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Jeff Perry: Relationships Key to Success in the Tire Industry

For Jeff Perry, the most exciting part about his job in the tire industry is the people in it. A self-described “relationships-driven” professional, Perry knows that he can pick up the phone to celebrate a win or hash out a solution to a  problem with someone he has a relationship with on the other line. And to him, that’s what has made this industry worthwhile for the 12 years he’s been a part of it.

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“I have key people within my corporate accounts that I work with on a daily basis and that I work with out in the field that I consider friends,” says Perry, “We have so many good people in this industry.”

Relationship-building has always been a strength for Perry, who now gets to use this skill daily. However, he didn’t know that connecting with people was his superpower until an unexpected turn of events happened in his career.

When he graduated college in 2004 after playing quarterback for Central Michigan University’s football team, he originally wanted to be a police officer. Yet, he found a job working at Verizon and quickly worked his way up to become project manager in the company’s engineering department.

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“I was making a lot of great relationships, but then I was laid off in 2009, right in the middle of the recession” Jeff recalls. “So, I kind of got stuck in a rut trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”

In stepped Kumho Tire, which was hiring young college grads at the time with little to no sales experience. “To be honest, I had never heard of Kumho Tire and never even thought about the tire business,” Jeff admits. After joining Kumho’s call center, he was promoted to a regional sales manager in the west in January 2011 and quickly worked his way up the ranks. He moved over to the corporate sales side of the business the next year, where he worked for Kenny Lee, then vice president of sales at Kumho Tire, who laid the foundation for his tire industry knowledge.

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Also at Kumho, Jeff met John Hagan, Nexen Tire’s current executive vice president of sales who he credits as his mentor. Soon after, Jeff followed John to a Tier 4 tire manufacturer for a little over a year, and then they both applied for open positions at Nexen Tire. Jeff served in sales roles with Nexen, most recently as senior director of strategic accounts. In June this year, he joined Hankook Tire as its director of corporate accounts.

While Jeff enjoys celebrating the highs and troubleshooting the lows with those he’s made relationships with in the industry, he also recognizes that, currently, the industry is going through many challenges: Logistics for one, he says. Delays in getting product and the lack of containers and shipping space all culminates to lower-than-normal fill rates and a “merry-go-round” of price increase from pretty much every manufacturer. Yet these challenges motivate Jeff to get even closer with his customers to understand their business.

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“I am overcoming challenges every single day,” Jeff says. “In overcoming these challenges, it’s just me working closely with my customers. I learned early on the best way to handle challenges of this nature is to handle them head on, be completely transparent, open and positive with the customer.”

Jeff says the aspect he enjoys about his current role as director of corporate accounts is the fact that he gets to be a “one-stop shop” for his corporate accounts.

“I work with my marketing teams and their [customer’s] marketing teams to make sure we’re coming out with the right promotions and programs; I work with their inventory teams to make sure they’re carrying the right product; I work with logistics on a daily basis to make sure we’re getting the right product in a timely manner–which is easier to send than done nowadays. I’m working with pricing teams, executive teams…I sort of have an all-encompassing position.”

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Jeff says while he has relied on great mentors in the industry to help him grow, he also turns to personal development books and seminars to continue to add skills to his repertoire. Currently, he’s honed in on his presentation and public speaking skills and continues to look for ways in which he can adopt skills that will help him in his career.

Now a tire industry advocate, Jeff says for others that have joined the industry or considering it, he encourages them to stay for the opportunities the industry presents

“There’s so much room for growth,” he says. “There are tons of opportunities. I would tell somebody thinking of joining the industry to jump in headfirst.”

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