Road Runner Mobile Tyres

Collective

Issue 3/July 2013


Two mates, both at a career crossroads, put their heads together and came up with a novel business idea to fill a gap in the market. Words Tatyana Leonov.

 

The business name sums it up. “‘Road Runner Mobile Tyres’. We’re on the road and we’re sort of running,” laughs John Shim, co-founder (along with Steve McCarthy) of the appropriately named service company.

The success of homegrown business can be partially attributed to the simplicity of the idea. The entrepreneurs run an online mobile tyre shop – they come to you (at work, home or wherever is most convenient) and supply, fit, balance and align car, 4WD and light commercial vehicle tyres – seven days a week. “In the very first instance the business is aimed at the corporate sector,” explains Steve. “We provide time-poor business executives with time back.” But by October the guys are aiming to have Road Runner Mobile Tyres functioning in a national capacity, and to a broader consumer audience.

After spending 24 years as a partner at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), John joined forces with Steve, former CEO of Adshel Street Furniture (one of John’s long-standing clients) to start the company. “I said, ‘Look, Steve, you’re going through a journey in your career, I am too. Why don’t we put our brains together and see if there is something we can both work on?’,” John remembers. 

“Since leaving PwC I have gone from a state of complete security, both financially and professionally, to feelings of excitement, uncertainty, frustration, and euphoria,” says John, “That is all part of the game.” 

Initially they looked into investing in existing business opportunities, and considered bringing in their skill sets to improve someone else’s business. But then they figured, why not apply their business acumen and expertise to their own project? 

While sorting through numerous start-up possibilities, John and Steve originally landed on building an online education platform with private equity backing – until October, when John had to change four tyres on his car and experienced the typical frustration associated with such an errand. “I thought there must be a better way,” he laughs. And so Road Runner Tyres was born. 

The inception of any business is pivotal to its future success, and for John and Steve those fundamental first steps proved critical. “We were, and still are, shaping the type of performance culture we want; what a service should look like from a customer’s point of view, what the DNA of the individuals we want to hire is, and how we are going to communicate,” explains John, noticeably excited at the prospect of managing the how of the business framework – from communication to execution, and then to sustaining the culture. 

In order to spread the word about the new venture, John and Steve have tapped into their existing business networks and relationships as well as utilising their shareholders’ networks and contacts. “There is a fine balance between limited cash resources and finding the most effective way to market our business,” admits John. 

Starting the business wasn’t easy. John and Steve needed to work out if the idea was financially feasible and calculate estimated returns on investments. “It came to around half a million dollars to get us going, and it will hit around the AU$2 million mark when we go national,” John says. “It was critical to build a conservative financial model,” he adds. “We raised sufficient seed capital from external investors to get us to a break-even position after 12 months of operation.”

One piece of advice John emphasises is making sure you act and are seen like a big business as soon as possible. “People don’t take you too seriously being a start-up so you need to be a ‘grown-up’ as soon as you can,” says John. For them, this meant focusing on going national and ensuring they had a presence in each capital city, as well as holding a strategic business launch with carefully selected guests. 

As game plans go, both John and Steve have always stressed the importance of each other. “We share the load so we get a chance to take a breather and reflect on whether we’re doing the right thing. Oh and we laugh a lot. You have to, otherwise I don’t think you could run a business in Australia – you’d go grey quickly, you’d put on weight, it would just be a mess,” Steve laughs. 

Learning as they go, they know that it’s not all set in concrete. “It’s a very fluid process,” John admits. “We’re not 100 per cent sure how this business is going to look in five or 10 years’ time. We’re just navigating and working out how to make this business great.”