respect. It is so important for young men and women to see their father treating others and especially their mothers with respect. It is important to remember that there will be good days and bad days, successes and failures – but that’s all part of life. As fathers we get to help them through every aspect of that and it is a gift.

Todd: It’s important to invest time in your kids. As parents, we must prioritize time with our kids in order to make a difference and give them opportunities for success. As Tom said (and I agree), you have to model good behavior and set an example for the next generation. It is also important to be intentional about having engaging conversations. Like my father did with me, I want to be the same with my girls and teach them the way I think and give reasoning as to why we do certain things. Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it and that’s why investing time with your children is so important. Technology poses unique parenting challenges today. It is easy to be disconnected with your kids. We must set aside time to engage with them.

Tom and Todd Watson

At Armstrong, we are so thankful for the culture of hard work and leadership that Tom, Todd and many others have worked to create over the years. Thank you to all the fathers that work endlessly on and off the clock. We appreciate you and your investment in the next generation.

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The Armstrong Company

3927 Winchester Road,
Memphis, TN 38118

Office Hours: M-F 7 a.m. - 6 p.m..

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