The Power Of Laughter

Duck Tape dresses? A roll in the dough? Henkel Consumer Adhesives Inc. (HCA) reaches its goals with a spirit of fun.

John Kahl, CEO of the $286 million Avon, Ohio-based division of the Henkel Group, has no shame and a lot of pride when it comes to the company's motivational mayhem and meeting financial milestones. This year's Duck Challenge Day will take place in February. IW: What does Henkel gain from Duck Challenge Day besides some laughs? Kahl: While dancing around in Duck Tape sure does garner laughs, there are several other reasons. This day is dedicated to celebrating the successes of the company. Instead of holding a daylong annual review meeting, this lets us incorporate our fun, spirited corporate culture into the day while celebrating the specific goals that were achieved during the previous year. This year, if our goals are met, we're going to wrap ourselves up in duct tape, sticky side out, and roll around in play money in order to raise funds for charity. Regardless of what the challenge is, our partners [employees] like to see us following through on it. By making this task a little embarrassing to us, the partners want to work even harder to see it happen. IW: How would you describe your culture and, besides Duck Challenge Day, how do you strategically maintain it? Kahl: Our corporate culture is very unique. HCA refers to all of its employees as "partners." Every Thursday, partners gather at 7:30 a.m. for the Executive Growth Meeting, at which strategic and tactical decisions are discussed and action plans are developed. Although the meeting is optional, Manco University [the room at headquarters dedicated to education] is always full. All HCA partners also come together for the Monthly Partner Meeting to share information relating to corporate goals, to recognize outstanding partner efforts, and to share and discuss the current and future financial status of the company. In addition, there are five core values at HCA that drive the company's culture. They are on painted signs hung throughout our offices to continually inspire the partners. IW: Manco Inc., your former company, was acquired by Henkel in 1998. Was there a clash of cultures? Kahl: When Henkel purchased Manco, we knew we were going to be making adjustments. But, we were very open in letting Henkel know that we wanted to maintain our own unique culture and business beliefs. Henkel has been more than willing to let us keep, and has even embraced, our own personality. In addition, the success our business has had in the past several years has earned us the right to stick to our core cultures. Most of the changes we have endured are procedural and process related. In this acquisition, we became part of a larger, world-renowned company. We have learned to adapt to their ways in regards to reporting and basic business procedures.

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