Chairman and CEO
Igloo Products Corp.
Gary Kiedaisch is always open to a better way to help his customers. Take the time he was sitting at a baseball game and noticed an Igloo cooler lying on its side, partially submerged in mud. He leaned over to an associate and asked, “How can we fix that?”
The highly portable Igloo cooler that resulted from this simple question now easily hangs from chain-link fences at sports fields across the U.S. It’s just one of the ways that Kiedaisch has transformed and invigorated Igloo.
Kiedaisch got an early lesson in business from his father, who owned a sporting goods store. Then Kiedaisch enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and learned more valuable lessons about life and working with others. After his military service, he became a sales representative for a ski equipment retailer, becoming division president when he was only 27 years old.
Prior to joining Igloo, Kiedaisch joined the private equity firm J.H. Whitney, which subsequently purchased Igloo. As an investor operator, he assumed the role of chairman and CEO in 2008.
Igloo was not thriving when Kiedaisch arrived. The cooler had become an interchangeable good that was manufactured and marketed merely for its functional use, which depressed its price. Under Kiedaisch’s leadership, Igloo has repositioned its products by emphasizing differentiation and innovation, resulting in increased revenue.
He has made changes, but he didn’t take the job at Igloo with the mindset of cleaning house. So he sat down with a group of Igloo’s original employees and asked why the company had grown stagnant. After listening to a host of negative assertions, Kiedaisch asked what they thought the company would look like at its highest potential. His ability to consistently find ways to turn “no” into “yes” played a key part in the company’s resurgence.
Family Business Award
Chairman and CEO
D.E. Harvey Builders
The office at D.E. Harvey Builders isn’t flashy and the company doesn’t boast about its accomplishments or seek the spotlight. After all, David Harvey is a humble man, which is evident throughout the company.
Financial success at the company is not about just growing through new clients, but performing repeat business for existing clients. It is how the team knows it has performed well and how it intends to stay in business.
The company was built internally with engineers who had a good work ethic and old-fashioned values. Harvey believes you’re a good fit with his company if you have three attributes: intellect, good work ethic and good values. Having two of these three attributes is not good enough; you need to have all three.
Individuals start with the company already having a solid foundation in place. They are then taught the “Harvey way” and given the skills to become good presenters, good speakers and eventually leaders.
Harvey wants his people to work both the right and left sides of their brains since a general contractor has to be able to lead and communicate with owners and clients.
The chairman and CEO also sees knowledge transfer as being empowering. The company offers training classes in which the more tenured employees teach. This teaches the younger workforce the best practices, but also serves as a reminder to those doing the training.
Holding knowledge, as in being the go-to guy but not sharing that knowledge, is good for one, Harvey says. But it doesn’t do much for your overall business.
D.E. Harvey Builders is a family business and Harvey believes it should operate in a family atmosphere. Harvey and other senior leaders stress that leadership is not just about being entrepreneurial, but also about being a good custodian.