On the Rise: Robert Pritchett
Region General Manager Consumer Replacement Tire Sales | Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC | Age: 32
What was your first job in the industry?
I started in the tire industry with Bridgestone in January of 2010 as a corporate accounts representative living in Washington, D.C. and covering the northeastern U.S.
What attracted you to the industry?
I am from Nashville, Tenn., so Bridgestone was a familiar name as a major business for the city of Nashville. However I became interested in Bridgestone because one of my closest friends growing up worked for Bridgestone. He called me and said "you'll have to move out of Nashville up to the Northeast but trust me it is worth it!" Starting a career with Bridgestone and joining the tire industry was one of the best decisions of my life.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
From a professional point it would be merchandising as cliché as that might be. Size proliferation and the always expanding list of new original equipment fitments is a challenge for both suppliers and dealers. On a personal note it would be moving to different cities for new opportunities. I have moved from Nashville to Washington, D.C. for two years, Atlanta for the last six years, and now we are starting our journey in Dallas. Leaving friends and community is difficult but luckily my wife is up for the adventure!
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I have been very fortunate to work with amazing leaders and coaches at Bridgestone, but if you are truly dedicated to your dealers they will have a bigger influence on you. I am lucky that I wake up every day and work with dealers who challenge, teach, and inspire me to achieve new heights. My first dealer visit is also the individual who has had the biggest influence on me and that is Ed Westmoreland who is the founder of Westmoreland Tire Company in Fort Payne, Ala. Ed not only taught me about the industry but why to love it. Ed's passion for his customers, team members, and his community reinforces how great this industry can be. Ed poured into me early on and still serves as a friend and mentor even though I have taken over a different sales region.
What’s your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
The success of teammates I have coached and lead. Early on at Bridgestone I took an interest in the training and development of our future leaders. Everyone at Bridgestone knows that I love people and that I lead by servitude. It is one thing to say you care about developing others but I do my best to coach teammates every day and help them realize their full potential. I can look around and see others I have coached moving up in the company and making a positive impact in their respective business units. Seeing my colleagues succeed and do great things is a driving force for my passion in this industry.
How do you spend your work day?
Currently, I am a region manager for the consumer replacement tire sales group at Bridgestone Americas. In this role, I lead a sales team of 14 people. I am responsible for Bridgestone consumer replacement tire sales in all states west of Texas, including Alaska and Hawaii.
Because I love being with our dealers and building relationships, I spend a significant amount of time on the road in the markets I serve. While in those markets, I am usually meeting with our dealer partners, helping them problem solve and create solutions. Each day I am focused on leading sales efforts, coaching my team, planning where my team needs to be in 90-120 days and identifying new business opportunities
What keeps you up at night?
My people – both at work and at home. I care deeply about people and want to ensure everyone I interact with feels supported and heard. I am always eager to help those around me.
Early bird or night owl?
Both?! Ha. It depends where I am. If I am heading out west toward California, I know it’s going to be a late night.
Messy or neat freak?
Growing up, what was your dream job?
I always loved trucks and wanted to start my own car dealership. The closest I came to that dream was as an actor in a car dealer commercial when I was a kid.
Tell us about your family.
My wife Kathleen and I live in Dallas currently. She was my date for a Bridgestone event and the rest is history! The rest of my family is based in the Southeast. I have relatives in Nashville, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Florida.
Describe your first car and what you loved most about it.
My first car was a teal colored Chevrolet S-10. We named it the ‘Teal Tiger.’ I loved that truck. It only had three seats, so I never had to drive on road trips in college.
What advice would you give your high school self?
Don’t settle for that C in math class.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
This is an easy decision for me. I would choose Theodore Roosevelt. He is one of the greatest presidents in history and his leadership style is one that I try to emulate. His passion is so inspiring. I would be interested to talk to President Roosevelt to hear how he overcame his biggest challenges.
Best way to spend a Saturday night: out on the town or home alone binge-watching shows? (or something else)
I prefer to spend my Saturday nights out on the town.
What song do you crank up loud and always sing along to?
Space Wrangler by Widespread Panic. It’s a ‘pump me up’ song. Fun fact – I have listened to that song before every single job interview I’ve had.
What habit do you wish you could break?
Checking my phone too much. I am trying to be more present.
What’s your secret superpower?
If I could have a secret superpower it would be to teleport. That would give me so much more time to spend in the field with customers. Plus, I could teleport to any and every sporting event!
What game show would you most likely win?
Deal or No Deal.
If we gave you $1,000 and one hour, how would you spend the money?
I would stick to the “save, give, live” mentality. I would save a bit, give some away to a charity and then take my wife out to a nice dinner.
How should the tire industry attract and retain more young talent?
We need to work together to raise awareness of how special the tire industry truly is. Many people don’t understand all that that this industry has to offer; there are so many opportunities out there. We must work together to educate young talent through on-campus recruiting, scholarships and other education efforts.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
I’ll be somewhere selling tires – even if it’s to a driverless vehicle!
What’s the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
Consumers are changing, and it can be challenging to anticipate and meet their needs in such a dynamic environment. The tire industry must evolve to ensure we are providing products and services that meet consumers’ needs – both today and in the future. We can’t be satisfied with the status quo.
If you could spend a day supporting a charity, what would you do?
I would work to serve the homeless at a local shelter or soup kitchen.
If you could start a new career tomorrow, what would it be?
This is a tough question because I love my career now and can’t imagine doing anything else. But if I wasn’t working in the tire business, I think I’d open a restaurant.