The Ziminski file Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

Birthplace: Bethlehem, Pa.

Education: Bachelor of science degree in marketing, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

First Job: Selling cookies for Keebler Foods Co. as a college intern — “I was an elf.”

What has been the greatest business challenge you’ve faced?

It was probably here at Crane. When I got here in 2000, the market had changed and gone beyond where Crane/Vipco was, and we were probably very late in the game to make these changes. With that huge challenge came one very unique opportunity. Because we were late, we had no choice but to look at it differently. We quickly came to the decision that we can’t out-vinyl the vinyl guys. That’s not a realistic proposition any more than it would be for Sears to say we’re going to out-Wal-Mart Wal-Mart. We had no choice but to make a dramatic change. Looking back, it was fun, but boy, was it a lot of work. And the options for failure were not very pretty at all. We knew there were great odds against us, and we were in a difficult position, but man, did we have some great people here who were loyal and wanted to make it happen. Once they saw that vision and believed it, it just kind of started. We weren’t afraid to fail.

What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?

Honesty — Listen to the market in an honest way. Listen to what it’s telling you — not only today, but tomorrow. It may tell us things we don’t like, but it’s telling us something. You’ve got to be honest with your gathering of data and create a compelling vision. Then be honest with the people inside your organization about what challenges are in front of you to make that happen. Tell them what the risks are and, if they’re great risks, be honest with them. Share with them what your vision is. Share your successes and share your failures. Once you get that honesty throughout the organization, you begin to have a high-functioning team and with that, you can achieve a lot of things.