Published on February 11, 2014

New vision statement guides K&M Tire's growth

Photos by K&M Tire Inc. (Ken Langhals) and David Zielasko (Cheryl Gossard); Image compiled by Scott Merryweather.
K&M TIre Inc.'s executive team — led by President Ken Langhals and Vice President Cheryl Gossard — has crafted new mission and vision statements to guide the wholesaler forward.

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Jan. 11, 2014) — Wholesale distributor K&M Tire Inc., which has experienced exponential growth in recent years, is heading into 2014 focused on becoming the leading and most trusted provider of tires in all of its geographic regions.

That direction is guided by new mission and vision statements the firm's management recently crafted.

"We've had the same one since I started,…mission, vision and values," said Cheryl Gossard, K&M vice president, who leads the Delphos, Ohio-based tire distributor along with her father and company founder Ken Langhals.

"It's been the same for more than 20 years, and we just felt it was time to review it and update it and make sure it was saying what we really wanted it to say and so it would give our employees a direction on how we wanted them to conduct business," Ms. Gossard said.

Interviewed during K&M's recent 2014 Tire Dealer Conference in Rosemont in suburban Chicago — attended by 700 tire dealers, suppliers and company employees — Ms. Gossard said an important aspect of the mission statement is continuous improvement in all areas of the business.

"That's really important to us and something we've been talking about for the last several years," she said.

To support this effort, K&M is adding a director of training and development, who will "focus on working with our people and developing our team," Ms. Gossard said.

Updating K&M's mission and vision statements involved reading books, listening to speakers on the subject and working with Joe Calhoon, a recognized authority on leadership development and organizational performance.

"Working with him is why we started to look at it," Ms. Gossard said, "and he helped us so we knew exactly what should be in the vision statement, what should be in the mission statement."

K&M TIre Inc. photo
K&M Tire President Ken Langhals with legendary racer Mario Andretti at K&M's recent 2014 Dealer Meeting in Rosemont, Ill.

Delphos-based K&M Tire has grown from a single service station with two employees, opened in 1970 in nearby Ottoville, Ohio, to a tire distributor with 16 distribution centers, $250 million in annual sales and more than 400 employees, including four new corporate officers, five new salespeople and 11 new warehouse employees this past year.

The company's marketing territory encompasses the central part of the U.S., covering 19 states stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, an area that is a good match for the company's Midwest values, Ms. Gossard said.

For the first 20 years of its existence, K&M catered predominantly to markets in Ohio. In 2001, the company widened its footprint, entering the Chicago market, and in 2010 it doubled in size when it bought the assets of Universal Cooperatives Inc.'s Triton Tire & Battery business — including the Mr. Tire affiliated dealer program.

The company's distribution footprint includes two locations each in Ohio, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan and Kansas, and one each in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The 16th center is scheduled to open in late February in Mustang, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City. K&M is remodeling a former horse arena there that had a dirt floor and is turning it into a 50,000-sq.-ft. distribution center.

On Jan. 27 the company finalized the purchase of the assets of Mid-Tex Wholesale Tire in Waco, Texas. It will service the Mid-Tex customers from K&M Tire's existing warehouses in the Dallas and Houston areas.

These additions follow a growth spurt in 2013 when K&M opened a warehouse in western Minnesota, entered the Oklahoma City market, moved into a 201,000-sq.-ft. distribution center near Dallas, started a 6,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the Delphos corporate offices and opened a warehouse in Bismarck, N.D.

K&M also continues to build its Mr. Tire and Big 3 marketing/buying programs, the latter of which the company launched in 2012 to complement the Mr. Tire program.

The Big 3 program operates in Georgia, Indiana and Ohio, territories unavailable to K&M for the the Mr. Tire program, which K&M markets in areas west of Indiana, according to terms of a deal Mr. Tire's former owner, Universal Cooperatives, struck with Monro Muffler Brake Inc., which operates its own Mr. Tire retail stores in states east of Illinois.

When K&M acquired the Mr. Tire program, it had 100-150 dealer members, Ms. Gossard said. Today, the two K&M dealer marketing programs just hit the 600-member mark, she said, with plans to keep growing.

"As it gets bigger, then more vendors will want to be part of it and then we can offer more to our customers," Ms. Gossard said.

K&M Tire Inc. illustration
K&M Tire has 16 distribution centers in 11 states.

This includes several new tire rebate programs from Yokohama Tire Corp., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Mastercraft brand and Kumho Tire U.S.A. offered exclusively to dealers enrolled in the Mr. Tire and Big 3 programs.

Going into 2014, K&M Tire has added several tire lines to its product offerings, including Chinese import brands Autoguard and Lanvigator, in primarily passenger and some light truck tire sizes.

In farm tires, K&M now is carrying the Cultor brand offered by Mitas Tires North America Inc., and has added Double Coin truck tires made by Chinese tire maker Double Coin Holdings Ltd. and distributed through its U.S. marketing company China Manufacturers Alliance L.L.C.

It also has begun carrying the O'Green truck tire line offer through O'Green L.L.C., a U.S. distribution joint venture formed by American Pacific Industries Inc. and China's Shandong O'Green Group.

To improve support of its commercial and farm tire dealers further, K&M a year ago formed a separate commercial tire division.

"We just felt that our outside salespeople focused on the passenger and light truck tires when they went out to make sales calls, and they just didn't feel as comfortable talking about farm tires and truck tires, so we felt there was a lot of opportunity we were missing out on," Ms. Gossard said.

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Dave Zielasko can be reached at dzielasko@crain.com.

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