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Industry Icon Leyland Talks About Career, Life After Retirement

Post Time:Apr 24,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:251

 

Bob Leyland, director of sales at Kawneer Co. in Norcross, Ga., will retire on August 3, after 37 years with the company. He began his career with Kawneer in 1975 after graduating with a degree in marketing from Michigan State University. He started with the company as a sales trainee in the Niles, Mich., headquarters, and after climbing through the ranks, was named director of marketing in 1996. He assumed executive leadership of the sales and marketing organizations in 1999, and has continued to lead the North American sales organization since 2004.

 

USGNN.com™ recently talked to Leyland about his career and plans after retirement. Below are excerpts.

 

USGNN: What would you say has been your greatest contribution to the glass industry?

 

Bob Leyland (BL): I would say my involvement in people development. The reason I spent 37 years with the same company is the people within the industry and the company. I've had a number of positions throughout my career, I've had a chance to hire people, and help them grow in their roles, and that is very important to me.

 

In another area, I've been through a number of acquisitions and integrations. Kawneer was acquired by Alcoa in 1998. There were a lot changes that had to be managed in those kinds of circumstances. More recently, we went through the commercial integration of Traco into Kawneer and Alcoa. Now we have got two industry-leading brands put together to serve our customers. I lead the commercial integration side of that.

 

Lastly, as you know we are in an industry that is cyclical in nature. When you are challenged with the market downturn--and I have been through four in my career--there's always pressure to generate an acceptable level of profitability, and we've been able to do that. Our company aligns itself very closely with the customer. We are able to sustain through the downturns and help our customers through those as well. We share with them some of the things that we implement to mitigate risks, and most Kawneer customers make it through the downturn. I am connected with those customers on a daily basis.

 

We also participate in different organizations: the American Institute of Architects, the Glass Association of North America and its Building Envelope Contractors Division. We have sponsored many of their events and I have spoken there. We support a lot of the industry. We have an obligation to participate in those and serve the industry, and I have done that.

 

USGNN: What are you most proud of in your long career?

 

BL: Couple of things: Being able to participate and lead an industry-leading company. I started with Kawneer right after graduating from Michigan State. The people I have had the chance to work with, the customers, and the opportunity to take on more responsibilities, is one area. It's also been really important to me to be a leader in our own organization. I have worked with and for very strong leaders and I have learned from them a tremendous lot. We are part of a group that, from a product standpoint, has continually tried to raise the bar as it relates to quality and performance and how they impact the environment.

 

USGNN: What was the lowest point of your career?

 

BL: I would have to say when you have to face difficult decision to make sure that you remain profitable in a downturn, sometimes you have to size yourself to remain profitable. Those are always difficult decisions, and I am, in particular, challenged by that. My role in the company is as much as to be a job creator as anything else. So, when it goes the other way it makes for difficult decisions.

 

Also, when you are getting acquired, there is uncertainty around that. We have been really pleased to have a parent organization that has embraced our business. Working through uncertainty is a challenging issue.

 

Candidly, I haven't had many low points. There have been a few, but we have been able to work through with our company and people resources. Nothing really stands out than something else.

 

USGNN: If we asked somebody in the glass industry what your legacy is, what would they say?

 

BL: I would like to think that they would say that I have been a dedicated, ethical, high-integrity person who has led a successful company, managed product performance and people development. A guy who had tried to live and operate with a sense of integrity. I would like to think both my colleagues and customers will think of me as a positive influence, who supported and sustained a very strong brand, and that people will respect and feel good about that.

 

USGNN: What do you plan to do after retirement?

 

BL: I do not have any immediate plans. I will take some time to relax a bit and contemplate what might be of interest to pursue. My wife is a teacher and she has one more year to teach, so I have one year to figure that out. I have been working since I was 12, as a paper boy. So it might be healthy for me to just stop and think for a bit. I still have a high level of energy, so I will do something. I live in a golf course community, so I might get a chance to get better in golf. I am excited about what the next chapter of my life will bring, but I will go one step at a time.

 

USGNN: What do you think has Kawneer contributed to the building environment?

 

BL: A number of things. The company is a 106 years old. We have been involved in contributing to the nonresidential building industry for over a century. We have introduced and innovated many products. It pre-dates me. There are many contributions. I have got samples of products that were installed in early 1900s that are being replaced with new Kawneer products now. It is satisfying to see products that lasted that long and to replace them with better-performing products. We have also continued to train people in the industry. There are many people in the industry who have gone through Kawneer's training program. We have had that in place since after World War II. The products are only as good as the people who put them in. We invest a lot in the training area, and that will continue. It is part of our obligation and set of values. I have traveled around North America and met people who have said that they have gone through our training program and are able to install products to perform as they are supposed to.

 

USGNN: Where does Kawneer go from here?

 

BL: It is fair to say that Kawneer will continue to strive to be an industry leader. We will be focused on providing better-performing products to the built environment. We will continue to look at how we can bundle products, provide a broader range of product solution with Kawneer, Traco and Alcoa. We will add to this overall portfolio and improve building performance and allow our customers to capture a larger share of the pie. Both Alcoa and Kawneer are very committed to sustainability, and from a product manufacturing standpoint, we will continue to do that.

 

I am also very pleased that when I retire I will do that with a very strong commercial organization in place with both Kawneer and Traco and with Colin Brosmer assuming my position. It was important to me to know that when I leave I would be confident that the person who came in would be successful in the position. And I feel good about that.

 

I have worked with Colin directly for the last five years, he has reported to me for three of those five years. He has a broad background. He manages the front end of our business, including customer service, estimating, project management and drafting, and oversees 250 people. Prior to that he was in the sales management role in Canada for us. Now he will lead the sales organizations for both Kawneer and Traco in North America.

 

Source: http://www.usgnn.comAuthor: shangyi

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