“The phoenix must burn to emerge.” – Janet Fitch
Some people think that it’s a terrible thing to have failed at something. Maybe that’s why failure tends to be more public than success. On the other hand, no great success was ever achieved without some failure. Tony Noun has worked extremely hard for what he has built for himself and his family. Even though he has had major, game-changing setbacks that would have devastated others, Tony’s determination to succeed, his indomitable spirit, and his passion for helping others has allowed him to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and become a great success once again!
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
– Napoleon Hill
Born to a Christian Lebanese family in Beirut, Lebanon on December 6, 1967, Tony Noun was the youngest of six children. His father worked as a manager of a bank but tragically died at the young age of 49 when Tony was just six years old. Tony’s mom was left with the sole responsibility of taking care of all of them. Life became very arduous without Tony’s father as the bread-winner. One by one, all of Tony’s brothers and sisters got jobs, no matter their young age. When he was seven, Tony started selling newspapers on the road. His brother was working for a bakery during the day and did his studies at night. This same brother eventually became a bank manager like his father. Tony’s sisters became French teachers at a Christian university in Lebanon.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, in 1975 the Syrian civil war spilled over into Lebanon and the Syrian regime took over. Then the Syrian regime began killing off all of the Christians there. Tony and his brothers joined others in the fight for their Christian faith to protect their families and their community members from annihilation. It was such a horrible time in the history of Lebanon that over 100,000 Christian people were killed during the Syrian occupation. Things became so bad that when Tony was 12, he hid underground with his family for over 100 days, often without food or water. Sometimes great things come out of adverse situations. Ironically, it was during this time that a friendship was forged between Tony and an eleven year old girl who was also hiding underground with her family. Her name was Georgette.
Things improved somewhat after 100 days living underground and eventually Tony’s oldest brother opened up five stores in Beirut where perfume, cologne, cosmetics, and beauty supplies were sold. Tony, who was 13 at the time, began working behind the counter selling perfume and makeup. Georgette would come and visit Tony at work and buy perfume and makeup from him. Later on, Tony studied at Pigier French University in Lebanon where he got a degree in accounting.
Tony and Georgette’s friendship grew as time went by in spite of the war and adversity around them. Along the way, their friendship blossomed into love. They were married a month before Tony turned 19 and right after his birthday, they decided to leave the country and go to the United States for a better life and a better future. The only thing Tony and Georgette knew about the U.S. at the time was what they had seen on television or in the movies. Tony reflected, “It was always my dream to go to the United States because I knew it was a country of freedom.”
“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid
failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki
After getting married, Tony and Georgette decided to travel to Cypress to talk to the consulate at the United States Embassy to ask if they could go to the United States for a visit. At the time, they had just enough money to take a 30 day trip to the United States. Even though it cost approximately $900 per ticket, the only means of transportation that was available at the time from Lebanon to Cypress was on a nine hour cruise on a cargo ship that was transporting cattle and donkeys! In addition to Tony and Georgette, over 425 people were also waiting for visas, so, two days later, when Tony and his wife were given visas, he felt like he had just won the lottery!
The next day, they flew to London from Cypress and then on to the United States. Tony and Georgette arrived in Houston, Texas as that was where Tony’s sister and brother-in-law had been living for eight years. A few weeks after arriving in the U.S., the immigration laws changed. The new law allowed Lebanese Christians to get work visas due to the war in Lebanon and the renewed killing of Christians. Tony and Georgette were able to get work visas and remain in the U.S. which allowed Tony to pursue the American dream.
Because of Tony’s independent and self-sufficient nature, he quickly found a job and began working as a delivery man for Mr. Gatti’s Pizza. This was a pretty amazing feat when one considers that he did not speak a word of English as French was his first language. After staying with his sister and brother-in-law for a short period of time, Tony and Georgette moved out to make it on their own. Unbelievably, Tony managed to find his way around without speaking English, without a navigation system, and without a mobile phone. He had to work three times harder than the other drivers who spoke English and were familiar with the community. With an indomitable spirit, a positive attitude, and always with a big smile on his face, Tony succeeded in doing transactions with people, taking their money, giving them change, servicing their needs, and also getting from place to place and then returning.
