Following Dad

Dec. 21, 2004
Being an insider is a plus, says founder's son.

The market challenge alone for John Kahl, CEO of Manco Inc. for less than three months, is sticky enough. He must sustain impressive U.S. sales growth while introducing more foreign consumers to the company's Duck Tape-brand duct tape and Loctite adhesive products. But, if he follows the counsel of several management experts, he also must put his own leadership logo on a $292 million manufacturing firm founded and led for 30 years by a legend, his father Jack Kahl. However, unlike Jack Welch at GE two decades ago, John Kahl has no desire to alter the basic culture at Manco, a 560-employee firm based in Avon, Ohio. His job, he says, is to continue to balance the interests of customers and employees, producing the best value for both while generating a return for the company. "My father did a great job of that. I had three or four years [as COO] to sharpen my skills . . . and I think the consistency . . . is going to be a big plus going forward," Kahl states. "I'm not coming into an environment that is broken. I'm coming into an environment that is working very well." Indeed, the company, a unit of Germany's Henkel KGaA since 1998, has been growing at a 15% compound annual rate. Kahl considers being an insider-he started as a Manco route salesperson 15 years ago-to be a management plus. "I'm not out there headhunting, looking to replace five guys at the top of the company with my cronies." Nevertheless, as Manco competes with companies such as 3M Co. for such customers as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Ace Hardware Corp., and Lowe's Companies Inc., Kahl foresees a 25% increase in the amount of time that the business will demand of him. And he's concerned about also dedicating "a portion" of his life to his wife and two small children. "That's the part that keeps me awake" at night, Kahl says.

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