On the Rise: Kelly Sumner
Northeast Marketing Manager | Tire Pros/American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 35
What was your first job in the industry?
Marketing and licensing voordinator for the NASCAR giant, Roush Racing. I started working in marketing with Roush Racing in 2004. Fresh out of college, I was preparing marketing materials for the trackside merchandise program. Back then NASCAR apparel, die cast collectibles, hats, tee shirts were in heavy demand and Roush Racing had some hot names. I worked with top name drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
What attracted you to the industry?
My family worked in NASCAR as long as I can remember...tires, dirt, race tracks, oil, fast and furious. Although Tire Pros and NASCAR are not the exact same industry, there are several similarities. Believe it or not, marketing in this industry is a lot of fun. The personalities seem to overlap, the hours are tough and the business owners are in the business because they have a passion for what they do.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Starting out as young female in a male dominated industry, NASCAR or tires, it has been a challenge to prove my skill sets are just as valuable as a seasoned veteran. With a little tenacity and a lot of observing from my peers, I have been fortunate to climb the ranks in the industry.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Do I have to choose just one person? There are so many wonderful people that I could name. I would narrow this down to Dave Crawford. Dave was my supervisor when I moved into the media buyer role at Tire Pros in 2011. We didn't know much about each other and we didn't necessarily work on all of the same projects. I knew Dave had a history in the business and he knew a lot of professionals in the tire industry. I could learn from him. Heck, maybe he could even learn from me since ‘those millennials’ are so hard to figure out. Knowledge is power and I found myself asking him questions constantly. Dave Crawford granted me my first two promotions at Tire Pros. I remember telling him how appreciative I was and stating, ‘I'll never let you down.’ His response. ‘I already know that.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
In 2013, the Tire Pros northeast region was occupied by 23 store locations. As of mid-2017, I am working with over 70 locations. The franchise is blossoming to a great opportunity for the independent tire retailer. I can't take all the credit with the new additions. Between the amazing teammates out in the field and the support team in Huntersville, our group of dealers is receiving more value with Tire Pros than ever before. I have to also give credit to the regional group advertising efforts we have put in place to elevate the Tire Pros brand. We have brought on partners with the New York Jets, New York Yankees and Madison Square Garden. The brand is growing, the dealers are proud to be partners and there is something to be said for being able to contribute to their success.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
My phone is usually buzzing around 5 a.m. I glance over the flood of emails that await me each morning to see if there are any blue hot fires (this is the color of the flame closest to wick). I check in with the support team (Emily, Patty, Angie and Steven) that keeps me afloat. They are my limbs and how things get done. It’s either by phone, instant messenger, text or email. Depending on the calendar, I could have a few conference calls scheduled with Tire Pros owners to review their current marketing plans, make adjustments, discuss co-op progress or discuss a marketing strategy to push units for a strong monthly closeout. When I am not on the phone, there is a to-do list of items that I need to either accomplish for a Tire Pros franchisee or an answer I need to get back to the support team. My phone typically has to be recharged twice in the day so there is zero lack for boredom in this position. I love it!
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
I see myself as a person who, hopefully, is on the path to have fulfilled many of her dreams. I foresee myself being a leader in the industry I am working in. More Importantly, I would be helping others to fulfill their dreams . My philosophy has always been that there is no end to learning but what you do with that knowledge far exceeds just having it — it’s important to share it.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
Change in consumer purchasing behavior. As I work with several successful business owners, they have contributed sweat, blood and tears to grow their businesses into a success. They did what others would not do. The way shoppers select a business continues to change dramatically every year and the way tire retailers connect with consumers will have to change too. Without adapting to those changes, independent tire retailers suffer the ultimate consequence of going out of business.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
Nothing. If there is a challenge, don’t let me build up any angst about it. I love challenges. I am excited to find the industry becomes a DNA strand in your life. You enter and you are among friends and family for life.
What class(es) do you wish you had paid more attention to in high school?
Chemistry. Understanding why materials change and at what rate they change is fascinating …now. Not so much when I was in high school.
What’s the worst cliché or generalization made about your generation?
I typically hear the word “entitled” thrown around a lot. There are several millennials on the team I work with. Entitled is simply not the case. I work hard, I’m tenacious, I take accountability, I contribute and I want to learn. Being that I work with the New York Yankees, it is fitting that I would embrace the words of George Steinbrenner which are, “I only know one way, and that is to work my tail off and demand everybody else do the same.”
Tell us about your family.
I am blessed beyond belief to have the two loves of my life under one roof. My husband, David Sumner and my daughter Taylor, age 7. Taylor is just amazing and I couldn’t possibly love another little human more. The three of us are on the go constantly. I love that we can load up and hit the road for a family trip to the mountains, the beach or a football game. Grandparents are all within one hour of our home which makes family time very accessible year round. Can’t beat that!
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
Spending time with my husband and daughter. My husband travels each week competing in the NASCAR Xfinity series. When he is home on Sunday with me and our daughter, we head out to church and usually follow to a lake-view restaurant for lunch. It may sound simple, but it sure is content to me.
What keeps you up at night?
Making sure I wrote everything on my to-do list that I need to get done the next day. That could be personal or professional but my brain is always 100 mph.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
I will encourage others about the stability and longevity there is in the industry. As long as we have vehicles, we need tires and auto service.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I really enjoy kickboxing. I used to teach kickboxing a few years ago. I still go to classes every day that I can. If you are having a tough day — hit the bag. It’s awesome!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream and warm Krispy Kreme donuts. It’s just annoying how much I crave it. I will have a staring contest with the ice cream in the store before walking away empty handed. As for Krispy Kreme, I am thankful the closest one is 25 miles away. Being inaccessible has been my saving grace.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I wish I could sing. My daughter and I are always listening to music. It is almost alarming how many songs she knows by heart but I have to imagine she gets it from me. If we both just had the gift of sounding good when we sang out loud…that sure would be awesome!
What’s your favorite food?
Do you realize I work in the best food region in the country? I like it all! Seafood, Italian, Mexican…how could you go wrong?!?! New York City provides choices from the best chefs in the country. You can have it all!
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
June Carter Cash. She was among some of the most talented individuals in the music industry. Not only did she contribute to the world of music, but she lived it with some very recognizable names. I love stories…good stories; stories that explain how we all got to where we are today. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am a history nerd.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Being at my grandmother’s house for family dinner. Grandma Tomassetti could cook! I am Italian and with that, came an Italian family (a large one), who ate meals together and spent time together. I still miss those moments.
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?
As long as my family was with me…I would survive forever. I have two phones…keep both of them!
Other than your cell phone, what’s a tool you must have to get through a work day?
My laptop…far too much info stored on it.