Business Lessons From Longtime Friend and Suffolk Mayor

Margie Wiley of Freedom Street Partners.

You might know Mike Duman as the mayor of Suffolk and longtime City Council member. Or maybe some time in the last 40 years, you’ve bought a car from him. Mike Duman’s Auto Superstore on Godwin Boulevard embraced the personal service philosophy long before that became en vogue.

First and foremost, I know Mike as a friend. The two of us regularly emcee events together (pre-COVID, of course); we’ve served on several boards and committees at the same time, and I was honored when he asked me to serve as the Chuckatuck Burrough representative to the Economic Development Authority of the City of Suffolk.

You might not think owning a car dealership and being a financial advisor at Raymond James are similar professions, but both of us take a principled approach to how we go about our day-to-day business.

We are committed to our local community. We invest in it with our free time. We also invest our dollars into it. We’re stewards of it naturally. We’re not looking to impress; we’re believers in giving back. Mike donates to causes in Suffolk and partners with those local businesses that do the same. He also works as much as possible to keep the dollars local rather than outsourcing work.

“There’s a satisfaction in seeing money stay in your city and being able to affect the lives of people you run into every day,” Mike likes to say. “I like to do business with people who do business with me.”

Margie Wiley of Freedom Street Partners with Mike Duman

That’s certainly a concept most of us can relate to. Giving back to the community you live and work in pays off in so many ways. It creates partnerships in the most genuine way. Many of my clients need to buy cars. Likewise, many of Mike’s customers are looking for a financial advisor they can trust. We recommend each other with confidence. As sophisticated as marketing strategy can be, it’s hard to beat the authenticity of word-of-mouth.

Mike will tell you people have to always come first no matter the business. Mike owns a dealership with his name on it, so it’s not lost on him that if someone has a beef, he’s the one they want to talk to. He tries to be onsite and available. We hear many businesses say the customer or client comes first. But you have to live it.

Treating people well doesn’t just mean your customers or clients. It extends to your employees. Many of the folks on Mike’s team have been with him upward of 20 years. His dealership offers a range of benefits, including profit sharing. Your employees are your ambassadors. Treat them as you would like to be treated. Mike and I do a lot of laughing, a lot of talking and a lot of learning together. Our careers aren’t on the same path on the surface and yet the values we share professionally and strive to emulate every day align together on behalf of the community we serve. He is a true friend.