On the Rise: Ryan McMullen

Nov. 1, 2022

Ryan McMullen 

Commercial division operations manager | Sullivan Tire Co. | Age: 38 

What was your first job in the industry?     

While in high school I got my first job in the industry as a general service technician. My responsibilities included changing tires, oil changes and basic maintenance. I then moved into retail sales and then a store manager's role while still attending college at Northeastern University. From the store manager's role I moved into an area representative role, overseeing 10-plus retail locations. 

What attracted you to the industry?             

In 1955 my grandfather, Bob Sullivan, started Sullivan Tire. From a young age I knew I wanted to be a part of this family business. Several of my family members are still part of the business including Robert Sullivan, chairman of the board, and Paul Sullivan, vice president, and several siblings and cousins.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?    

I believe that any success in any industry is a result of people. The Sullivan Tire motto is to treat all employees and customers as a member of our family. As we are in the most challenging labor market in history, we have evolved our approach to employee retention to ensure all employees understand all opportunities and career goals available to them. In short, we win based on winning with our people and our culture. 

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?         

There are so many people I could name here it is challenging to isolate just one. One of the biggest influencers of my career would be my uncle David Sullivan. Growing up I spoke to David almost daily. After my grandfather passed away I saw David, who checked in on his mother every morning and every night. He took special care of his brother who was born with many disabilities. He regularly reflected on his religion and taught me the right way to treat people. Before the phrase "work-life balance" became common in the workplace, David showed me the right way to treat your family and friends, how to be caring to others and always give people a second chance. Professionally, David touched many people's lives and was a mentor to many of Sullivan Tire's key leaders today. Unfortunately, he passed away several years ago, but his legacy will live on forever. 

What’s your biggest accomplishment in the industry?    

Sullivan Tire operations throughout New England include a presence in the retail, wholesale and commercial segments. After spending 19 years in retail operations, I transitioned into our commercial division. Doing this at a time where our nation was in the middle of a pandemic, this was a challenging decision to say the least. In the past two years we have significantly increased revenues, earnings and our customer base. 

Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day? 

As we all know in the tire industry every day is a new day with new areas of focus. My responsibilities include helping, assisting and/or overseeing multiple categories: manufacturing plants, sales team structure, store operations, safety and compliance, compensation design, marketing, as well as facilities and capital expense management. Most importantly we focus on our “customers” on a daily basis. At Sullivan Tire we always define customers as both internal and external. We need to keep our paying customers just as happy as our internal customers -- our employees. During a post-pandemic lifestyle and work force labor shortage, retaining our employees is of the upmost importance.  We have a motto: “Always Here to get you there!”.  

What’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before you took your current job? 

That retreading sales would bounce back! When I joined our commercial division team in 2020 we were in the middle of the Covid pandemic. We knew we were losing our largest manufacturing customer to a national account agreement that was not within our control and most local businesses were shying away from any expense possible. Fast forward to 2022, especially in second and third quarters of 2022, and we are very busy in retreading and we are trying to find new and unique ways to increase our capacity on a daily basis. We aim to provide the best customer service in the industry. 

Tell us about your family. 

My Grandfather, Bob Sullivan, was the founder of Sullivan Tire in 1955. From a young age I knew I wanted to be a part of this family business. I have many uncles, cousins, siblings and extended family members that I work with on a daily basis. It's amazing! The most important time of the day is when I’m not at work and spending time with my wife, four kids and all of our “crazy” extra-curricular and sport activities. My wife and I are very involved in our community and I love to coach our children in anything they want me to be involved in. Every day is very busy and we love every minute.

How do you recover from a bad or stressful day? 

It’s all about balance. I try to stay active with my family and children every day and night so the minute I get home from work I focus on something the complete opposite of what I’ve been focused on all day. Taking a break for a few hours reenergizes me to have a better mindset either later in that evening or the next day to re-engage and focus on how we can improve.  

Name one thing you wish the average American better understood about the tire industry. 

Within the majority of the industry, we truly want to help. This is a challenging industry and there are really good people that truly care about customer service. Every day there are labor challenges, supply challenges, unforeseen and/or unpredictable obstacles and at the end of the day, we want everybody to be safe and back on the road as soon as possible. At Sullivan Tire, we appreciate our customers’ patience when necessary.  

If you could have lunch with a celebrity, who would it be, and why? 

Bill Belichick. I love coaching my children’s sports teams, I may enjoy that more than work but please don’t tell my boss! I truly appreciate how many overlaps, connections and mutual learnings can be found between sports and the tire business. As a “die-hard” Patriots fan Bill Belichick has indirectly taught me about leadership, working hard every day, finding value in all those on your “roster,” “No Days off!” and “Do your Job!”  

Name a talent you wish you had. 

I’m terrible with a sense of direction. I have to use my GPS for everything. Apparently I’m terrible at singing as well, but I like what I hear!  

What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today? 

Labor shortages and developing technicians. 

Tell us your biggest pet peeve. 

Complaining about a problem without offering a solution. I believe in positive mindset, teamwork and a commitment to continuous improvement, both personally and professionally. Anybody can complain, tell me what you are doing to make things better! 

What’s the best book you’ve read lately? 

“The Education of a Coach” – Biography of Bill Belichick  

If a tire dealer asked you for advice to find good employees, what would you suggest? 

Active Communication. I truly believe “attitude over ability,” In this industry we need to find the right people with our culture and then train them. Working on off-the-road equipment, tractor-trailers broken down on the highway or a service truck with a flat tire in the middle of the winter can be intimidating. If we find the right person, with the right work ethic, that’s all the matters – we can train the rest.

What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now? 

I hope I’ll be actively working for Sullivan Tire, helping us to continuously improve in our market and keeping our customers happy on a daily basis. I expect to be continually thanking and recognizing our employees for all of their hard work and commitment to this industry. I believe we will be a successful and growing company 20 years from now because of our No. 1 asset, our people. We will continue to strive to have the best in the industry, with commensurate compensation and benefits, with a goal to offer the best customer satisfaction. On our website we have a quote from our founder “Treat Customers and Fellow Employees, as you would a member of your family”. I’d like to think if we can continue to coach that culture, we can keep our customers and employees happy in 2042!