In talking with Brian Rigney, the incoming Tire Industry Association (TIA) president, it quickly became apparent he spends a lot of time with his family. One of the reasons is that he and his wife, Heather, have two young children: son, Ian, 7, and daughter, Lily, 5.
Brian coaches Ian’s and Lilly’s respective baseball teams in the spring and their soccer teams in the fall. He takes Ian to 6:30 a.m. hockey practice every Saturday and Sunday. If Lily has a gymnastics exhibition or dance recital, he is there.
He says he started a garden “to help teach my children where food comes from.” He grows blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, zucchini, squash, peppers, and “a little of whatever they want to try.”
He volunteers at his church, St. Francis of Assisi, with homeless shelters and children from third-world countries the beneficiaries of his altruism.
The Rigneys also live in a very active neighborhood, and organize and host their fair share of get-togethers. He plays in a local tennis league, as well.
Oh, and in his spare time, he is president of Dill Air Control Products LLC, which has been his full-time job for the last 11 years. Dill was started in 1909, 10 years before Modern Tire Dealer started publishing as Tires & Accessories.
MTD managed to catch up with Rigney during a rare window of free time to ask about his goals for TIA and its 13,327 members, plus a little about the 110-year-old company over which he presides. Ironically, when he takes the gavel from outgoing TIA President John Evankovich on Nov. 4, that window of free time will probably close.MTD: What do you hope to accomplish during your year as president of TIA?
Rigney: On major topics that involve all of us, from manufacturers to dealers and everyone in between, including tire registration and tire aging, I will help TIA communicate our positions with the tire manufacturers and, where appropriate, regulators. I believe dealers and manufacturers are aligned on more than 90% of the topics in our industry, and I believe we can create solutions that will benefit drivers and remove uncertainty from tire dealers. Communication is open between the groups and ideas continue to be shared. I will work with our training committee to continue to improve our content and the delivery of our content to best serve our membership.
MTD: Do you plan to travel much on behalf of the association?
Rigney: Yes. I currently travel for industry events, such as state association meetings, as well as meetings with tire manufacturers, to discuss key topics. I anticipate additional travel within the scope of the presidency and look forward to representing such a well-respected organization, especially during a historic year. TIA is celebrating 100 years in 2020, which represents an exciting time to reflect on the history of the organization while focusing on the challenges ahead.
Since Dill reached 110 years in business in 2019, I understand the importance of looking back on past success while evaluating what is necessary to grow in the future. I firmly believe with the talented people in our industry, we can respect each other and reach a compromise.
MTD: Is it fair to say your unique perspective on both the tire manufacturers’ issues (as a longtime rubber producer) and tire dealer issues (as a supplier) will help you get what you want done in the next 12 months?Rigney: I believe I have the ability to see issues from each person’s perspective. We make hundreds of millions of parts every year, so I understand the challenges in quality control, distribution, traceability, and training that manufacturers face. I also realize that successful tire dealers want business partners as suppliers, instead of simply the lowest price. When you run a retread shop or tire shop, you need manufacturers that will be there to answer technical questions and train new employees. I also manage our business, so I realize the day-to-day challenges that a store owner faces.
MTD: What are the most challenging issues faced by our industry’s product manufacturers today?
Rigney: Developing new products to continue meeting challenging customer needs, managing inventory with proper lot control, and communicating the differences in the quality of their brand to tire dealers .
MTD: What are the most challenging issues faced by retail, wholesale and commercial tire dealers today?
Rigney: Recruiting and training continue to be critical. How can we train employees properly, and show them a pathway to career development? The front face of a company requires regular activity, from managing inventory visibility to responding to online reviews and monitoring sales tax rules in each state. TIA releases relevant state bills to members to help dealers stay aware and active in their communities.
MTD: What is TIA doing to address small business issues on Capitol Hill?
Rigney: TIA is active on regulatory and legislative issues, both as TIA and as a member of numerous small business issue coalitions. TIA is an active member of the Highway Users Alliance (infrastructure funding), Small Business Legislative Council (small business taxes, insurance, overtime regulations), Family Business Coalition (repeal of estate tax), Synthetic Turf Coalition (synthetic turf fields), OSHA Small Business Roundtable (inspection fines, new regulations), and the WOTC Coalition (save the Work Opportunity Tax Credit).
