On the Rise: Kyle Roberts
Director of marketing | Nexen Tire America Inc. | Age: 40
What was your first job in the industry?
My current role as director of marketing for Nexen Tire America.
What attracted you to the industry?
I was originally attracted to the tire industry because I was excited to accept the challenge of differentiating a product that consumers mostly perceive as a commodity. Those involved in the industry know that not all tires are the same, but consumers don't quite understand that concept completely. Furthermore, to come work for Nexen Tire, which is a company that has all the tools to be great but just needed a little nudge to get over the top, was very intriguing. Lastly, I felt like experiences I had in previous jobs and case studies from other industries were extremely relevant to the tire industry in its current state, and I wanted the chance to utilize that knowledge to make a difference.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
So far the biggest challenge in my tire industry career has been to get people to think in new and creative ways. I myself have been challenged with trying to find new ways to accomplish company and personal goals, but have found it even more challenging to get co-workers, customers, retailers, and end users to think differently. The tire industry is like any other industry. It needs to evolve or it will fail to exist, and I believe as a collective group we could be doing more to promote tires as something that consumers don't feel like they "have" to buy. Tires should not be treated as a commodity, and as such should not be subject to price wars or heavy consumer discounts. I will continue to search for new ways to help us evolve and be a forward-thinking industry, and not one that seems to be reactive.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I have had several mentors that stand out, but the one that stands tallest is Tony Barber, the vice president with a manufacturing company at my first post-college job. He taught me how to look at a company from the perspective of all departments and to learn as much as I could about each of their roles. This helped me become a valuable tool in moving growth initiatives forward for the company because I understood what my co-workers and management team held as priority for their objectives. He also showed me how to constantly be challenging and growing the associates that we work with and will work with in the future. He helped me understand that if you could go home at the end of a day's work, and you were able to teach somebody something new, or help them to accomplish a new task or goal, that the day was a success.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My overall biggest accomplishment in the industry has been the ability to create a brand for Nexen Tire that has had year-over-year growth of awareness as well as 30% growth in sales. A few initiatives that have supported this result are the launch of the Next Level Associate Dealer program in 2015 that now has over 3,200 active dealers, the implementation of a grassroots re-education program that centers around face-to-face meetings with over 3,000 dealers a year in which we share our "Why Nexen" campaign as an up and coming brand, and the introduction of our Total Coverage Warranty which is touted as the industry's best and most complete warranty program for consumers.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Twenty years from now I will be running a business, whether it be small or large. If I am lucky enough to have grandkids they would be about 8 years old at that point, so jumping into a flying car, heading to the park and going for a spin on a real hover board sounds like a great day. (Flying cars still need tires for landing and takeoff.)
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
The biggest issue facing the industry today is the never ending battle for market share driving down prices and negatively affecting profitability. In the end, the only benefactor is the consumer who is paying 20-30% less than true market value for product while manufacturers, distributors, and dealers suffer the losses.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
Well, not being a tire expert I didn’t expect to know everything coming in, but for the most part there have been no surprises. I guess it would have been nice if someone told me the smell of tires will stick to your clothes.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
I haven’t really had the opportunity to recruit peers or old colleagues to the industry as of yet, but I would sell the industry by focusing on its stability, its willingness to invest and advertise, and the fact that everyone is really friendly and open. Competition included.
Tell us about your family.
I have a lovely wife who is a fifth grade school teacher whom I have been married to for nearly 15 years. My daughter is a 12-year-old scholar excelling in reading, piano, Girl Scouts, and singing. Then the comedic relief of the household is our 8-year-old son who also plays the piano and is in Boy Scouts, but also loves Pokemon, baseball, and Taekwondo.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
My favorite weekend activity requires a barbecue in some fashion. I love to grill, so if I can combine that with a good ballgame on the television or right after a rugged hike with the family then I am in heaven.
What keeps you up at night?
How in the world are we going to sell more tires?
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I prefer a romantic comedy over an action adventure thriller. Don’t judge.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I really like Skittles. I have a huge container full of them and I try to limit myself to just a few every now and then. I might be in 10 Fantasy Football leagues too.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I wish I could play the guitar and sing. I have absolutely no natural talent for it and it’s something that could only happen if a wish were granted. My ability to pick up music is non-existent.
What’s your favorite food?
Cheeseburgers! Throw on a little bacon and look out. Since turning 40, maybe I should just have the bottom bun to keep the carbs low.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
So other than Jesus Christ, I would have to say maybe Magic Johnson. I am a huge sports fan, and Magic is my favorite athlete from any sport at any time. But he is a distant second to Jesus.
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?
Forever. Give me an old-fashioned beeper and a pay phone and I would totally content.