michael mathis

Michael Mathis is Founder and President at Atturo Tire Corp. He grew up around the tire business working in wholesale, retail, and selling aftermarket wheels. Atturo was among the first to market with a hybrid off-road tire — today, their tires are distributed in nearly 30 countries worldwide. Michael graduated from Webster University with a degree in management and then sold commercial insurance for 12 years, insuring several import tire brands.

apple
spotify
stitcher
googke podcast
tunein
deezer
partner-share-lg

In this episode…

If you were an experienced insurance salesman with a passion for tires, how would you try to break into the tire industry? Maybe you’d try to work for a tire dealership and sell tires? Would you ever consider actually manufacturing the tires before you tried to sell them? If you want to hear from someone who jumped from selling insurance to the tire industry by designing and manufacturing his own tires, this episode of Gain Traction is for you!

You know you love the tire industry when you are willing to abandon a lifestyle that allows you to play golf twice a week to start your own tire manufacturing company. According to Michael Mathis, who gave up golf to start Atturo Tire Corp, “I felt like selling insurance was just delivering a stack of papers. And while those are certainly important to business, I really wanted that challenge of trying to sell a hard product — and there was nothing I knew better at that time, and still today, than trying to sell a tire.”

On this episode of Gain Traction, Mike Edge welcomes Michael to discuss his transition from being a successful insurance salesman to becoming a tire manufacturer. Michael shares how he stumbled onto a winning formula and found a path forward by building a brand name and a quality product with a mix of tread patterns and sizes. He talks about how he worked with the owner of a knife company to come up with designs, and much more. Don’t miss this interesting conversation!

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Michael Mathis explains how he arrived at the decision to start a tire manufacturing company
  • The challenges of transitioning into the tire business after selling insurance
  • How Atturo Tire developed the design of its tires
  • Steps a tire dealer should take to start selling Atturo Tires
  • Michael describes his ideal tire dealer
  • How Michael’s father influenced his career
  • The milestones Michael is most proud of with Atturo

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Transcription

Announcer:

Welcome to the Gain Traction Podcast, where we feature top automotive entrepreneurs and experts and share their inspiring stories. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Mike Edge:

Welcome to the Gain Traction Podcast. Mike Edge here. I am the host of Gain Traction where I talk with top tire business leaders about their personal journey and experiences in the tire industry. This episode is brought to you by Tread Partners. Tread Partners builds websites for tire manufacturers, distributors, and multi-location tire dealers. Most importantly, Tread Partners knows how to net generate revenue in the digital space with a healthy ROI. With its deep industry knowledge, Tread believes that a tire website should be a company’s most efficient and cost effective sales rep in the company. In most cases, it should be outperforming the entire company’s sales staff. In the B2B space, sales should be generating great leads via PPC, SEO, and IP targeting. What are you waiting for? Email Tread Partners at in[email protected], or to learn more, visit treadpartners.com.

I’m excited about our guest today because I’m excited to learn more about the brand of tires he created, Atturo Tires. Michael Mathis is my guest today. He is president and founder of Atturo Tires. He resides in Wadsworth, Illinois with his wife and seven children. He grew up around the tire business, working a wholesale, retail and aftermarket wills. He graduated with a degree in management and after college, he sold commercial insurance for 12 years, including insuring several import tire brands. The opportunity to start Atturo came from a longstanding relationship his father had with Federal Tire in Taiwan. Together with his father and another partner, he started Atturo Tires in 2009. Atturo’s focus initially was in performance tires for SUV and LT. They expanded in the LT segment, then they pioneered the modern mud terrain design of featuring aggressive side wall tread logs into the tire design. Atturo was one of the first to market with a hybrid off-road tire. Atturo tires are distributed in nearly 30 countries worldwide. The brand is distributed through independent distributors and dealers. Michael, welcome to Gain Traction.

Michael Mathis:

Good morning, Mike. Thanks for having me. I’m flattered to have made the cut to be considered a important leader or brand in the industry.

Mike Edge:

Well, you guys do a great job with your promotion. You got very cool looking tires. It caught my attention and then I think we connected on LinkedIn and I thought, man, this guy will be a great guest. That’s why I reached out, so I appreciate you saying yes. My big question for you, I mean, in 2009, what made a guy say, not that I’m going to go get in the tire business from distributing or start my dealership or whatever, but you said, no, I’m going to go start a manufacturing company. I’m going to manufacture a tire. How do you arrive to that point? What made you do it?

