On the Rise: Al Klinge
Managing Director | Klinge Holdings Pty Ltd. | Age: 32
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job was probably sorting wheel weights or sweeping at my parents' tire shop when I was only a little kid. My first real job in the industry on the other hand was a trainee off-the-road tire serviceman at Ernest Henry Mine in Cloncurry, working on 830E & 793C & Ds as well as the rest of the light vehicle fleet. It was a great place to cut my teeth and learn the safe way to go about the job. Actually one of the first things I had to do was sweep and sort wheel weights.
What attracted you to the industry?
My family was no doubt the reason I’m in the industry and a massive part of my success also; a lot of our closest family friends were from the tire industry at home and overseas. I witnessed the comradery and mateship that grew from people who had worked together for a day or a year on the levers in the sun, rain or snow and realized that it was a bit of a hidden gem. Memories and friends like the latter are something I eventually earned myself and really enjoy about the tire industry today.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
My biggest challenge is underway. I am leading our team and company in the age of data and technological disruption in an increasingly global industry. It’s a challenge I rise to meet every day. A large part of my strategy to meet this head on is engaging my team, and encouraging an idea meritocracy type of culture, put simply this means the best idea wins. Our team is full of people with various backgrounds and experiences to share and when that is filtered and distilled it produces amazing results. I also feel that humor, humility and raw honesty have been great cornerstones for me in this challenge.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My parents undoubtedly have had a massive influence, as well as my brother who was working in the industry. But to say that one person had the most impact wouldn’t be right. It took a tire shop to raise this kid — every manager, supervisor and teammate has given me something to draw upon today. There are a million shared experiences through my relatively short career from trade shows, working in the pit, in the office, fitting tires underground and so on that I reflect on often. They all help me make better decisions today and have built who I am as a person.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My biggest accomplishment was passing as a trained, competent and authorized OTR tire serviceman in 2010. It was at this point I realized that people with extremely high standards and a lot of responsibility trusted me to do my job safely and efficiently. It meant that I could work independently and that I was making tangible progress on learning how OTR tires worked. It was a light-bulb moment that pushed me to go further. Second to this was being promoted to general manager, which was a huge honor and turning point in my career. I was ecstatic and grateful to be given the opportunity, I believed that together with my team we could take on all challenges and that I would do everything within my power to keep us moving forward
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
As managing director I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations, forward strategy and planning of our group of companies. I communicate with all my department heads daily. There’s not a lot I don’t get to do these days including product support when I can find the time. It’s a great way to keep up to date with clients. The majority of my day is spent either on the phone or hopping around the office with the development or support and consulting teams. Eventually I get some time just before midday to attack my emails and load up the next lot of work. Because we have clients in 40 countries there’s always the odd meeting or call before or after hours, but I love it.
What did you do before you entered the tire industry?
Actually I was very lucky to be born into the industry, but before the nepotism kicked in professionally I was in hospitality for over 10 years. This was before switching careers to train
as an OTR tire technician. I was a bar and gaming manager of a sports club at my peak and moonlit where I could to casual management or supervisor positions in other clubs or bars of our city. I learned a lot from hospitality — people management, stock control and forward planning. Those last two are key as running out of beer in an Australian pub is considered a most heinous crime.
Aside from the basics like health insurance, what’s the most important perk/benefit you’d want from your employer?
In my experience a team member must be able to “put their hand up” and as a leader you should make it known you are available to listen to them as soon as possible. Not having a voice in a workplace is a recipe for being unhappy. Not so much a perk but in our business it is a key to our success.
What’s the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
In my small corner of OTR I would say people. OTR tire technicians are hard to come by and expensive to create. The current workforce continues to age and younger generations (my generation) aren’t so keen to get their hands as dirty as previous. A part of this I feel is the lack of technology and innovation in the sector to draw them in, something we are remedying at Klinge in our own way.
Tell us about your family.
My mother and father, Dianne and Tom Klinge, started their tire service business in their small town of St George, Queensland, in 1971 which grew to become what it is today. Apart from their
entrepreneurship, determination and passion they are great people as well. My brother and sister both worked for the family business at points, with my brother Russell Klinge running the mining services business for some years. My family has always been a great source of passion and inspiration and I find myself reminded most days of a lesson taught in the past.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
I was around 11 years old staying with my favorite uncle “Billy” in Mackay (think Florida climate) and we went fishing in his boat in the mangroves (wetlands). After an hour or so the boat engine died. Uncle Billy kicked the engine so hard it fell off the back of the boat and sunk; we had to then row back. Of course the tide was coming in so we kept getting swept into the mangroves My uncle proceeded to yell that it was obviously all my fault because I was bad luck. (I learned a lot about swearing that day.) I found it all quite funny and I had never laughed so hard in my life. It proved infectious and before long he was wiping tears from his eyes from laughing so hard.
It’s report card time. What grade would you give yourself for how you’ve handled 2020?
A- work wise. There’s always room for improvement but my team, clients and the company managed to come out of it well. International business was very difficult with no travel and a lot of clients unfamiliar or intimidated to work remotely and embrace technology. Personally, I’d give myself a B. Locally we had some lockdowns but we’re almost back on track now. I found it difficult to draw a line in the sand with work/home time being that it all happened in the same place.
What’s been your biggest challenge this year?
Ensuring the safety of the team, and continuing growth. There’s only so much we can do at the end of the day against a pandemic but providing solid and constant information, PPE and flexibility in terms of work arrangements is key. Keeping communication with clients flowing and focusing more on what we can deliver versus what we wish we could.
Did you pick up any new hobbies or habits during the pandemic? Good or bad, tell us about them.
Yes I have a massive veggie patch (good), and I rediscovered my love for cigars (bad).
What song do you crank up loud and always sing along to?
“Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust and “Freebird” (long version) by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I was a working voiceover for years. I specialized in impressions of Morgan Freeman, Sir David Attenborough and more, and ended up doing more work for U.S. customers than Australia.
If you could wake up tomorrow with one new skill, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to do complex mathematics in my head.
What keeps you up at night?
Ideas, inspiration, ambition, doubts. It would be easier to tell you what I don’t think about. I’m a night owl so I do a lot of introspection at night.
In a single word, how would your friends describe you?
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Elon Musk plans to be on Mars in 20 years, if he has a spare seat you’ll find me fitting tires on the red planet.