MTD: Any updates on the Affordable Care Act that will affect independent tire dealers?
Rigney: The individual mandate was repealed, which may affect independent tire dealers. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandate was constitutional in 2012, but in December 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which eliminated the individual mandate penalty, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Currently, the staff at TIA is working to repeal the Cadillac Tax, which may affect independent tire dealers. Finally, this fall Congress will consider prescription drug relief legislation, as well as surprise billing legislation. Both topics are relevant for tire dealers and their employees.MTD: Are tire tariffs a concern for the association?
Rigney: Yes, they are a concern, but there is no consensus on what an industry position should be. There have seen four groups of tariffs and each affects our industry in various ways. Among our over 600 retread members, there is strong support for the Chinese tariffs on tires. Retreaders are placed in an unfair position without the tariffs because of the lower costs of government-subsidized new tires. Also, there is concern about the retreadability of some Chinese truck tire casings. TIA also has thousands of commercial tire members. Some commercial dealers like the competitively priced new Chinese tire options. Several tire manufacturers have expressed to TIA their opposition to the tire tariffs and one company has expressed its support. A very high percentage of retail dealer TIA members are active in automotive repair service. Those members have expressed opposition to the tariffs due to higher costs for automotive parts and tire-related tools, supplies, and equipment.
Because the industry and membership are divided on the tariff issue, and while we understand the arguments on both sides of the issue and have worked with members on specific concerns, TIA has not taken a position either in support or in opposition to the tariffs.
MTD: How did you become involved with the Tire Industry Association?
Rigney: I was elected to the board in 2013. I learned about TIA through various training sessions and materials and wanted to participate in supporting best-in-class training that could benefit tire dealers across all markets.
MTD: What is your favorite part about being involved with the tire industry?
Rigney: Hearing various opinions from around the world and coming together to seek solutions to complex topics. There is a passion in our industry to do things the right way, and TIA’s training supports that effort. Also, tire dealers respect manufacturers that go the extra mile. When we at Dill decided to in-source the manufacturing of air pressure gauges and air chucks in 2011, we received incredible support from tire dealers who value performance and durability over cost savings. Lastly, we are intertwined. For example, the valve stem is meant to last at least the life of the tire, but what is the life of the tire? As we continue to review proper recommendations for the life of the tire, analyzing the interaction between tires, wheels, valve stems, and the environment is critical.
MTD: How long have you been with Dill?
Rigney: Since 2000, with the last 11 as president. I began my career as a product design engineer, then moved into a technical sales position before being promoted to president. I have worked in our manufacturing environment during the majority of my career, which has allowed me to learn our machining and assembly capabilities and work with our wonderful manufacturing team.
MTD: What is Dill’s secret to surviving for 110 years?
Rigney: Product innovation and employee loyalty. We have many employees with over 40 years of service at Dill, and even a handful with over 50 years of service. We have an incredible team with a wealth of knowledge and experience. This allows us to be nimble in product development, since we know our manufacturing capability and deeply understand the product applications. We enjoy it when a customer challenges us to develop a product to solve a need that they have identified.
When we developed Redi-Sensor 10 years ago, we received input from tire dealers, large and small, about how to make the sensor replacement procedure straightforward and easy to teach to technicians. We succeeded and continue to improve on our designs and production processes.
MTD: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Rigney: In 2008, I managed a product recall of valve stems. The process required us to evaluate material science, lot control, and methods to gauge critical dimensions throughout the production cycle. We were able to institute robust design and material improvements to ensure consistent quality and longer performance.
MTD: Who has had the biggest influence on your career and how?
Rigney: Our recently retired engineering director, Larry Schlesinger. He taught me to think through problems, test alternatives, and analyze information to make the best decisions. My family has always been supportive of my career. My wife, Heather, and children, Ian and Lily, understand that travel is important to share the message of Dill with the tire industry. When tire dealers and distributors visit Dill, they feel the energy from our team and notice the attention to quality.
MTD: What advice do you have for young people just starting out in this industry?
Rigney: Take the time to ask questions, meet people at various levels of organizations, and don’t be afraid to test your ideas. Even though something was tried before, there may be new technology or a better tool available to make the idea successful today.
MTD: Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Rigney: Coaching, teaching, traveling with my wife and staying active in our church. ■