WATERLOO, Canada-Treadway Export Ltd. President Joe Recchia has been at his current post for only three months, but he has a firm handle on exactly where his company fits into the global replacement tire market. ``What we are is a really good second source,'' he said.
Amid ``we're-the-best'' slogans, Treadway has humbly carved a niche that Mr. Recchia said banks primarily on customer service-maybe with just a hint of an underlying sense of humor.
Consider that the company calls itself the ``King of wheelbarrow tires,'' because of its specialty tire emphasis.
What Treadway has done is shy away from direct competition with major tire companies like Michelin North America, where Mr. Recchia had worked prior to joining Treadway three years ago as executive vice president of marketing and planning.
Instead, the Waterloo-based firm has tried to ``fill in the holes'' in major tire manufacturer lines. It markets industrial, specialty and agricultural tires-along with its own private brand passenger and light truck tires-to dealers worldwide who fill their primary needs through major tire makers.
Because today's tire dealer typically sells more than one brand and is short on the inventory space needed to accommodate an increasing number of tire sizes, Treadway allows mixed-container orders, though still requiring full-container-load shipments.
That-coupled with quick shipments and a staff that is 75-percent composed of salespeople-is part of Treadway's ``customer focus,'' Mr. Recchia said.
``Everybody talks customer service, but major companies have cut people and service,'' he said, adding that Treadway still is small enough to deal on a personal level with its customers.
``We have positioned ourselves in the industry to say we are not competition to any of the major (tire makers),'' Mr. Recchia said. ``But everybody looks at everybody as competition, and you won't get away from that.''
Treadway does have several practices that help reduce adversarial relationships with major manufacturers. For one, the company refuses to market its Electra, Esprit, Free Spirit and other private brand replacement passenger tires in the main geographic areas their manufacturers serve.
For instance, replacement tires made by Michelin and Continental General Tire plants in Canada and the U.S. are exported. ``We are not a U.S. major player, and we are not trying to be,'' he said.
Instead, the company is looking for overseas growth to augment its primary markets, which are Central and South America and the Caribbean in the Western Hemisphere as well as Asia, Eastern Europe, Australia and the Middle and Far East.
Currently, Treadway is looking at a consolidated distribution/sales office-possibly in Miami-for the Electra brand, which it hopes will become its primary line within the next five years.
But recent plans to increase business in Mexico have been put on hold since the peso's devaluation and the Mexican government's recent demands that some sidewall markings be branded in Spanish.
``That will correct itself over time,'' Mr. Recchia said. ``But now it's impossible to deal with Mexico.''
The company, which is a subsidiary of Electra Group International, is in no hurry to expand, however. Its plan for the future is ``controlled growth'' that doesn't get away from the company's ability to serve its customers.
``We've got more people knocking on the door than we know what to do with,'' he said.
Electra Group markets tires, wheels and related products in about 100 countries through its Treadway, Tire Specialists Ltd., Wheeltech North America and Conestoga Tire & Rim Inc. subsidiaries.