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On The Rise

Colin Gallagher

Colin Gallagher

Regional sales director | American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) | Age: 34

What was your first job in the industry?

I joined ATD in 2007 as a strategic planning analyst. In this role, I managed the due diligence process for two bolt-on acquisitions and also implemented ATD’s “market dashboard”, a tool designed to provide our dealers customized market analysis.

What attracted you to the industry?

I have a finance background, so I was initially attracted to the industry because I had an opportunity to work in mergers and acquisitions with a great company that was in the midst of a dramatic growth spurt. Nearly a decade later and after several job changes, I’ve continued to stay in this industry because of the people. I am continually impressed by the genuine quality of the people in the tire industry – specifically the independent dealers. This is a group that truly understands the meaning of hard work, the value of family, and the importance of having fun in your job.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

After moving to Ohio in 2012 to run ATD’s Cleveland distribution center, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to join the board of directors of the Ohio Tire and Automotive Association. Not long after that, another board member needed to take some responsibility off his plate and I found myself as the incoming president. I was the youngest member on the board and overwhelmed that I would be tasked to lead some of the titans of Ohio’s tire industry and represent our membership in the state legislature. Fortunately, I was, and still am, surrounded by an incredibly knowledgeable and supportive board. I reached out for guidance from past presidents and executive directors and received mentorship that has helped me grow personally and become a better advocate for tire dealers in Ohio. The association continues to be successful –  for example, we recently announced the favorable passage of House Bill 429 by the Ohio House of Representatives. This bill will make tire dealers eligible to apply for state reimbursement of up to $4,000 for auto technician training through the Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program. We have also recruited additional talent to the board who have helped revamp our website, www.ohiotire.org, and launch our social media presence.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I’ve had two people in my career that I would consider mentors. My first boss at ATD was Keith Calcagno, who is now chief transformation and strategy officer at ATD. He taught me the importance of taking calculated risks in my career and he encouraged me to “behold the turtle – he only makes progress when he sticks his neck out” (James Bryant Conant). The confidence Keith instilled in me emboldened me to make the leap from the corporate office into field sales and management. The other person I’d consider a mentor is Tom White, owner of Tire Source Tire Pros in Akron, Ohio. Tom is a past president of the OTAA and has guided me through my growing engagement in the industry, the association, and the legislature. I’m very fortunate to have people like Keith and Tom involved in my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?

I’m most proud of the work I’ve done over my career helping independent dealers grow and earn more money. Earlier this year I received a gubernatorial appointment from Governor John Kasich to serve on Ohio’s Material Management Advisory Council. The council works closely with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to advise the state on waste management and recycling strategy. My primary contribution is to represent the wholesale and retail community in solving issues related to the illegal dumping of scrap tires. This appointment was a tremendous honor for me and a culmination of my work in strategic planning and relationship building. I hope, however, that my appointment is just the beginning and that together we can develop creative solutions to the scrap tire problem that will benefit tire dealers across the country.

What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?

Ideally, I’ll have grown into a leadership role within ATD over the course of the next 20 years.  I don’t know what the exact role will be, but I do know that my end goal will be the same as it is today — to help tire dealers make more money by doing business with ATD. 

What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?

The pace of change.  Our customers are evolving at a rapid pace and technology is progressing equally as fast.  I believe that the biggest determinant of success for companies within our industry will be their ability to anticipate and adapt to change.  

What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?

“Get dirty.”  As a finance professional entering the wholesale side of the business, it took me a while to understand that the fastest way to gain your customers’ respect was to walk a mile in their shoes.  While I was at the corporate office, this meant getting out into the field and understanding the challenges of a distribution center.  Now that I work in the field, it means understanding the needs and goals of the retailers because making them successful is what will drive my success.  

How do you encourage others to enter the industry?

I tell people entering the industry that it will be much more fun than they thought it would be.  Selling tires doesn’t seem sexy, but in reality there are a lot of exciting opportunities for people who are successful and want to get involved, from driving fast cars in product training events to attending sponsored sporting and racing events to influencing legislation through trade associations like the Ohio Tire and Automotive Association.  The other thing I tell people joining the industry is that they’ll be impressed by the quality of people.  Simply put, tire dealers are good people and it’s a joy to work closely with them.  

Tell us about your family.

I have a beautiful wife and two fantastic little boys who were fortunate enough to get their mother’s good looks! They are the most important thing in my life and they are probably the only reason that I don’t work 100 hours per week.  My sons love visiting ATD warehouses and are constantly amazed by the number of tires. They love trucks and on the rare occasions that they get to see me in a box truck, you would think that I was a superhero by the way they react.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

The weekends are all about family for me.  Some of my favorite things to do are going to a ball game, taking the kids to a playground or museum, or visiting with family.  I’ve also gotten involved helping the Cleveland Kids Book Bank with some of their planning and tracking systems, but I try to do that work before the kids are awake or after they’re asleep, so I don’t miss any more growing-up than I have to.

What keeps you up at night?

My toddlers!

Tell us something about yourself others might not know.

I have lived or worked in 10 different countries across the world.  

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Sleeping in. Most leaders are naturally early risers, but I’ve had to force myself into that habit.  If I have the rare opportunity to sleep in late, I will take full advantage!

Name a talent you wish you had.

To see around corners.  This is a talent exhibited by business visionaries that are able to predict market trends or shifts in technology long before their competitors.  This is what drives the success of companies like Apple, Starbucks, and Uber, and it’s something that I’d love to bring to the tire industry.

What’s your favorite food?

Pizza. Everyone loves pizza, but when I was living in Italy, I developed a real passion for pizza. I learned how to make my own dough and even brought back a stone cooker to make my own authentic Italian pizza at home. Many people dream of having a pool or a huge grill in their backyard, but my dream is having a brick oven.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I never had the chance to meet my mom's mother.  Unfortunately, she passed before I was born, but I would love the opportunity to have dinner with her and hear stories about her life and my parents when they were young. 

If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?

I'm typing my interview responses on my cell phone. Does that answer the question? 

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