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Yokohama’s Heather Adelman: Grow People to Grow the Business

As a former college athlete, Heather Adelman is competitive by nature. She’s always striving to get to the next level, adding to her skillset and isn’t afraid to pick up the work when things need to get done. But she won’t tell you that–she lets her actions speak for themselves.

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“Simply put, Heather is the epitome of what’s good in the tire industry,” says Stan Chandgie, Yokohama Tire’s executive vice president of sales and support. “Selfless and success-driven, she continually strives to make those around her better and leads by example.”

Heather, born in North Dakota, learned these leadership qualities as a young athlete that eventually went to play college soccer and softball, and she has brought that drive to succeed and competitiveness into each position she’s held in the tire industry.

“You have to have that positive mindset, that drive,” she says. “I always want to try to be the best at whatever I’m doing.”

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Since her career in the industry began, people have taken notice. Heather started in the industry with Continental Tire around 2000 in customer service “answering phones and taking orders for the commercial side of the business,” she says. Throughout her seven-and-a-half years at Continental, Heather worked her way up into various positions including outside sales, taking a field training stint and covering a territory. While there, she received the company’s coveted Inner Circle award multiple times, which honors the salesperson who grew their sales the most during a current year.

After leaving Continental, Heather spent a brief time at a tire distributor before she landed a job at Yokohama, where she has served in various roles of increasing importance for 16 years. Currently, she serves as vice president of consumer sales–a promotion she earned in 2021–but credits her rise in the industry to simply putting in the work.

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“I just put my head down and tackled every project and every opportunity that was presented,” she says, reflecting on her career thus far. “I allowed those opportunities to be learning lessons–to learn more about the business, more about the different customers, etc… I think I’ve let my work ethic and job performance dictate when I’m ready for the next level.”

To get to the next level, she’s also learned from some great mentors along the way. Heather highlights one of her bosses at Continental, Tom Colelli, who encouraged her to pick up tasks simply for the opportunity to learn another aspect of the business. She also credits Continental’s Carl Casalbore for showing her the “corporate side” of the business and involving her in forecasting, supply chain and pricing strategy. At Yokohama, Heather says Chandgie has instilled in her more of a “fail fast” mentality, which has led her to try new things and look at each as a learning experience.

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“I think I’ve been really lucky that I’ve had three really good people that have instilled a lot of values and emphasized a lot of personal development to allow me to grow in my career,” she says.

In fact, her work at Yokohama led her to earn the company’s prestigious President’s Award– an honor chosen by Yokohama Tire’s President and CEO Jeff Barna–during a year where she had to make “some tough decisions.”

Now, she’s looking to give the support she’s received over the years back to her team. As vice president of consumer sales, Heather thinks of herself as a coach and support staff not only for the sales team, but also for Yokohama’s customers. She also instills what she’s learned along the way to her team, especially about being a resource for the customer.

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“Some of the best ways to make a sale is to become a consultative seller,” she says (and also preaches to her sales team). “That means some of your best sales may not be your product, but it’s solving a need that the customer has. Then, eventually by solving those needs, you become first in line. You’ve built that relationship, you’ve helped solve those problems, and now the customer thinks of you when it comes to buying product. It’s not always about pricing or product quality.”

As an advocate of personal development herself, Heather has been a part of the team that has developed a program called “Yokohama DNA” – a playbook for the skills each position at the company takes. The company also has an internal education system where bosses can recommend courses for their teammates and where employees can train themselves in a new skill.

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“We want to develop all employees to be the best they can be, either with us or with someone else,” she says.

Even as Heather works to develop her skills and help her team do the same, she says Yokohama isn’t immune to the challenges the industry is facing today: the rise of operating costs, transportation costs, rising gas prices and tire prices as well as inflation, to name a few. “We don’t know what normal is anymore,” Heather says with a laugh.

“I think the challenge for the market’s going to be as inflation hits records and as things start to settle, where does the market shift and adapt. Will we have to readjust pricing? I think it all depends on the everyday consumer what they’re willing to take,” she says. “But, I think we all will see a challenging second half of the year. I think demand is going to continue to soften.”

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Yet despite these challenges, the ever-optimistic Heather sees opportunities for her team and Yokohama as a whole.

“I think we’ve partnered with some really great players in the market that have allowed us to grow our brand,” she says. “At this point, we’re only capped by our own capabilities of production. For us, it’s not always about price. It’s about how can we become the best partner for our dealers and create those first in line opportunities.”

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