MUSCATINE, Iowa (Aug. 20, 2008) — Whatever you do, don't call Martin Carver a “slacker.”
A year after the sale of former Bandag Inc. to Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc., the longtime chairman, president and CEO of the Muscatine-based retreading giant has started a new business, MG Consulting L.L.C.
At least so far, the company isn't much more than a name, Carver said, since he hasn't done any actual consulting yet. “I did that just so I could tell my family that I was still doing something productive,” he joked.
Carver's new venture follows 28 years of working at Bandag, which his father Roy founded in 1958. Martin Carver started with Bandag in 1979 as vice president of Midtown Ignition in Arlington Heights, Ill., an outlet operated by Heavy Duty Parts, a former Bandag subsidiary. He was named chairman of Bandag in 1981 after his father died of a heart attack. He added the CEO title a year later.
During his tenure, Bandag grew to post $974 million in sales by 2006, and made the Fortune 500 list three times in the early 1990s. The firm was considered the market leader in the U.S. retread business at the time of the sale, with its franchisees representing about a 45-percent share of the retread market.
That June 7, 2007, sale was for $1.05 billion—compared to the $5 million price Roy Carver was offered for the business in the 1960s.
Recently Carver has been giving speeches and spending time with his family and friends.
These days, Carver discusses the team management philosophy that worked so well at Bandag. He speaks on high-performance cultures and how to get people to be passionate and excited about going to work. It's something he said he feels strongly about, so he talks about it whenever he can.
Carver likes to focus on what he calls “mission-focused people and organizations.” He said he believes it's the CEO's or organizational leader's job to inspire and align an organization around a set of values, but it is the organization's job to make the customer passionate about the business.
“If you have a strong value-based culture, the people will not only do that but they'll do it with passion, style and grace, and that's how you get competitive advantage,” he said.
Having a profitable business is key, too, because employees in this culture must be paid well, he said.
Under his tutelage, Bandag was a mission-based organization, he said, and there was a big difference between selling tread rubber and retreading systems and creating a long-term, value-based relationship with its customers.
Citing a success story of how Bandag was run, Carver recalled taking an account away from a major tire company and improving the up time and roll time for the customer.
“A lot of the industry looks at selling tires as a transaction, and your loyalty lasts as long as the purchasing cycle,” he said. “We didn't look at it that way. … If we get into your business, it's a partnership. We want to know more about your tire business than your own people and develop that kind of trust and confidence in us. If you turn your tire program over to us, you're never going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”
Carver said people should be treated like a member of the family and the focus of Bandag was on what the customer wanted to get out of the transaction—a message he said that is not taught in business schools.
“I miss the people … this wasn't something I did alone,” he said, referring to Bandag.
Carver has a non-compete agreement with Bridgestone/Firestone for about 2½ more years. For now, he can't picture getting back into the retread supply business because of the national account dominance by the major tire companies.
But, he said, “Never say never.”