There is no magic for inspiration. Ideas for this column come when they come, and how they come. Sometimes (not often enough) in a blitz when 800 perfectly crafted words flow effortlessly from my fingertips. More often, the only thing flowing is sweat.
The process isn’t pretty. People have a cinematic image in their minds of the grizzled editor, cigarette dangling from his lips while he bangs away at an old manual typewriter, so immersed in writing that nothing could distract. Real life is not quite so glamorous. Think unshaven, bathrobe-clad editor staring out at the lawn, contemplating the advantages of a nap over a snack when a squirrel interrupts the whole debate. See what I’m up against here?
But thanks to a handful of choice words from a friend of mine, here is this month’s offering:
• Google the name “Matt Stutzman.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Check out the video of Stutzman changing the tire on his car. For those who haven’t peeked, Stutzman has no hands or arms. He was born that way. Using just his feet and legs, the Iowa resident can change a tire in minutes. Or check the brakes. Or even drive, thanks to the license he earned and special controls in his car. Even cooler, the 28-year-old father of two is vying for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team. In archery.
• Speaking of conquering, you’ll notice we’re featuring five successful tire dealers – all first-generation immigrants to our land. This being July, the month we celebrate our freedom, the timing couldn’t be better. These five stories should also serve as a reminder that most of us are immigrant stock, and that America and Canada were, in fact, built on the backs of immigrants. Think about that the next time you start complaining.
• A heartfelt honorary “Unsubscribe” to longtime TR reader Bill Spear, 81, who passed away May 30 in Cudahy, Wisc. Bill was not directly involved in the tire biz, but according to daughter Eleanor De Ford, he was an avid (and paid) TR reader throughout his 31-year career with tractor maker Allis-Chalmers, and in the 16 years since he retired. RIP.
• What to make of the new guy in charge of Groupe Michelin, Jean-Dominique Senard, who will become CEO with the retirement of Michel Rollier? In a recent Reuters biosketch, someone who worked closely with Senard described him thusly: “Beneath his extremely controlled, even ascetic exterior, he’s a tough guy, a very determined and resistant man. He has a very strong work ethic and he knows how to make decisions, he hasn’t got here by accident.” He got to Michelin in 2005 as CFO, and joined the three-man top management team in 2007. He has already nudged aside technology chief Didier Miraton, the man who backed PAX and the little-heard-of C3M System. As another observer offered: “The message seems clear: R&D investment will not be any less than before, but it will be more target-oriented and differently apportioned, with redefined priorities.”
• Golfer or not, there is customer service and then there is the magic that happens at Firestone Country Club in Akron. From Smart Business magazine: “All of the club’s employees have a servant’s heart, and their goal is to make every person – member or guest – feel welcome and comfortable by creating a home-away-from-home experience. The club’s goal is to build relationships and enrich lives, which it does through three steps of service: warm welcomes, magic moments (random acts of kindness) and fond farewells.”
• Interesting that some India tiremakers are looking at buying and operating their own rubber tree plantations. Raw material price pressure is forcing the matter; NR prices are up 41% in the past year. Frankly, I’m surprised to not see more of this kind of thinking.
• Want to see where tires are headed? A new Maritz Research study confirms that for 42% of consumers, fuel economy is an “extremely important” new vehicle purchase driver. That number is up 13.5% from a mere 10 years ago. Millennials (those born between 1982-1998) rank its importance even higher and rate it most often as having the “greatest impact” on future vehicle purchases.
• Shut down on Mar. 31 by the New York City Building Department for illegally storing tires, F&S Tire was allowed to reopen in early June, having removed its store of 1,500 tires from the premises it has used for 26 years. The city got touchy because the same building houses apartments, but no sprinkler system had been installed. The city threatened fines of more than $500,000, but local councilpeople calmed the bureaucrats. Still, F&S Tire had to virtually give away its inventory, according to reports, and now operates as a tire shop with no tires.
• Someone surely said this at some point, perhaps less elegantly, but it recently struck home with me: “Doing the right thing is never easy, and often requires extraordinary backbone.”