Goodyear MD, Richard Fourie Maps Out Vision for the Company

On 1 April, Goodyear SA welcomed a new man at its helm. Richard Fourie left his home country South Africa with his family 20 years ago, to pursue a series of exciting career opportunities abroad. While in Singapore, the offer to head up the South African operation came as an unexpected surprise, in the end, one he could not pass up. In an exclusive interview with SA TREADS, Richard tells us more about what led to his latest appointment, as MD of Goodyear South Africa.

Welcome back to South Africa Richard. What are your overall impressions of your home country after so many years away, working and living overseas?

I am gaining a new perspective on the country now that I am stationed here. Over the years while we were living overseas, South Africa was a place to visit family and friends and take in all the attractions, but that gives you a limited view on how the country was changing. After just four months of living and working in South Africa, I see tremendous growth and development taking place. There are challenges facing the country, but it is very encouraging to see the private sector continuing to expand.

Possibly the biggest shift I am seeing is in the people. The talent that is emerging from South Africa is remarkable and it is a positive outcome of the BBBEE policy and targeted development programs that have started to pay dividends. BBBEE has placed an emphasis on training, which I personally believe is the key to human capital development. I have a very diverse leadership team – all 11 of them are talented South Africans who come from diverse backgrounds.

What are some of the opportunities you are recognizing in the SA tyre business?

The collective voice we have in the South African Tyre Manufacturers Conference (SATMC), to be able to actively engage with the government is a key strength. The South African tyre market itself poses great attraction to me as well. As a manufacturer, Goodyear is very well established in the country – we have grown from strength to strength in our 75years in South Africa. The country also has a well-developed and sophisticated retail space.

The overall mix and opportunities available in this country that allows me to put my experience and expertise to good use, are the primary reasons why I am so excited and energised about my appointment.

And how is the family adjusting to living back in South Africa?

My two youngest children, who are of school-going age, have never lived here and they are both loving the opportunity to experience their heritage. Being close to our parents and family is also a welcome opportunity to re-connect with them, especially after the long covid period during which we were not able to visit.

How do you see yourself making a difference to the way Goodyear operates and what is the strategy regarding your manufacturing practice?

I think it is important to first of all see and understand what has worked. Goodyear has been an active partner to South Africa’s automotive industry for 75 years and counting. And the first step for me was to understand what got us this far.

Next, the all-important question for me to answer is: where do we go from here to ensure that Goodyear continues to grow our capability and commitment to the country. In addition, we need to ask ourselves: do we make tyres we can sell? Will the product range we produce align with our projected profit pools? Does our product range allow us to leverage on OE opportunities as they arise? We have made significant investments over the years, the most recent being in 2016, where we invested R1 billion in our Kareiga plant. This has allowed us to expand our capability and capacity to manufacture larger rim sizes allowing us to leverage the opportunities with our OE partners, for example, in the 4×4 market with the launch of the new Ford Ranger and VW Amarok which is very exciting.

In addition to growing capacity, what other strategies are you looking into to achieve your goal?

Business cannot be successful without our partners. At Goodyear, we adhere to what we like to call ‘The Connected Business Model’. Essentially, this means connecting all aspects that make up the business, from the product to the OEM, the customer (retailer), to the end user, and all factors in between. In South Africa, we are currently working with all customers (retailers) to ensure that we strengthen our relationship with them and also support them in their respective market segments so that it is a win-win relationship.

How would you describe your management style?

As previously mentioned, I believe in getting to grips with what is: strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and arriving at where we have the right to win. People are generally motivated by recognition and enablement. This is especially true in our case, as the team has produced phenomenal work over the Kariega community last three years. I would like to think that my leadership style is one of enabling and facilitating my team to go further towards their stretch goals.

The key focus is to ensure that the company’s growth strategy and key initiatives are closely aligned to customer and consumer needs, based on a culture of listening and collaboration to ensure strong alignment to common goals. Whether creating marketing and advertising concepts, customer plans or engaging in M&A discussions, the approach of listening first has been a consistent foundation of building the right outcomes across multiple geographies and cultures.

Whilst delivering strong results is the primary focus in the way I approach my role, an equally important aspect is how those results are delivered. Ensuring a consistent focus on my personal values and those of the company, results in building trust, a culture of innovation and problem solving, accountability and transparency and creating an environment where everyone on the team has an equal opportunity to make a meaningful difference.

You spoke earlier of the importance of training. What initiatives are in place with regard to training?

As a company, Goodyear strongly believes in the upskilling of our employees, through internal training and/or external programmes. We are constantly investing in internal programmes that are specifically targeted at strengthening business skills of our employees. But more than that, Goodyear has a strong mentorship programme aimed at developing leadership skills among high performing individuals, so that they too can drive strategy, with a view to heading up their own leadership teams can drive strategy, with a view to heading up their own leadership teams

Why do you believe that having a manufacturing plant in South Africa is important for Goodyear?

The longevity of Goodyear SA – now 75 years strong – is a legacy. Strongly entrenched in the Kariega community, Goodyear is one of the largest employers in the region. We owe it to the thousands of people we employ to remain sustainable for many years to come. This is our social responsibility.

We believe tyre prices will be going up again this month. What is driving these price increases?

Simply put, rising commodity prices. Raw materials continue to rise and we are dependent on imported rubber, among other things, which is not produced locally.

Are you looking to release any new products in the market?

We recently have launched the new Eagle F1 Asymmetric 6 UHP tyre which boasts technology such as “Dry contact + technology” allowing our consumers an excellent driving experience along with “wet breaking pro” giving them comfort in the wet conditions. The tyre is new in the market and has already received three accolades in Europe. Auto Motor and Sport has named it “outstanding” while Auto Bild tester gave the tyre an “exemplary” rating. Tyre Reviews and Aftonbladet also crowned it as a joint test winner. These test wins are a reflection of the quality that we produce and our focus on technology that extends our tyre performance while optimising their mileage and longevity.

Richard Fourie grew up in Ermelo in Mpumalanga. After completing his studies in Accounting in Johannesburg, he joined the Fast-Moving Consumer Good (FMCG) sector, first with Colgate Palmolive and later with Tiger Brands. His next assignment led to an international position with Reckitt Benckiser in London. This was followed by a three-year stint in Sydney, Australia as Marketing Director for Arnotts Biscuits, a portfolio that eventually grew into his leading the business expansion in South East Asia

After six years based in Jakarta, Indonesia, he was head-hunted by Goodyear, with his mandate focusing on capacity increases & growing businesses in the Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam markets. He was then appointed Tinto the Asi Pacific Head of Marketing where he spent 2.5 years expanding the impact of the Goodyear brand marketing investment. Source: SA Treads