Energy to Expand

From corporate success to a booming small business, J.D. Jones has what it takes to keep Corpus Christi running full-speed ahead.

By: Caroline R. Freeman
Photos by: Dark Lab

For almost 17 years, J.D. Jones and his team have helped Corpus Christi’s businesses and residents get where they need to be. As the owner of Interstate All Battery Center, his journey began at the bottom. Through hard work, drive and willingness to take risks, he forged his own path to the top.

Jones was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas, and attended high school in Austin. A proud Aggie, he studied accounting at Texas A&M, College Station, where he met his wife, Melissa. After a summer internship in the accounting department at Interstate Batteries’ corporate office, Jones began working at KPMG Peat Marwick in Houston doing audits upon graduation.

He explains that after 18 months, “I wanted to get some sales experience. I had a contact at Interstate Batteries’ corporate, and they said, ‘come sell batteries.’ I started at the bottom and worked as a national sales rep.”

While his time in sales was formidable, Jones was interested in another path. He says, “For this national company, if you did sales, you traveled. Once we had our daughter, Austin, I wasn’t interested in being gone all the time. I moved on to operations; it was a chance to stay home and help my wife raise Austin.”

Jones and his family moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked as the operations manager of a location like the one he owns today. One year later, he was promoted to a regional manager position at the corporate office back in Dallas.

The role of regional manager primed Jones well for his future as a business owner. He remembers, “I flew to different locations all over the U.S. It was a nice time for me to see what worked and what didn’t. That’s helped me a lot. I learned from those business owners and then was on the ground running. Observing what they’ve done to make them successful helped me be successful.”

While his time in the corporate offices taught Jones valuable skills, after six years, he was ready for a change. “In Dallas, it was about doing your job, but also about showing how you did your job to the people above you. Here, you just get up and do your job well. I’m really good at doing my job, but in the corporate world, you have to be careful about what you say and what you do. I was a bull in a china closet,” he laughs. “I like this small atmosphere and being able to positively affect employees and customers.”

Jones purchased the Interstate All Battery Center from its previous owner in Corpus Christi almost 17 years ago. “I’m more of a small business guy. What I like about my job is that I can do both. I like sales; I like operations. Well, I really like sales when people say ‘yes!’” he smiles.

Jones started with six employees in 2000. The main obstacle he faced was that, “I had to get used to dealing with money flow issues and debt. That’s certainly an obstacle, but once I was in, I was in. I like the challenge.”

He says transitioning into a business owner made him grow professionally and personally. “When you’re an owner, you have to rely on other people to help you, and they rely on you for paychecks, insurance, retirement, etc. You grow a lot when you become your own entity. When you go out on your own, and you’re a small businessman, you get to do everything. It’s fun!”

So what exactly do they do? Jones explains that nearly every industry requires some kind of battery. Trucks for oil and gas companies, backup power for wind turbines and oil and gas companies, machines for hospitals, golf cart batteries for winter Texans, marine batteries for boaters, cell phone batteries for everybody – batteries are a necessity. Add in the day-to-day battery needs of individual citizens, and he has an incredibly busy business.

“We make batteries easy for people,” Jones says. “We specialize in service. We think and wrack our heads to make it easy for people when they have a dead battery, whether it’s with our wholesale accounts making sure they have batteries or servicing end users here. We try to take the pain out of a dead battery.”

Jones now employs 19 people and believes in paying well for quality work. “Our guys have been with us a long time. They’re very seasoned. We prefer coaching them and paying them what they’re worth instead of retraining people. We’re extremely blessed with a good group of guys.”

Corpus Christi’s Interstate All Battery Center has steadily grown annually except the one year when the oil field slowed down. “In the battery business, you slowly grow by getting more accounts and adding more retail,” Jones explains. “We’re diversified. Nowadays, everything takes a battery. We’re not overly dependent on any industry.” Corpus Christi and Interstate Batteries have a mutually beneficial relationship because the industries that make the Coastal Bend successful are the same ones that use his business and vice versa.

Aside from the Coastal Bend being a fruitful region for his business, Jones says that Corpus Christi is home. “I love that Corpus is laidback and naturally beautiful. It’s big enough to get anything you need, but there’s not much traffic. Plus, I love fishing and hunting.”

An avid hunter, fisherman and scuba diver, Jones occasionally finds the time to relax. “I’m lucky to have friends and family that include me on their adventures. When I’m in town, I find it hard not to think about selling batteries.” These trips are an opportunity for him to enjoy his much-loved hobbies while giving his mind a break from the nonstop business of batteries.

Jones is in the early stages of opening up another retail store in addition to the current location that houses around 10,000 batteries alone. The retail facet of his business has grown enough that they need even more space for customers. Looking forward, he says, “We’ll be continuing heavily in automotive truck and expanding more into solar and wind energy and growing in retail.”

Jones’ business is thriving because Jones is as progressive as he is steadfast. He continues to influence and sustain Corpus Christi’s growth both forward and upward. Jones and his team at Interstate All Battery Center are doing their best to keep the Coastal Bend productive, safe and on the move.

For more information, visit www.interstatebatteries.com or call Interstate Battery, Corpus Christi at 361-854-5000.