The first two to three years in the U.S, was one of the hardest times in Tony’s life but with his eyes fixed on the prize, he always made it work. Not only had Tony been working at Mr. Gatti’s but he had also gotten a job working at one of the biggest Texaco gas stations in Houston. Never wasting time being idle, Tony stayed busy doing the dirty work, filling up coolers, and washing the parking lot. In addition, he was the head cashier at night. Four years went by and Tony set his sites on buying one of the gas stations he had been working at. Tony decided he had saved enough money and went to Lone Star Bank to ask for a loan.
This was the first time Tony had ever pursued a bank loan so he asked to speak to the bank president. After Tony spoke with him, the banker approved Tony for a $300,000 loan even though he didn’t have a personal financial statement. In lieu of the statement, Tony provided him with his meager tax returns for the past three years! Fortunately, the exceptional bank president had the wisdom to truly see the type of person Tony was and believed in him enough to give him a chance. Tony latched on to his wonderful opportunity and opened Tony’s Texaco Gas Station working harder and smarter than ever before. Then after five years, Tony sold his station for a profit and used it to open up a dealership selling previously owned cars in the Northwest area of Houston servicing Spring, Klein, and The Woodlands.
Tony chose to start a career in the auto business because he knew a lot about cars, including mechanics, and saw an opportunity to do something he really loved and also make money. Tony invested in some property on Kuykendahl that was topped with crushed concrete and the only structure on it was a trailer. At the time, it barely had a driveway. It took Tony two years to get a permit, open a driveway, cut the tress, put in fresh concrete, and then put up better trailers. Step by step, year after year, Tony continued making improvements and expanding his auto business. After the first car lot, Tony added three additional locations. The trailers were eventually replaced with professionally built offices on the scale of a new, first-class car dealership. “It’s in my blood; I like to do everything first class. That includes how my customers are treated, with honesty and consideration,” remarked Tony.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
Tony began making so much money due to his great skills in advertising and marketing that he decided to open up an advertising and auto magazine business. He was quite successful in this new endeavor and was doing advertising campaigns for approximately 250 dealers in the Houston area with up to 125 employees at the time. Then, in 2008, the economy came to a screeching halt in the automotive business and hit Tony so hard that everything he had built for the last 20 years was gone. The loss included his publishing business, all four locations of his auto dealerships, and all other investment properties which totaled to approximately $7.9 million.
Tony started over with a little bit of money. He borrowed $5,000, got a couple of cars, and put them back on the same parking lot of the same dealership that he had lost. It was owned by the bank and Tony leased it back for a few months and then began making money again. Tony was able to purchase that property back and additionally the two others that he lost. Tony reflected, “It was hard for me and I’m a positive person. I believe that if things happen, they happen for a reason and whatever you are hit with, if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. This is exactly what happened to me. I fell down; I got back up; I dusted myself off; and I kept going. I never asked for the government to bail me out and I never filed bankruptcy. I have now paid back my debts and have worked hard to build my business again.”
“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar
Tony was surprised that even though he had lost everything, things were all going his way and success was quickly coming back to him. He hadn’t counted on a thing called “karma” or “what goes around, comes around.” Throughout all of his business dealings, he believes in taking care of others first. He believes in giving people the best customer service and the best deals. He believes in giving people breaks every chance he gets just like the break that the bank president gave him on his first loan. Presently, Tony’s company has 22 employees and is doing over $10 million a year. Tony expressed, “I believe that I am one of the best small independent dealers in the Houston area. I have the experience, the knowledge, and Jesus with me. I’ve got everything, and with the Lord’s blessing, I am still here.”
Autoshoppers.biz is Tony’s dealership website. Even though Tony sells pre-owned cars, he is nothing like the stereotypical used car salesmen, nor is his sales team. The difference between Tony’s company and other pre-owned car dealerships is that Tony and his team truly care about their customers and Tony leads by example. Tony advertises that they have 100 percent guaranteed credit approval. With over 30 lenders including small banks that do subprime and finance anybody with bad credit, the customer may pay a small fee but if it will help them in reestablishing their credit and getting back on the right track.
Tony takes great effort in making sure the cars being sold are problem-free for the purchaser. Tony personally buys over 100 cars each month and runs a Carfax report on each of them, making sure they don’t have a bad history or a salvage title. He then has his certified onsite mechanics do a 26 point inspection. Next, Tony has them make sure that the car is in alignment, has all of the fluids, has good tires, and that all of the sensors are perfect. The cars are then cleaned and put up for sale. Tony believes in going above and beyond in providing the best service and that his reputation is everything to him.
Always the hardest worker that one could ever meet, Tony believes in being involved in the management and the hourly business operations six days a week, Monday through Saturday from 8AM to 8PM. Tony is always looking for qualified, like-minded people to come onboard and be part of his team who can fill leadership roles as Tony expands the company. Tony reiterates, “I believe that if you work hard in your life and you help others, that you will achieve anything you want in life, this is me, and this is what I believe! “
Tony and Georgette have three children. Their first child, Natasha, was born in 1991 and two years later, their second daughter, Savannah, was born. Last but not least, Tony Jr., was born three years after Savannah. While Tony has always worked hard to have the best company, Georgette has worked equally hard to raise a beautiful family. Although Tony, Jr. is working at the dealership, one day he would like to be a petroleum engineer and Tony is making sure he gets what he wants.
15 years ago, Tony and Georgette became naturalized citizens. It was one of the proudest days in Tony’s life because he feels that the United States has given him so much and allowed him to become a better person. He states, “The U.S. has given me an opportunity to be a better father and raise a wonderful family.” As an extension of Tony’s immense appreciation of being a citizen of the U.S., it is his dream to become a public servant for his District one day and give back to this country all which he has been given.
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash
As a conservative Republican with strong, family values, Tony chose to run in 2014 for State Representative in District 150. A resident and businessman in the community for over 25 years, Tony started observing the decline in the area when the economy took a downward turn. He observed many businesses closing down and undesirable businesses opening in their place such as massage parlors or places where illegal activity was going on. The incumbent apparently was sitting on her laurels after she was first elected and never to be heard of again in Tony’s community. It wasn’t until Tony threw his hat into the arena did she resurface. Even then, she never offered solutions to the problems in the community, probably because she had no idea what they were! As a first time politician, it became an eye-opening experience for Tony. Instead of running a clean campaign that dealt with the issues, the obviously insecure incumbent along with her cronies chose to “dance a little sidestep” as they played dirty politics, mudslinging and slandering Tony every chance they got.
Taking the attention away from the issues of which she obviously had no platform, she made a barrage of false accusations against Tony. Brazenly, she called him a crook, a thief, and a Muslim. She even had the audacity to tell him to go back to his country! Like 1.6 million other people, when the economy tanked in 2008, they all went out of business and the vast majority declared bankruptcy. Tony was not one of them. He chose to pay back everyone and rise from the ashes like a phoenix as he resurrected his business to be a success once more. As a leader, his knowledge would be invaluable to his community in helping others learn how to rebuild their businesses as well.
Tony has never cheated anyone out of anything. He is the most generous and genuine individual one could ever meet. Tony fought to save his Christian brethren in Lebanon and now he had to fight to show that he was a Christian to the extent that he was forced to go to the Catholic Church to get a letter from his priest that corroborated that he was a Christian. And he even had to show the incumbent his baptism certificate! Tony’s answer to her and other xenophobes like her was this message: “This is my country and I’m not going anywhere! I may be an immigrant like so many others who came before me in the pursuit of freedom. I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as quickly as I could! I am proud to call Texas my home and I will stay here for the rest of my life! I fought for my Christian faith back in Lebanon and I don’t have any problem in fighting one more time for my Christian faith again in Houston!”
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
– Denis Waitley
Tony may not have won the election, but for a first time candidate who was slandered and attacked with a barrage of racial slurs, a naturalized citizen who speaks with an accent and is far from the best public speaker – he did pretty darn well considering he got almost 3,000 votes to the incumbent’s approximate 7,600 votes! In spite of the outcome, Tony’s insurmountable belief that he would be the best public servant possible for his district has never faltered. He will always do things with integrity and care as opposed to a jaded politician who deals with their inadequacies by running dirty campaigns.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
Learning a great deal from his first race, Tony has made many new friends over the past two years. Many of them had opposed him in the previous election and spoke badly about him before they got to know Tony Noun, a man who truly cares about his community and country; a man who has a passion for helping others; a man who is in it for the purest reasons – not for money nor fame but to make a difference! Don’t be surprised to see Tony resurrecting himself again, like a phoenix from the ashes, stronger and determined more than ever before to succeed in politics and also continue growing his business so that others can have jobs and help their families.