Regional sales manager | Nokian Tyres Inc. | Chicago, Ill. | Age: 33
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the industry was as a commercial service technician in Cambridge, Ontario. In this position, I operated out of a service truck, primarily responsible for the maintenance, replacement and repair of a wide range of tires, including those used in over-the-road, agriculture, medium truck, forestry and industrial applications. Additionally, I gained valuable experience during a brief period when I worked at an Oliver retread factory, where I had the opportunity to rotate through different stations involved in the tire retreading process.
What attracted you to the industry?
Initially, my entry into the industry was driven by practicality — it provided a means to support myself during my formative years. However, as I became more involved in this industry, I uncovered a true career waiting for me. What captivates me about the industry today is the people. Regardless of the industry's growth and increasing sophistication, it remains firmly rooted in its blue-collar origin. The strong sense of community, work ethic and shared dedication among its members is what continues to draw me in and keep me engaged in this field.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
The most significant challenge I encountered in my career occurred in early 2022. At that time, I had just relocated from Canada to the USA with the aim of expanding an underserved market for my company. However, just weeks after my move, a global conflict erupted, resulting in a significant reduction in our production capacity. This presented a formidable obstacle: I had to establish myself in a new, underserved market, forge fresh relationships, maintain our market relevance, and sustain our business, all while grappling with this substantial production loss. Fortunately, thanks to exceptional leadership and some incredible partnerships, we have thrived in the face of this challenge.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I've been fortunate to have two individuals who have had a significant influence on my career. The first is Eric Szpyt, whom I had met shortly after taking my first sales job. Eric served as my Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. representative and imparted invaluable lessons about the core principles of sales. Even today, I strive to emulate his approach in my day-to-day interactions with distributors. His guidance laid the foundation for my success in sales.
The second is Keith Harris, who was my first manager at Nokian Tyres Canada. Keith challenged me to explore the boundaries of my capabilities, pushing me to take on tasks I never thought possible. Under his mentorship, I gained the confidence to tackle complex challenges with innovative, out-of-the-box ideas. Keith's mentorship has been instrumental in shaping my career trajectory and approach to problem-solving.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My most significant accomplishment in the industry has been conducting hundreds of in-person training seminars, where I had the privilege of educating thousands of tire industry professionals. These seminars covered a wide range of crucial topics, including tire technology and manufacturing, tire sales strategy, sustainability within the tire industry, Nordic winter tires, electric vehicles (EVs) and cutting-edge products.
What sets this accomplishment apart is the diverse array of professionals I've had the opportunity to educate, spanning both Canada and the USA — from arid desert to frigid tundra regions. It has been a rewarding journey to contribute to the growth and knowledge of industry experts across North America.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your workday?
Beyond training, my workdays are dynamic and often take me away from home. You’ll typically find me on-site, whether it’s at auto/tire shops, warehouses, jobsites or offices where I engage in meetings with key stakeholders or collaborate on programs and execute joint-sales activities with partner salespeople. My responsibilities encompass fostering relationships, ensuring product knowledge is up to date, and facilitating seamless communication between our company and our valued partners in the field. I also collaborate closely with my colleagues to help build and maintain support programs that empower our dealer network.
What's been the biggest surprise of your current job?
One of the most surprising aspects of my current job has been witnessing the stark contrast in attitudes toward winter tires between Canada and certain regions of the United States. In Canada, an astounding 70% of the population recognizes the importance of winter tires for safe driving in cold conditions. However, in certain parts of the United States, there exists a significant misconception, with a notable portion of the population questioning the necessity of winter tires. This stark divergence in perspectives on an essential safety measure has been both eye-opening and a unique challenge to address in my role.
If you could wake up tomorrow with one new skill, what would you choose?
If I could wake up tomorrow with one new skill, I would choose the ability to speak and understand multiple languages fluently. Being multilingual would open a world of opportunities for effective communication, cultural understanding and collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds. It would not only enhance personal and professional interactions but also allow me to explore and appreciate different cultures and perspectives on a deeper level.
In a single word, how would your friends describe you?
If you could switch jobs for a day, what job/who would you choose to swap with, and why?
If I had the chance to switch jobs for a day, I would choose to swap with a pilot. I've spent a significant amount of time on aircraft and have developed a fascination with them. It's a realm of adventure and precision that I would love to experience firsthand.
What's the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
The most pressing challenge confronting the tire industry is the transformation of stocking from a traditional practice into a complex, high-stakes data science problem due to SKU proliferation. This shift has been further exacerbated by mounting interest rates. The consequence of this evolving problem is that maintaining inventory has become significantly more expensive, with errors in stocking decisions carrying much higher costs than before. This situation demands substantially more resources and capital to run an effective tire business, and it poses a particularly daunting challenge for smaller players in the industry who may struggle to adapt and compete effectively in this data-driven environment.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut. Almost there!
What goal did you set for yourself this year? Are you on track to reach it?
One of my personal goals for this year is to embark on the journey of obtaining my private pilot license — a long-held aspiration of mine. And I’m on track for the fourth quarter!
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?