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Martin Carver
  Martin G. Carver,
Bandag CEO

Bandag CEO Promotes Sustainability Model for Organizations

3/1/2004 --

Martin Carver shares vision of vibrant, ethical businesses that make money.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The late Roy J. Carver, founder of Bandag Inc., revolutionized the tire retreading industry in 1957 when he introduced a cold process that produces durable retreads from used truck tire casings.

Today, the Iowa-based company manufactures retreading materials and equipment for its worldwide network of franchised dealers that produce and market retread tires and provide tire management services. And Carver's son, Martin G. Carver, Bandag CEO and chairman of the board, is leading another kind of revolution. If successful, this revolution will provide a sustainability model for organizations that will spawn new ideas and growth long after charismatic leaders are gone.

Speaking at the University of Michigan Business School's Hale Auditorium on February 10, Carver shared his vision: a vibrant, passionate organization that promotes learning, is ethical and makes money.

"We're on our way to doing that in our organization," said Carver, who holds business degrees from the University of Iowa and Indiana University. Financial World magazine named Carver CEO of the Year in 1986 in the rubber and plastics industry and CEO of the Decade in 1989 in the broader category of the chemicals industry.

"We¿re like McDonald's," explained Carver. "We sell materials, the license and trademark and provide leadership and support" to approximately 1,100 franchised dealers in more than 100 countries. Bandag recently built a $14 million learning center. The state-of-the-art facility makes a powerful statement about the firm's commitment to learning, he said, adding, "It also brings in customers."

"We began the odyssey of deep change 12 years ago when we started thinking about what drives excellence," Carver said. "As you develop leadership programs, you get into questions of values and principles. Without them, you can't have a truly passionate organization."

The products and services Bandag provides 30 years from now will be determined by others in the organization, using the leadership development process being developed now, predicted Carver, who said, "Any leader's most significant task is developing the leader for the next generation. I'm trying to work myself out of a job as fast as I can."

As part of its efforts to create a culture that fosters employee and customer loyalty, Carver identified some of the characteristics Bandag weeds out from its ranks:

  • People who put their personal agendas above the organization's agenda.
  • People who withhold information. Sharing information is important across the organization.
  • People who gossip. Bandag insists on "being loyal to the absent."

Often, the most serious problems in an organization result from behavior at the top and interactions at that level, Carver said. Senior leaders are visible in the community, he noted. "You have to be a living example of everything you ask people in your organization to do. If you don't, you lose credibility."

In the best organizations, it is often difficult to tell who is running the operation and who is working at the transaction level.

"When you see an organization where the leader has his or her picture plastered all over the walls, it is a red light," Carver said.

The motor sports enthusiast, who set a world land speed record for diesel trucks in 1988, believes in creating an environment where work is fun. To that end, he encourages people at Bandag to develop a life plan and share it with others.

"Once you connect, the key is matching up human potential with the needs of the company. Leadership must allow people to have pride, joy and passion."

The presentation was sponsored by the Erb Environmental Management Institute and the Corporate and Environmental Management Program.

For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank
Phone: 734.647.4626