Describing her passion for the tire industry, Esmeralda Bernal says, “I have rubber in my blood.”
Her conviction and determination to succeed in her role—which in its scope alone might seem daunting to others—runs far and wide.
As the sales and business development manager for Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America’s South American and Caribbean regions, her position requires a vast amount of industry expertise and customer knowledge, global outlook, multilingual skills, well-established credibility and tenacity, not to mention the ability to overcome challenges —oftentimes unforeseen in working within an expansive and, at times, uncharted territory.
It’s complex, Esmeralda says, from the standpoint of each country in her region instituting varying rules, regulations and processes for importing products. But she tackles it with a combination of logistics intel, communications finesse and sales expertise acquired through former tire industry managerial positions in these areas. Armed with this business intelligence, Esmeralda says she also has a strategic mindset that helps her distributor customers succeed in their marketplaces.
Her nominator for the Club 3633 distinction, Dhaval Nanavati, president of Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America, agrees as he describes the depth of her knowledge and experience, and the positive impact on customers.
“Whether she’s standing in a soybean field in Argentina, a Chilean gold mine, a sugar cane field in the Dominican Republic or a logging site in Suriname, Esmeralda brings her boundless enthusiasm and powerful commitment to helping her customers find the ideal tires for the challenges they face,” Dhaval explains. “Over the past 15 years, Esmeralda has worked in 25 countries, using her knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese and her background in logistics to help customers understand the technical choices among material handling and off-highway tires, tackle the challenges of growing their tire businesses, and navigate complex shipping and customs processes.”
Before Esmeralda goes to visit a customer, for example in Argentina, she researches the market, identifies key players, as well as her customer’s biggest competitors and creates a strategy to help her customer gain more market share. And, she reviews past orders to make sure her customer is ordering the right tires for their customers’ applications. Then, once she’s onsite, she’ll make recommendations based on her findings. “My focus, to be honest, is I’m trying to educate my customers in all ways,” she explains.
By bringing this added value to customers, Esmeralda says it boosts their trust and confidence in doing business with her and Yokohama Off-Highway Tires. “If they follow [the recommended] strategy, and we are successful together, they continue to believe in me,” she says.
That level of service and commitment also extends to her distributors’ customers (various types of fleets), when she works in the field. “They love to see someone from the factory,” Esmeralda says. During her visits, she gathers a lot of technical information, analyzes if the tires they’ve been ordering are right, runs tests, shares results with the staff and helps them adopt her recommended changes. Plus, she conducts training to help customers make educated buying decisions.
Educating Yokohama’s sales team and distributor customers select the right tires for their markets and applications helps reduce costs, protect equipment, increase safety, reduce downtime and lower fuel consumption, which Esmeralda feels contributes to “saving the planet.”
Esmeralda practices what she preaches in terms of the importance of education. Dhaval shares: “as she shifted from logistics to sales, Esmeralda enrolled in certificate programs at Harvard to study corporate finance to better understand her customers’ businesses. She dug deep into agriculture, mining and forestry for first-hand knowledge of what machinery operators need in a wide range of environments.”
Esmeralda adds she’s now applying for her Executive MBA in 2022. It’s something she feels will not only enrich her skill set but will also be an asset for Yokohama. “I’m trying to think like the owner of this company and how I can make it grow, how we can reduce expenses and produce better results, and be more profitable.”
With the impact of COVID-19 still far-reaching in her region, in typical Esmeralda fashion, she relays this positive message: “After the dark, we are going to have the light again. We just need to wait, be positive and try to support each other. Every loss leads to an opportunity and any adversity leads to new possibilities. It’s something that you learn with time.”