Rapid Changes and Your Business: Goodyear’s Kramer Says Embrace the Disruption

March 17, 2016

Rich Kramer has been chairman and CEO of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. since October 2010. In his five-plus years at the helm, he has focused on a singular strategy: “to work from the market back” to deliver the tires dealers demand the most.

Combined with the company’s production capability — Kramer once said Goodyear’s strengths include managing its factories and tire production so that the right tires get manufactured at the right time — that strategy has brought financial stability back to the company.

At the 2016 Goodyear Dealer Conference in Washington, D.C., Kramer talked about the need to embrace change.

“Competitive advantage is not just figuring out how to sell a tire better,” he told attendees. “It’s going to be defined by the speed and effectiveness of our organization and your organization to change. That’s a big difference.

“That speed of change is really being driven by one thing: technology. Technology... has changed our lives dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. If you text, if you stream music, if you binge watch Breaking Bad from Friday night to Sunday night on Netflix, you know what I’m talking about. Those are simple examples, but certainly we’ve seen our lives change.

“If we think the changes we’ve seen over the last 10 to 15 years are staggering, I want to tell all of you, hold onto your hats. More change is coming, and it’s going to come at even a faster pace.”

To hammer home his point, Kramer quoted John Chambers, executive chairman and former CEO of Cisco Systems Inc.

”We’re in the midst of one of the most revolutionary changes in technology that we have ever seen. And looking ahead, technology will have five to 10 times the impact of the Internet to date.”

Kramer referred to these changes as “disruption.”

“Disruption is not simply an incremental innovation or improvement of something. Disruption is something that changes an industry forever. Could be product, could be a business model, could be an insurgent competitor.

“And disruption is usually something that starts very small, is widely ignored or we miss it. It gains a foothold and then it grows into something that becomes a real competitive threat.”

He said disruption is not a new concept. It’s just more relevant than ever before. And it is being driven by advancements in technology and the new business models they’re creating.

Embrace disruption for the customer’s sake, Kramer told the dealers. “As leaders, our job is to look ahead because that’s what leaders do. We need to spend time thinking about the shift and what it means for us.”

Rich Kramer’s tire dealer challenge: ‘You have to commit to do something different’

Chairman and CEO Rich Kramer wants Goodyear tire dealers to embrace not only change, but also new experiences in order to solve problems.

“I want you to just be aware,” he told attendees at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Dealer Conference in Washington, D.C., recently. “It’s a simple thing. Go out and educate yourself on the disruptions that are going on around you. Understand the impacts to your business.”

Here are his suggestions on how to do that.

  1. Go paperless for a week.
  2. Download the Uber app.
  3. Pay your bills online.
  4. Shop online.
  5. Return something to a retailer.
  6. Buy a set of tires online. “How do you know what it feels like for your customers to do that if you don’t have the experience yourself? Go out and do it. Go to our website. Go to someone else’s. See how the experience works.”

Leaders have to “engage,” he said. “That’s what I want you to do. Just commit to do something that you normally wouldn’t do and see what it’s like.”

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.