Michael Mathis:

As you read my little bit of my bio there, I had spent a good bit of my life working in the tire business, automotive aftermarket, and I loved cars and still do, and so that was my passion. And after college, I felt like I had to go do something else on my own. And so, I wound up almost by accident in the commercial insurance business, was doing well at it, making a nice living. Probably an easier lifestyle than I live today, having to run Atturo.

Mike Edge:

No, that’s what I was going to say, because those guys that do well in commercial insurance, especially after 12 years, you’re doing good usually.

Michael Mathis:

Yeah, I made it that long. And like I said, I was playing golf a couple times a week and now I haven’t swung a club in a couple years. But I really had reached a point in my career where I felt like selling insurance was just delivering a stack of papers. And while those are certainly important to a business, I really wanted that challenge of trying to sell a hard product, an actual item. And there was nothing I know better at that time, and still today, than trying to sell a tire. And so, when my father came to me with this opportunity that he had to create a private brand, I just jumped on it.

Mike Edge:

That’s awesome. You and dad are pretty close then?

Michael Mathis:

Yes.

Mike Edge:

That’s awesome. What did your wife think? I mean, I’m thinking, here’s a guy with seven kids and I mean, you didn’t have them all at that time, but still, you’re married. It’s a big move. You obviously came from you had something good going and you go to your wife, say, hey, I got this idea.

Michael Mathis:

Yeah. It was certainly a challenge. And obviously, the insurance is paying the bills at the time, and from when we started Atturo, I maintained my insurance business for a little while after that, basically doing the Atturo work on the side for free to begin with. And it quickly became apparent that we had stumbled on a winning formula, the way that we were trying to go to market with our dealers and distributors, trying to build a brand name for ourselves and the quality of the product that we had, the mix of tread patterns and sizes.

And it was clear that was going to be the path forward that was going to be far more successful for me than insurance. It wasn’t the easier path, but it was what I really loved to do and glad I made that choice. And thankfully, she supported me in it, and at the same time she was striking out on her own in leaving the corporate world to go into a nonprofit segment. We had both of us throwing our careers up in the air at that time, but it’s really worked out for the best for both of us.

Mike Edge:

You mentioned your designs, that’s one thing that caught my attention. How did you arrive at your designs? I mean, I remember you mentioning something to me earlier about there was a guy in the knife business, is that right?

Michael Mathis:

Yeah. Yeah. We worked with the factory on the very first tire that we launched when we launched the brand, and then we came to our second one, we were trying to build a mud terrain and we were going back and forth with the factory, with the mold company, with some designers trying to come up with a look for this tire that was distinctive and really wasn’t landing on anything that was great between form and function. And I had sitting on my desk, something I had come across online that I had just never seen a knife blade that looked like this thing before. And I’m twiddling around with it on my desk and I thought, you know what? Whoever came up with this crazy idea, maybe we could incorporate some of this into the tire. From a functional standpoint, they’ve got to do similar things, as far as being able to cut through material. And of course, the look was incredible.

Met up with a gentleman by the name of Jared West who had this knife company and he and I just worked together on developing that first tire and then that led into several others that we’ve collaborated on in our Trail Blade series and have gone with that blade design in the tires for our off road product. And it’s really resonated and been a big part of our identity and our success.

Mike Edge:

That’s cool. Now, I noticed too that you guys are getting into trailer tires?

Michael Mathis:

Yeah, we’ve branched out. Think about your light truck owner, your typical light truck owner, and that’s a guy who quite possibly is maybe a contractor, a landscaper, or just has a fishing, hunting, off roading, dirt bikes, whatever it might be, boating. Probably got a utility trailer of some type. That was another piece that we latched onto. And we’ve got some other areas of segments that we’re branching out into also with our performance tire line, moving into modern muscle cars. Last year [inaudible 00:07:46] we released a drag radial targeted toward those. And so, we’ve got some more new stuff that’ll be coming out this year at SEMA 2, so I’m excited about that as well.

