WASHINGTON—A massive reduction in force—leaving the Washington staff of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association less than half its former size—is just the latest in a series of dramatic changes undertaken since the arrival of the NTDRA's new Executive Vice President David Poisson six months ago. The cutback in the association's 18-member Washington staff, which took effect Jan. 1, also was preceded by the closing of the NTDRA's field offices during November. It leaves the NTDRA's new top administrator heading a staff of just seven persons:
Donald T. Wilson, general manager;
C.D. ``Tony'' Hylton III, director of communications services;
John F. Buettner Sr., associate director of retreading and technical services and director of the Tire Retreading Institute;
Michael W. Tyrrell, managing director of membership and field operations group;
Betsy J. Kaufman, deputy managing director of the convention and education group;
Ardra Joynes, accounting assistant; and
Harold Blake of the NTDRA's central services operations.
The association's new executive vice president said the cutback was essential to balance the budget and was undertaken with the full knowledge and agreement of his predecessor, Philip P. Friedlander Jr.
All 10 of the affected staff members, informed of the move Nov. 11, have been given severance packages commensurate with their service plus help from association officials in securing new jobs elsewhere. Most already have been successful in finding such employment, Mr. Poisson said.
``We gave better than six weeks' notice that the change was going to have to come. And we used that time aggressively to get people placed in other positions in order to cushion the landing as much as possible,'' Mr. Poisson said.
The new executive vice president, who officially took office Jan. 1 following Mr. Friedlander's retirement, has only been part of the association's Washington-based administrative staff since August. Yet in this short time he has also:
1) Rescheduled the NTDRA's 1997 Las Vegas convention—merging it with the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association and Automotive International Association (SEMA/AI) portion of the giant Automotive After-market Industry Week extrava-ganza held there each November;
2) Taken the first steps toward moving the association's offices out of the District of Columbia and into more affordable quarters in the suburbs outside the Washington beltway once its current lease expires in October 1997; and
3) Met with representatives of 21 state and regional dealer associations to encourage closer ties between their respective organizations and propose a new unification and revenue-sharing concept, whereby tire dealers would pay dues to their nearest local group and automatically belong to the national organization as well.
If this concept is well received and proves workable, Mr. Poisson said he would like to see it inau-gurated by the time NTDRA mem-bers convene in Las Vegas, Nov. 3-7. That would make 1998 the association's first full year of operation under the proposed restructuring.
Contacted by telephone follow-ing his two-day meeting with state and regional association representatives in Chicago, Mr. Poisson said discussions there involved several different models based on such a concept. But participants at the meeting made no attempt to draft an agreement among the groups involved.
``There was a lot of support for the concept. But at this point it is just a concept,'' he added.
Mr. Poisson said the objective of the proposal would be to offer dealers ``a single, unified organization'' rather than the present prospect of different organizations competing for the dollars and attention of prospective members at both the state and national levels.
From the tire dealer's perspective, he said, ``the whole relationship between the state and national office would appear seamless,'' much the same as affiliated local stations appear to viewers in relation to the national TV networks.
The NTDRA's top administrator said he'd like to see the state organizations carry out membership development and similar operations at the grass roots level, thereby freeing the national group to provide the type of member services best initiated at that level.
In aggregate, the state and regional groups probably have about 6,000 members, while the NTDRA's membership totals about 4,000, he estimated.
One reason for closing the NTDRA's regional offices was to encourage this sort of cooperation between the state and national organizations, Mr. Poisson said.
Meanwhile, he said he also would like to see the NTDRA open its doors to a wider variety of prospective members—something many state and regional groups already have done.
Several state dealer associations allow tire makers and other suppliers to take a much higher profile in the organization. However, the NTDRA's bylaws presently don't permit the involvement of tire manufacturers in association affairs. In all likelihood, Mr. Poisson said, he will recommend that prohibition be removed.
``I think retail tire dealers ought to be the ones leading (the organization) and setting its policies and so forth. But I don't think that means we ought to banish manufacturers, private brand group members and those kinds of people from taking an active role in this association's activities.''
Mr. Poisson said the NTDRA had to reduce personnel expenses in light of its financial position following the money-losing 1996 convention and trade show in Atlanta.
Reducing such costs, which have accounted for roughly half the association's annual expenditures, he said, was essential in order that the NTDRA could remain viable and able to provide dealers with new membership services in return for their dues.
Mr. Poisson said every effort will be made to ensure that members won't experience any reduction in services as a result of the staff cutback. ``We intend to do everything we were doing before—and just as we did (it) before,'' he told TIRE BUSINESS.
``We've kept someone in each functional area to make sure those services are continued. What we won't be is two and three people deep. But we'll still be able to provide the same level of services, because we're doing more with other people than in the past: the states, SEMA, tire manufacturers etc.''
Mr. Poisson added he is not uncomfortable having to work with a smaller administrative crew.
``I would rather deal with a small circle of highly competent people who are versatile at a number of different types of tasks—people not so taken with themselves that they come back to me and say, `I only do windows.'
``I do windows and a whole lot more; and I expect the people around me to be equally flexible.''