GOTHENBURG, Neb.Dawson Tire & Wheel has sustained annual growth for 17 consecutive yearsthe entire length of its existenceand it plans to charge into the future like...well, a rhino.
The dealership, which specializes in agricultural tires and wheels, was founded in Gothenburg in 1998 by company owner and CEO Eric MacPherson. Since then it has expanded to locations in Indianapolis and Rosetown, Sas-katchewan.
Loren Block, the firm's marketing manager, credited much of the company's success to the state of the agricultural tire market as well as its ag-focused business model.
I think, fundamentally, we've seen ups and downs in agriculture, but the sustained growth of agriculture is inevitable with growing world populations and food requirements.... That's why, in this company, that focusing on agriculture we feel is a very safe bet, he told Tire Business. But I think on a more basic level, we have a great culture within Dawson Tireit's a culture of excellence.
We go above and beyond to make our customers satisfied, and we spend a lot of money keeping and making our customers satisfied, he continued. We do lots of customer survey calls. We get tons and tons of referrals. Our business is built on referrals, and I think it's all because of our focus on agriculture and being within that community.
Mr. Block did not disclose annual sales for the company.
When Mr. McPherson launched Dawson Tire in 1998, the firm performed a variety of services and sold passenger and light truck tires in addition to ag tires. As the company progressed, it gradually narrowed its business focus.
In 2003 we took a definite shift toward agriculture, Mr. Block said. In 2012 we made a conscious decision to get out of truck tires, car tiresanything besides agriculturewhich is not the normal model.
According to Mr. Block, location played a large role in the decision, with Dawson being centrally located in North America, not only in the United States but also to Canada.
Also in 2012, the company opened its second location in Indianapolis, also a prime spot for ag tire distribution, he added.
Those strategic positions in agricultural areas have been able to build that base that help us kind of circumvent the normal tire manufacturer/distributor/dealer model, Mr. Block said. That's the main reason, and also a lot of the folks who work here and the management that work here came from a background in agriculture, so we understand the machinery.
I think that's one of the points that we're really strong in is that we spend a lot of time training our staffnot only our sales staff but the staff out in back and everyone in equipment and equipment application, he noted. When a customer calls in we're asking, 'What are you growing? What sort of equipment are you running?... How fast?.. What loads?'
We're trying to get background so that we can recommend the right tire and the right wheel.
Some of the dealership's recent growth can be attributed to the success of its proprietary RhinoGator brand of high-density composite polyethylene pivot irrigation tires, which Dawson Tire debuted in 2012.
The company began selling irrigation tires in 2003, but management soon came to the conclusion that the available tire options didn't fit its needs.
What was out there at that time four years agoand still is the primary player todayis bias tire technology, which, even in the whole world of tire technology, is old, Mr. Block said. Besides being old technology, it just doesn't serve the purpose very well.
What the company found is that irrigation tires have a completely different life cycle than other ag tires, such as those found on tractors, combines and sprayers, and much of it is determined by the elements.
The enemy of irrigation tires is not wear, it's not road wear or anything like that, Mr. Block said. It's UV rays.
Other plastic pivot tires already existed in the marketplace but were non-traditional in their design. Dawson Tire set out to create its own plastic pivot tire, using molds it developed itself.
Mr. Block said the company had several goals in mind for its tires: They needed to be long-lasting with a non-directional tread design, resistant to UV rays, feature a self-cleaning surface and, perhaps most importantly, fit on standard pivot tire rims.
The U.S.-made tires are built with composite polyethylene resins. Bolt holes are molded directly into each tire, allowing the two halves to be connected on a standard rim. An extra-large anti-slip plate is designed to ensure the tire stays firmly seated on the rim, according to the firm.
Initial size offerings for the tire included 11.2x24 and 11.2x38 versions, but the company has since added a 14.9x24 size for foreign markets it serves.
The tire is backed by a limited five-year warranty. According to a RhinoGator account manager, they last twice as long as traditional tires in UV testing.
As of 2015, Dawson has sold about 16,000 of its RhinoGator tires into the various markets it covers and is now producing upwards of 7,000 of the tires annually.
We feel we've done a very good job in positioning it as a leader in the industry, Mr. Block said. ...We've even had pivot manufacturers tell us that they recognize that this is a leader in the industry. If there is a no-flat tire, this is it.
According to Mr. Block, the firm's primary goal for the RhinoGator brand in 2015 is to bring an OEM on board.
The product's at the maturity stage that it needs an OEM's endorsement to push it to the next level, Mr. Block said, adding that the company is in discussion with several manufactures and expects to have a deal in place by year-end.
Dawson Tire also hopes to expand use of its RhinoGator product into other markets. As of now, the company's U.S. customers are primarily located in Nebraska, Kansas and Texas, but it is looking to increase its focus in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast regions of the U.S.
Still, Mr. Block said the pivot market in the U.S. has leveled off a bit in recent years, though he believes much of the opportunity for growth going forward will be found overseas.
Foreign markets have a bit of a different mindset when it comes to tires, he said. There's not as much service in a lot of rural areas, especially in South America. Africa is another focus that we feel would be a good avenue, so we're definitely going to expand our international market place.
The dealership has distributors set up in Argentinahandling Argentina and Braziland in Australia, covering that country and New Zealand. Mr. Block didn't disclose the identity of those companies.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6148. Twitter: @Will_Schertz