Mike Edge:

Yeah, and I saw that and I’ve been on your site. One of the other tire that caught my interest, and I’ll tell you why, was the AZ 850. Seems like it’s good for wet roads or [inaudible 00:08:08]

Michael Mathis:

Oh sure, yeah. That’s our ultra high performance tire and that one, we were originally targeting the more modern high performance SUVs. SUVs today are the modern performance sedan. You’ve got all these SUVs out there with north of 400 horsepower. And so, we built a tire that was targeted towards them, but as sedans have gotten larger, you think about a Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, how big those things have gotten, they’re using some of the same sizes that are on SUVs. And so, we had some of those vehicle owners taking what we originally designed for an SUV and putting it on their muscle cars and being astounded at how great they performed. We followed the lead of the consumer there and started to embrace that market and build out sizes and product that was more targeted toward those. And that’s how we wound up in the drag radial business.

Mike Edge:

I take it a lot of your development comes from… I mean, you got a pretty extensive dealer network out there. Are you still trying to grow that?

Michael Mathis:

Oh absolutely. We’ve got a lot of work to do in building out our dealer network. We look at our development as one where we’re looking for some of these niches that are either underserved or somewhat ignored by a lot of the industry. You think about drag radials, there’s really only three, four brands that play in that market. And so, that was a perfect opportunity for us to come in there and build a tire that can perform as well as any of them and deliver a better value. And that’s similar to what happened when we got into the mud terrain market. It was dominated from the top with relatively few options in the middle section.

We find those niche opportunities and then we supplement those with the everyday tires that a dealer needs to be able to sell, round out the program. But we are still a very specialized brand and we don’t claim to be everything. But again, we want to create a situation where our distributor on down to the consumer can get a great value, a tire that’s going to outperform its price point and be one that everybody’s confident in and satisfied with owning.

Mike Edge:

That’s awesome. Just while it’s the top of mind here, while I’m thinking about it, if a dealer wanted to get in touch with you, what’s the easiest way if they want to look at carrying your products?

Michael Mathis:

Well, for a new dealer, we would probably just have them start off with just send us an email inquiry. We’ve got a Become a Dealer form on the website, or you can just email us at [email protected]. Let us know where you’re located. Again, we want to work through independent distributors who we’ve got set up regionally across the country. In the case of a retail dealer, we try and match them up with a distributor who can give them good daily delivery service for Atturo tires. If they’re a distributor themselves or in an area where we don’t have an existing distributor, obviously we’ll work with them directly to make sure we can secure supply for them.

Mike Edge:

Well, and for the SEMA show, what’s your booth number this year?

Michael Mathis:

Our booth number is 44119 in the south hall. We’re just two booths up in the front section from the Mopar exhibit. If you’re familiar with where Chrysler and Dodge sit right there in the middle of the booth, we’re just two up from there. Walk in the front of the south hall and you’ll run into us.

Mike Edge:

Let me ask you this then. Speaking of the dealer network here, what is your ideal dealer do you think? Or how would you define that? If a dealer’s wondering if, hey, if this brand would fit us, Atturo, what should they be thinking about or the questions that they might get that say, we can fill those gaps?

Michael Mathis:

Well, that’s really exactly what we look for when we talk to a new dealer. Somebody who’s going to be the most successful with us is a dealer who’s obviously got that mix of business from doing the everyday tire replacement, but also working on the specialized vehicle, whether that’s a lowered muscle car or a lifted Jeep or F-150. And then that their product mix is one where Atturo can slot in there in that very traditional, good, better, best category. There’s always going to be brands that are going to be below us in a price point, and that’s fine. We’re either going to be that step up from an entry level product or we’re going to help fill a gap where they’ve got somebody who doesn’t want to pay for one of those more expensive tier two products and we’re going to fill that in for them.

That’s that ideal dealer who’s doing that service work, that mix of service work, and has that particular line up of brands where we can commit and fill that slot form to cover that value segment and that they understand how to do that and to teach the consumer why they can either spend a little bit less and still get every good of a product with us, or why they should spend just a little bit more in order to get a little bit better tire and what the long term value of that is for them.

Mike Edge:

That’s excellent. That’s great description. Let me ask you, going back a little more personal, who would you consider a good mentor to you? I mean, obviously, you got a very entrepreneurial spirit and you made this big move in 2009 and you created a very successful company. Do you have a mentor out there that you look to, or did look to, let’s say, that influenced you?

