With the start of TireHub as a national tire distributor, combining the company-owned distribution of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Bridgestone Americas through a unique joint partnership, Tire Review sat down with TireHub CEO Peter Gibbons for an exclusive interview about the start of the organization and its impact on independent tire dealers in the months and years ahead.
Tire Review: Where are you now as far as a timeline goes with the startup of TireHub, and what do you anticipate in the next six to 12 months?
Peter Gibbons: “We went live last Tuesday. We did the cut over the weekend before that. And so this is very much the early days as you can imagine. So we are totally focused on standing up the business, looking after all the customers that we’ve picked up from the last distribution systems from Goodyear and Bridgestone. So [right now, we’re] not as much about helping customers use our portal, but helping customers get to know TireHub as a company, making sure that we integrate our national distribution network. We have a single sales force, as you know, and we are providing better tools and techniques for our customers – retailers and dealers – to buy from us, and we want to be a great partner to them. How does that time timeline expand? It’s really about growing and being able to provide great service and be the partner of choice for retailers and dealers across the U.S, and our focus in the coming quarters is going to be on learning the business and showing that we are totally committed to providing the best service to dealers and retailers across the U.S.”
TR: I’m curious about the tools. I was told that digital is going to be a real initiative of TireHub. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re doing to make it easy digitally for people to do business with you?
PG: “When a customer or dealer or retailer wants to engage with us digitally we have TireHub now which is our online portal, which is really about making product search easier and providing the delivery options, online payments and much more. Retailers and dealers can have complete visibility of what we have available, where we have it, the pricing that’s available and the entire range of Goodyear and Bridgestone products. We are building on that to build out more tools to help build a stronger link into retailers and dealers so that we can help them grow and expand their business profitably.“
TR: Speaking of growing your business profitably, what are the current unit goals that you have as things ramp up? What numbers can you share?
PG: “At this juncture, [what I can share is that] we’re staffing with more than a thousand employees, around about eighty distribution centers. A key for us is to take that combined national sales team, which is loaded with tire knowledge, and mobilize that across the Bridgestone and Goodyear brands, to combine these distribution centers from the two parents and make them into one integrated national network that can provide great service and can bring a real passion for servicing retailers and dealers across the U.S. Our focus is very much on that and making sure that we can scale the business as we plan to win more business and grow TireHub.”
TR: Speaking of those 80 locations, how are you handling overlap and coverage between the original two organizations as they’re coming together?
PG: “In some markets, former Goodyear facilities and former Bridgestone facilities are in very close proximity, in some occasions just a few miles. So to ensure we provide great service as well as efficiency in ordering and delivery for our customers, we will combine some of these centers into one. The main thing I want to stress is that everyone, every employee that has transitioned to us from Goodyear and Bridgestone, has been offered a job. We want to hold onto that expertise because they understand our customers. They understand how this business works. So every one of them has been offered a job. They are the heart of building this passionate, customer service-driven organization, and then as we see opportunities, we will be looking to expand that network over time.”
TR: Speaking of the level of service that you want to be providing to dealers, can you tell me a little bit about… just-in-time delivery? Are you going to be able to match and exceed what is currently available in the marketplace as far as service and frequency? Or are there going to be recommended operational changes that you’re going to be encouraging dealers to make with the transition [to TireHub]?
PG: “Job one is to keep all of our dealers and retailers happy and content and to ensure that they are getting the kind of attention and passionate service from us. We are building out our logistics and operations team to ensure that we are constantly improving and driving, helping to provide better lead times, more frequent delivery, better responsiveness, better fill rates, and showing that we can plan effectively with dealers and retailers. We’re making sure that we are using the rich data sets that we have and can build to ensure that we are anticipating demand and planning supply to our customers effectively. Job number one is to keep our customers happy; job number two is to improve that service. And the team that we’re building is very much a team that has experience around driving logistics excellence and improved customer service into retail and dealer operations.”
TR: You talked about Bridgestone and Goodyear products. The website says that Toyo has been added as another brand that you’re going to be carrying. What other products are you going to be adding as you fill out the portfolio?
PG: “Right now, we’re focused on making sure our current customers with our current products get the best possible experience. As you can imagine, being up and alive for a week, we’re very focused on making sure we’re focused on today and making sure customers are being looked after, and we are standing up the business effectively. At the same time, things do evolve, and we will always be looking to evaluate our strategy and how to be competitive in the marketplace to make sure we get customers the tires they want when they want them. If that means finding different offerings and different products or brands, then we will absolutely evaluate that and look at it. Today, our focus isn’t there, but we understand that your customers have needs, and we need to be able to show that we are responsive to those needs.”
TR: My final question: what do you want to make sure that your tire dealers out there understand about all the changes that are taking place within the distribution of those companies?”
PG: “The key thing for us, and I know it sounds like a bit of a tagline, but we’re created “for tire experts by tire experts,” and we want to make sure that we show up as a genuine partner and a champion of providing great service to dealers and retailers, and we want them to know that we see our success as dependent on their success and their success is what we should be focused on. I’ve spoke to all of our distribution center managers before we went live, all of our regional managers, and I can tell you that energy and the passion to bring together these two legacy operations – two companies that have an incredible heritage – and the chance to build a new model here and the chance to mobilize our people who are great tire industry experience to help the dealer and retailer across the USA. It’s real, and it’s got great energy and passion. So I would want them to know that we see our job as much as being there as a support to ensure great service, great support, great partnership to help you be successful.”