Sylvia Wilks: Kicking the Tires
Responsibilities: Build a quality supply chain from scratch that disrupts the market, drive a culture of continuous process improvement, and lead TireHub into the future as part of the executive business team.
Experience: Chief procurement officer, Kimberly Clark Corporation; executive roles in global sourcing, supplier relations, international supply chain, soluble coffee operations, and other functions with Starbucks; leadership of multisite food manufacturingoperations in the United Kingdom.
Education: B.Eng., The University of Hull, U.K., 1986.
TireHub is a joint venture startup between two competitors: Goodyear and Bridgestone. As the primary wholesale distributor for these companies, TireHub is disrupting the market. In two years, we have grown to 70 TireHub logistics centers across the country. It has been an exciting time to build a business from the ground up.
To get there, TireHub implemented the technology needed to make ordering and receiving products seamless. One example is TireHub Now, a built-from-scratch system that offers real-time access to inventory, online ordering, and order information.
We pride ourselves on customer service excellence. The logistics specialists who deliver tires to customers understand exactly how the product should be presented so it’s convenient for the dealers and doesn’t interrupt customer interactions. They go in with a smile and check to see if the customer needs anything else.
We don’t pretend to be perfect. We actively solicit feedback from customers and incorporate it into our technology. One example of this feedback is our Roadnet system, which offers customers delivery tracking and instant notifications when their tires are on the way.
Speed is currency and a competitive edge in the tire industry. To that end, TireHub’s Omnitracs Roadnet system uses algorithms to simplify complex routing decisions and enable drivers to add multiple routes each day.
Even though we haven’t been able to have much face-to-face contact with our customers in the past few months, we do reach out and check in on them. They have welcomed this soft touch.
We also want to make sure customers understand our promise is our word. We’re only as good as our last delivery. Rather than a one-size-fits-all model, we tailor our customer experience for different clients.
In my previous role with Starbucks as vice president of procurement, I purchased food, tea, and beverage ingredients, and managed supplier relationships. I got to know what good customer service feels like. Now that I’m a supplier to my customers, I know how to meet their expectations.
I’m proud of helping to build TireHub’s team and culture. We started with a handful of people from Goodyear and Bridgestone, and brought in a few from outside the industry. The diversity of experience and thinking helped craft a solid team that can grow this concept and build a culture that attracts great talent.
When we established TireHub, we were determined to be very different—intentionally outrageous—and disrupt the market. We’ve had our challenges, but bringing a different approach and new ideas is unique in the tire industry. n
Sylvia Wilks Answers the Big Questions
1. What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
I found some of the best leadership advice in the poem “For a Leader” by Irish poet John O’Donohue: “May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth.” If you aren’t continually curious and open to development, you can’t grow talent and nurture the best ideas for your business.
2. If you could speed the development of a supply chain-disrupting technology, what would it be and why?
The tire industry has experienced a growing breadth of wholesale distributors and massive SKU proliferation. Improving supply and demand planning accuracy using machine learning would have a major benefit in overcoming product availabilityconstraints. We could say yes to more customers, and ensure we protect cash by buying only the inventory we need to service the business.
3. If you had $1 million to start a new venture, business or philanthropic, what would you do?
I’d put the cash into a business providing local farm-to-table food at affordable prices and tackle food insecurity in the “richest economy in the world.”
4. Do you have any heroes?
My heroes are people who stand for social justice, truth, and what they believe in, no matter the personal consequences.A personal friend is Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, Ph.D., who served in the U.S. National Guard and advanced LGBT rights. My former Atlanta U.S. Rep. John Lewis is also a hero for advancing civil rights, and being truly brave in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the face of certain violence.