Michael Mathis:

Well, I guess in my professional career, I guess I could pick out two of them. And obviously, first it would be my father. He’s one of the hardest working guys I know as far as just having a personal drive and loving what he does. And growing up and watching him work, I couldn’t really understand it until I really had my own job, my own career, and found that same motivation about, hey, why is dad working all night? And now I could finally understand that. The second one was one of the other brokers who was in charge of me when I went into the commercial insurance world. And one of the things he always did that, again, I didn’t even realize that he was motivating me at the time, but he would always tell me I couldn’t do something. You’ll never get into that account. You’ll never do this much business, you’ll never do this. And it was very intentional on his part because I saw him do it with his own son too later, but that worked on me was, don’t tell me what I can’t do.

Mike Edge:

Yeah. No, that’s…

Michael Mathis:

[inaudible 00:14:28] And I did it.

Mike Edge:

No, that’s a beautiful thing. I mean, we always talk about being positive or whatever, but sometimes it’s that negative reinforcement that a real leader recognizes in somebody that, no, he needs to be pushed this way.

Michael Mathis:

Yeah, and it did. It worked with me. I don’t know that, I look at my kids and I don’t know which ones of them that stuff would work with, but it’s something I’m certainly mindful of. And then of course, personally, I think that I look to my mother. She’s the closest thing that I know to a saint. And so, I think a lot of people think of that of their mother probably, and that’s great. But I guess I always just look at her, the motivation to just do the right thing and treat people well and that’s not just a personal thing, but that’s a business thing too.

Mike Edge:

How many siblings do you have?

Michael Mathis:

I have three. I have an older sister and a younger sister. I did not come from a very big family like I have now, but anyway. Yeah that’s…

Mike Edge:

No, that’s cool.

Michael Mathis:

[inaudible 00:15:29]

Mike Edge:

For Atturo, what’s a big milestone that you felt the most proud of in the last, I mean, since your founding in 2009? What’s the big milestone?

Michael Mathis:

A couple of the things that really just jumped out to me, when we introduced our Trail Blade XT was the first time we won any kind of an industry award. We won a SEMA Global Media award for that tire, won a second one a couple years later with another tire. There was that, and then when we started doing our off road racing, we entered off road racing to go out and prove that our tires could compete with anybody else. And the first time that we got on a podium with our teams, and the teams we worked with were a lot like us. They were the little guys and they’re out there fighting teams that are much better funded and much better developed and experienced, and we’re pulling our car in there or our truck in there on a flatbed, and these guys are in full decked out semis, but we can get out there and run with them. Those two things really just felt like, hey, we’re making it and we’re starting to get recognized out here.

Mike Edge:

No, that’s fun right there. I mean, being the underdog and winning like that. I love that. It’s gritty. Gritty is one of my favorite words too. Well, I hate to tell you this, but we come up on our hard stop, but I’m going to ask you another real tough question here, just let people get to know you a little bit better. But what’s your favorite hobby, if you still have one?

Michael Mathis:

I still love just getting out and doing stuff with vehicles. If it’s got a motor in it, let’s go run it and have some fun. I told you I don’t get to play golf anymore that much, but I can still find an excuse to go out and we just did testing on our new drag radial a couple weeks ago, so that was a blast to get out on the drag strip. Getting out and doing some off roading in our own stuff. Again, that’s just going out and having a good time with our own product and to be able to put those two things together.

Mike Edge:

Yeah, I mean, your work and product are your hobby too, then.

Michael Mathis:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love this business. I love the tire business and the people in it are just wonderful. I’m glad to be doing this every day. I look forward to it.

Mike Edge:

Well, Michael, I absolutely love your enthusiasm. I appreciate you coming on this show. I thank you for being on Gain Traction. Is there anything you’d like to tell the audience in the event they want to get ahold of you again? What’s the…

Michael Mathis:

Yeah, for sure. You can visit us st tturo.com, A-T-T-U-R-O dot com. Take a look at our tires. There’s contact info on there, so you got any questions or interested in anything we’ve got, we’d love to hear from you and be able to do what we can to support you in your area.

Mike Edge:

To all our listeners out there, thank you for being part of our podcast today. If you’d like to recommend a guest to us, please email me at [email protected]. Until next time, have a great day and stay safe.

Announcer:

Thanks for listening to the Gain Traction Podcast. We’ll see you again next time, and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

Transcript

Subscribe to our Podcast Newsletter

* indicates required