FULLERTON, Calif.—Jim MacMaster admits he's not a visionary, but in his nearly 30-year career with Yokohama Tire Corp., he'd like to be remembered as a man employees and customers could trust.
MacMaster, 63, retired from Yokohama as executive vice president and chief operating officer on June 30, capping 39 years in the tire industry. In that period of time, MacMaster has had many accomplishments he's proud of, including his role in the acquisition and expansion of Yokohama's Salem, Va., factory.
That plant, a former Mohawk Rubber Co. facility that Tokyo-based Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. purchased in 1989, produced low-price commodity products and had no sophisticated technology at that time, MacMaster said.
The company transformed it into a highly automated, complex factory that produces more sizes and SKUs “than anyone would consider reasonable,” he said.
Yokohama grew from a $30 million a year company in 1981—his first year with the firm—to nearly $1 billion during his tenure. The U.S. subsidiary of Yokohama also became consistently profitable in 2003.
But MacMaster said he hopes the legacy he ultimately leaves is one of integrity.
“I hope I'm remembered for doing what I said I would do, doing the right thing and keeping everybody on equal footing when a decision had to be made,” he said. “Now, I don't like the term 'win-win.' I think it's way overused. You have to consider the impact of a decision on both or all sides and parties involved.”
MacMaster said he's always been a strong believer in partnering with customers and vendors and in transparency with them because “if you expose your weaknesses to your partners that way, they'll forgive you for that and give you opportunities in areas you never would have been exposed to.”
As an example, he cited how Yokohama became a sponsor of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance charity event in Pebble Beach, Calif., via introductions by one marketing partner to another partner, and Yokohama has found value in that business relationship.
“People do business with people,” he said. “I know that Twitter and Facebook and social networking are the norms today, but people have to look each other in the eye at the end of the day and say, 'Trust me, I will fix this.' ”
MacMaster served in the U.S. Navy for three years, then worked in the defense and computer industries, followed by work on the tire manufacturing and dealer side. He started with Yokohama as a district passenger tire sales representative covering 14 states from Maine to Virginia.
Since then, he's seen a lot of industry changes—including radialization and the exponential growth of tread life—and believes more consolidation will occur among manufacturers, commercial dealers and retailers.
“With the Internet, there's no such thing as having different marketing prices for different countries,” MacMaster said. “Everything is visible and transparent. So now, when you run a global company, you have to be global in your thinking.”
He noted that the number of joint ventures in the tire industry is more than he ever thought possible, and he believes there will be more instances where a joint venture partner will back out of its agreement and leave its brand, legacy, marketing and sales strength with the other partner.
One trend MacMaster said he believes will end is tire-size proliferation because tire dealers don't want to see it continue. He said large multi-store, aggressive dealers already are demanding just-in-time supply from tire makers.
“You know, it is challenging to accomplish just-in-time, because depending how fast you can move advanced automation down the road, the advanced automation will eliminate a lot of the expense and bricks-and-mortar factories that you've seen in the past.”
He predicted that tire manufacturers will establish highly automated factories across the U.S. closer to customers because the biggest cost of doing business today is carrying inventory. He said it's good for both manufacturers and dealers to cooperate on forecasting supply.
Although Yokohama doesn't source tires from China, MacMaster did have an opinion of the tariffs imposed upon Chinese tire imports last year by President Obama.
“The protectionism by tariffs on trading partners is playing in a very dangerous realm. … I think when you start attacking trading partners because they're able to manage a lower, more cost-effective labor base, I think that's a mistake,” he said. “Ultimately in the end, jobs will be eliminated by automation because labor is the only controllable factor in the construction of a tire product today.”
In retirement, MacMaster said he will do some advisory work for Yokohama, and he plans to move closer to his children and grandchildren, who reside in Georgia. He said he is interested in consulting with any reputable company.
“It's going to be either that or you're going to see (me) at the local Wal-Mart store saying, 'Welcome to Wal-Mart.' ” MacMaster joked. “I don't plan on sitting in the rocking chair yet.”