As chief executive of American Tire Distributors (ATD) Inc., Dick Johnson has long had a vision of turning ATD into a world-class sales company, a position he admits ATD's not quite at yet.
Now, he has the time and opportunity to make his vision a reality.
Mr. Johnson has been named chairman of the company's board of directors and relinquished his responsibilities as president to William Berry, formerly executive vice president and chief financial officer, on May 5. Mr. Johnson retains his CEO title, and Mr. Berry also has become chief operating officer. ATD has not had a board chairman for the past 2 1/2 years.
As part of the management restructuring, ATD also will add an executive vice president of strategic planning to focus on new market assessment and long-term planning. A senior vice president of finance and administration will replace the CFO position and direct credit, finance, information systems and the company's treasury function.
``One of the things I want to make sure is that people will realize that we're not going anywhere,'' Mr. Johnson told Tire Business shortly after his appointment. ``I don't want to cause any concern in the industry that we're out doing something really weird. All we're doing is trying to figure out how we're going to grow the company.''
Messrs. Berry and Johnson have worked together since 1997, and Mr. Johnson said he ``feels comfortable with him stepping in'' as president and COO. Prior to his position as CFO, Mr. Berry served as senior vice president of finance for the southeast division, as well as executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development. He also was corporate controller for ITCO Tire Co., a wholesaler acquired by ATD, which at that time was called the Heafner Tire Group.
Prior to his appointment as president and CEO of ATD in February 2001, Mr. Johnson served as president of Heafner Tire Group's southeast division, president and COO of ITCO and president and COO of Albert Fisher Foods Inc.
The restructuring comes at a time when Mr. Johnson believes ATD is ripe to begin growing its business. The new management structure means ATD's seven regional vice presidents who previously reported to Mr. Johnson now will report to Mr. Berry.
With Mr. Berry concentrating on day-to-day operations, Mr. Johnson said he now has time to work on ATD's strategic plan and to visit customers-something he hasn't been able to do much of in the past 2 1/2 years.
``(The changes) will help me concentrate on looking at the company for opportunities and where we might go to from here,'' he said. ``Now that we've got the company running the way it should run, we're in pretty darn good shape. We ought to think about where do we go from here.''
For fiscal year 2002, ATD recently reported net income of $37.4 million vs. a net loss of $30.9 million a year ago. Mr. Johnson explained that after selling off its retail business-including Winston Tire Co. and T.O. Haas Tire Co.'s retail stores-and refocusing on distribution, ATD now needs to expand its equipment business. He'd like to see that segment double in the next two to three years.
The company's wheel business is another targeted growth area. Mr. Johnson said he wants to increase ATD's market share in wheels to 10 percent from its current 7 percent.
``We may, down the road, look at possible acquisitions,'' he added. ``That takes a lot of time. You've got to develop a relationship and you've got to work on things. Some of those things can take two to three years....''
To assist with these plans, Mr. Johnson said he will search outside the company-and even the tire industry-for a candidate to fill the executive vice president of strategic planning position. He wants to hire someone with no ``preconceived ideas'' who is ``free-spirited, free-thinking'' and able to look at issues from a different perspective than himself or Mr. Berry.
The timing of the changes in no way means that Mr. Johnson is preparing to leave the company soon, he said. ``Bill needs this experience. This is good for him. I took him out of finance and put him into sales and marketing. And then I put him into new business development. It's now time for him to be president of the company. Should he succeed me? I hope so. But I hope not any time soon.''
Soft economic conditions and ATD's sales growth during the first quarter prompted the company to restructure top management now, Mr. Johnson said.
``I think whenever things are tough, that's the time you should go out and make things happen,'' he said. ``I finished the strategic plan 90 days ago, and I've been looking at it ever since....If we just wanted to continue along and improve our operations a little bit at a time, we could do that for the next three years and make money.
``But it doesn't get me to where I really want the company to be. I think we've got the opportunity to be much bigger than we are. We got the right systems in place. We're pretty good in operations. We're not a world-class sales company, and I'd like us to be a world-class sales company.''