Anyone who came to the recent Goodyear dealer conference in Orlando expecting to hear grand sweeping proposals for putting the ailing tire maker back on track went away disappointed.
Instead, Robert Keegan, Goodyear president and-since Jan.1-CEO, told dealers that ``a lot of our issues will not be solved by the grand revelation of a grand plan. Many of our issues are right down at the execution level.
``Take a look at the basic individual actions that are occurring in our business. It's these basic actions that truly send a message about what we're doing.''
The catalyst for executing the company's turnaround plan is accountability at all levels of the Goodyear North American Tire unit, Mr. Keegan said.
``Sometimes you need to make people uncomfortable,'' Mr. Keegan said, alluding to the onus being put on Goodyear associates to execute the plan put forth at the meeting.
Underscoring the four-point turnaround plan unveiled Feb. 10 by North American Tire President Jon Rich, Mr. Keegan told the dealer audience, ``Our plan is not about Wall Street or about the consumer-it's about you. When you win, we win. We're here to help you build your business.''
To understand dealers' concerns better, Goodyear executives devoted several hours participating in dealer focus groups. Mr. Keegan said suggestions from these groups will be incorporated into the North American Tire business plan.
``We're turning up the volume on change,'' he said, encouraging dealers to contribute their ideas and complaints to their respective representatives.
``You, the dealers, are the face of Goodyear in the marketplace,'' he continued. ``You also are the face of the consumer to us inside the company.'' Considering this, Mr. Keegan urged dealers to take the initiative to let their Goodyear contacts know what the consumer is saying.
Regarding the state of Goodyear, Mr. Keegan acknowledged that ``missteps'' by the company in both strategy and execution, combined with soft markets, led to its slump last year in North America.
Trying to allay concerns about the firm's financial position, Mr. Keegan said that considering the cash the company has on hand plus its anticipated cash flow, available credit and continued support by customers, ``we fully expect to meet our financial obligations.''
Besides a falling market share, eroding profitability and a shrinking share price, Goodyear faces a shortfall in its pension funding obligations of perhaps as much as $500 million. Among recent actions, Goodyear has cut more than 700 jobs since Jan. 1 and eliminated the dividend-moves that are expected to save the firm nearly $165 million. More recently, it opened negotiations with its lenders to modify loan agreements to reduce payments and keep credit lines open.
However, Mr. Keegan threw his full support behind the North American Tire revival plan, saying the purpose of the plan is simply not to move the business in a positive direction, but to return North American Tire to ``all-star status.''
Echoing the conference's baseball all-star theme, Mr. Keegan spoke often of teamwork, saying at one point that Goodyear and its tire dealers ``are critically important to each other.''
In this vein, Mr. Keegan said trying to change the consumer's lack of appreciation about the value of a tire is ``the biggest challenge for this industry, both you and us.''