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Published: Saturday, 4/7/2001

Planned acquisitions spell success for Cooper Tire


BOWLING GREEN - Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s management knew the Findlay tiremaker needed to move beyond North America to get more auto-related orders, but opening factories abroad could take years.

Instead, Cooper Tire managers zeroed in on acquisitions that could complement the tiremaker's main parts offerings of hoses and seals from plants in Bowling Green and elsewhere. Starting in October, 1999, Cooper Tire made two acquisitions that would help nearly double sales between 1998 and 2000 to $3.5 billion, landing it on the Fortune 500 list.

Organization development was essential for Cooper Tire, because rapid expansion can be detrimental to an unprepared company, said Thomas A. Dattilo, the company's chairman, president, and chief executive.

“There has to be control. There has to be a plan. There has to be a method,” he told about 60 business people, faculty, and students yesterday at Bowling Green State University.

Mr. Dattilo was the keynote speaker for the university's annual “Best Practices in Leading Change” conference. The university's master of organization development program sponsored the two-day event.

“What we did and how we did it took a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of money, and hopefully [will create] a lot of profit for our shareholders as we move down the road,” Mr. Dattilo said.

Since the acquisitions of the former Standard Products Co. and Siebe Automotive, Cooper Tire has worked to keep communication with employees open and training updated, Mr. Dattilo said. That helps enforce Cooper Tire's goals and values, he said.

Mr. Dattilo, for example, writes a letter to employees every quarter and encloses a postcard for them to respond. He reads every postcard and answers some on the company web site.

As for training, all employees are required to do 40 hours of continuing education annually.

“We pay more than just lip service with the training and education of our people,” Mr. Dattilo said. “We want a culture of decentralized management with few layers of management, where people are expected to do the right things and be responsible for the results.”

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