What was your first position at RPM?
My very first job at RPM was on the order desk at Republic Powdered Metals in 1974 at age 13. That was the first of five consecutive summers working for RPM.
After I graduated from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, I spent four years in the commercial banking business before reentering RPM at the AGR Company, a Charlotte-based roofing materials joint venture. I joined the RPM corporate office in January 1989 as director of corporate finance.
What have you learned on the journey to becoming CEO?
Previously I was RPM’s chief financial officer. In that role, I knew our margin profile versus our largest competitive peers, our return on invested capital (ROIC), our growth rates and other financial metrics. I knew where we excelled and where we were deficient.
Within two years of becoming CEO, I had a simpler and more profound understanding of business performance. I came to recognize that a company’s stock price was a reflection of both the pluses and minuses of its current and historic performance and expectations for how those performance metrics would change in the future. I came to understand that all of this data was a simple “you are where you are” at any given moment and that from a forwarding-looking perspective all of this boiled down to momentum.
I came to recognize that as a leader it was my job to build positive momentum and that doing so would move all of those “important metrics” in the right direction. This powerful insight has stayed with me for my 18 years as RPM’s CEO.
What does a CEO do in their spare time?
In my free time, I love to walk and read - I switch between business books, history, biography and fiction (with three to five books going on at once) - as well as to snow ski and duck hunt.
Where in the world have you not visited, but hope to some day?
My wife and I talked (very unrealistically) about going to Tahiti for our honeymoon 37 years ago. We have also talked about going to Greece. So, an anniversary trip to either Tahiti or Greece would be a lot of fun and an opportunity to visit a beautiful new place.
What words of wisdom would you like to give the RPM associates?
Each morning (occasionally with a lazy or tired miss), I start with a modest 10-to-12 minutes mindfulness meditation/breathing, stretching and yoga routine. If done daily, this can add to focus and a calm demeanor and a more thoughtful approach to the challenges you face each day.