Wood Industry Market Leader: Jeff De Lonay, Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork
October 30, 2018 | 1:40 pm CDT

Jeff De Lonay’s extensive woodworking experience and leadership abilities have helped Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc. adapt to a changing marketplace and continue to be successful.

“Technology has allowed the development of a home and its construction time frame to be greatly reduced,” said De Lonay, president of the window and door company. “What this means for us is that we needed to find a way to produce our products more efficiently and meet the lead times required by our customers.”

Customer preference for higher performance, less maintenance and more contemporary appearance products has also led Kolbe & Kolbe to “make a fundamental change within the corporate culture. We felt strongly about developing a formal process and attitude so that we could stay in front of consumer preference changes.”

De Lonay’s years of experience and the good advice from others have helped when making these changes. “The love and understanding of wood were fostered throughout many years by my grandfather who, as busy as he was, always took the time to teach those willing to learn his knowledge of wood and what could be crafted from it,” he said, and helped provide a foundation that would serve De Lonay well in his 34-plus years at Kolbe & Kolbe.

Starting his career in the assembly area, De Lonay held a number of manufacturing positions before moving into administrative and management roles. He has been president since 2014.

De Lonay also played an integral role in the company’s immersion in continuous improvement, which began in 2008. “CI, as we call it, is now the norm. Our vernacular has completely changed, and we use the CI tools every day to measure and improve our efficiency and customer satisfaction.” 

Along with a CI culture, Kolbe & Kolbe transitioned from a manufacturing-driven organization to one that is marketing-driven. With his background in manufacturing and an education in marketing, De Lonay said he sees this as being a differentiator in the industry. “Over the next few years we are committed to understanding what the market wants, then develop, promote, and execute its delivery,” he said. “Being responsive to these market demands has led us to a mindset of constant innovation.”

The firm is also committed to the community, providing scholarships, assisting shelters, and aiding local groups. De Lonay’s own involvement includes Boy Scouts of America, Elks, Wood Science Advisory Committee for North Central Technical College, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum board of directors and WDMA.

De Lonay also enjoys spending time with his family and working with wood. A man of diverse interests, he also likes to study architecture, visit flea markets and go antiquing.

Quick Glimpse:

  • Education: Marketing background
  • Number of years at the company: 34
  • Number of years in the industry: 34
  • Word that best describes you: Loyal
  • Business mantra: It is the people who really instill in the products the lasting quality, which is the heart and soul of the organization.
  • Best advice: In order to be successful, an individual should go to work every day as if it is their first day on the job.
  • Who have you tried to emulate? Company founder Herb Kolbe provided the most valuable advice and lived it out himself: Employees are the heart of the business.

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About the author
Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected]