Randall “Randy” Groh will be installed as the new Tire Industry Association (TIA) president at the Global Tire Expo — Powered by TIA during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, Nev.
Groh is not a tire dealer. He is vice president of product marketing for a wholesale distributor of undercar parts and tires.
He has been in the auto parts business since 1980, working for Fram, Bendix and Autolite brands. In 1993 he was hired by U.S. Tire & Exhaust (now U.S. AutoForce) as a regional sales manager in the Milwaukee, Wis., area.
Although his resume is heavy on the automotive parts side, Groh knows tires. When he started at U.S. AutoForce, tires made up 25% of the company’s sales. Within a few years, he started managing one of the company’s tire lines — Uniroyal (it also sold Cooper and Multi-Mile at the time). Using Groh’s marketing ideas, the company doubled its volume of business within a few months while increasing its gross profits. Now, thanks to Groh’s input and guidance, tires make up 80% of sales. He eventually took over the pricing, inventory and promotion of all of the company’s product lines.
And a year and a half ago, Groh was heavily involved as U.S. AutoForce bought the wholesale division of Royal Tire in Minnesota. With that purchase came a tire dealer program group called Tire One, which was redesigned and re-launched in February 2012, and currently consists of about 100 dealer members. Some of those dealers also are members of a 20 Group, Groh notes, which meets to discuss key operating features, financial benchmarks and best practices which strengthen everyone’s business.
He sees wholesale distributors as partners of tire dealers. In fact, U.S. AutoForce’s motto is “We do more than deliver tires at competitive prices; we put customers on your doorstep.” He reports his company has an enviable fill rate for products “in the mid-90s.” And partnering with a wholesale distributor “gives dealers access to multiple brands, frees up cash for inventory and saves them money.” The company considers itself as a “value-added tire wholesaler that contributes to the success of its customers.”
The road to the presidency
With his knowledge of tires, wholesaling , tire groups and especially partnering for success, Groh was asked a number of years ago to accept a nomination to the TIA board.
He says he was unsure at first how he would be able to contribute, but soon discovered that his marketing background and analytical mind were assets. He calls himself “somewhat opinionated,” and had strong views on the direction the association should go and what programs the group should emphasize — or de-emphasize.
Groh was eventually nominated for a TIA officer position by the outgoing TIA president, Larry Brandt, which led to the presidency. Brandt was basically “calling him out,” to do more than merely express his opinions, Groh says. He wanted him to put those opinions into action.
Groh says he always felt strongly that the association should focus on training and government affairs. Therefore, as president he plans to pay close attention to the membership newsletters, which will keep members abreast of all federal and state legislation that affects tire dealers. “This gets mixed reviews when I bring it up at board meetings,” admits Groh. “It’s not exciting, but it’s very important. Two to three years ago I served as the committee chairman for TIA’s Government Affairs Committee,” Groh says.
That experience enlightened him on the legislative process — and convinced him that TIA would serve its members well by being their government watchdog.
Being introduced at the Global Tire Expo is TIA’s farm tire training program, says Groh. “We’ve put some ticklers out to see what other training programs are needed. As an example, will we do one for forklift tires? If there is enough demand for it, we will.
“We have Automotive Tire Service (ATS) training, we have Commercial Tire Service (CTS) training — some of which is required by law, and OTR Tire Service training, which is going that way. Now we have Farm Tire Service (FTS) training. We are looking at training for auto services, but there hasn’t been a big demand for it.
“We need to generate that demand.”
Groh realizes he will put in a lot of time as TIA president, but says “the TIA presidency is not a full-time job. And that’s because TIA is now run more like a business. A typical non-profit lost gobs of money the last few years because of the sinking economy. Not TIA. And that is because past TIA leadership structured TIA more like a corporation. It is easier on the president. There is no need for day-to-day hand-holding because the business operations are in place — and are working.” ■
TIA and the RMA: Working together
When the Tire Industry Association (TIA) allowed tire manufacturers to join the association, some tire dealer members were afraid the association would lose its focus, says Randy Groh, incoming TIA president. That has not been the case, he says. “Tire dealers are the roots of our organization and we don’t forget that.”
Groh was looking forward to a recent dinner arranged for TIA board members and the members of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) — all nine of them.
“TIA could help the RMA with things they cannot do on their own,” Groh says. “As an example, the RMA could not get a unanimous decision on the issue of tire aging. TIA might be able to come up with a compromise that works. Tire aging is a big concern in the tire industry. We need guidelines we can point to so there will be no need for government legislation.”