Experience, determination and an unending supply of patience have provided Kevin Sauder with the flexibility and know-how to lead RTA furniture giant Sauder Woodworking through these tough economic times.
“I am better able to keep the current economic situation in perspective since I lived through the crazy RTA boom years in the late 1980s and the retrenching years since 2001. Also, raising two teenagers, including one with autism, has taught me patience and humility,” said the president & CEO, Sauder Woodworking.
It also has taught him how to persevere under great business pressure.
After the flourishing market growth in the 1980s and ‘90s, to say the swell of foreign competition, in what would become a smaller market base, had a negative impact on domestic RTA manufacturers would be putting it mildly. Yet, despite it all, under Sauder’s leadership the company grew. “In recent years, we’ve had to adapt to fewer, more powerful retailers, aggressive foreign competition and more complex product lines. We succeeded by making strategic acquisitions, focusing on lean manufacturing, reducing costs, and improving merchandising and product development processes.
“I would like to see Sauder get its core RTA business back to a more sustainable level of profitability, address additional markets and product lines with innovative concepts, continue world-class manufacturing in Ohio, improve supply chain management and sourcing with Sauder Asia, and keep our employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers and communities proud of what we do.”
Sauder takes pride in the company and in its ownership. He says, however, he didn’t always plan to work for the family-owned firm. An interest in business and engineering first led him to the telecommunications industry before opportunity brought him to Sauder.
“I could have been quite happy in the telecommunications industry, but in 1988 my dad presented an opportunity at Sauder that seemed very exciting,” Sauder says. “He wanted me to focus on sales and marketing for the newly forming office superstore retail channel. I started selling to retailers like Office Depot when they had only 12 stores — and I’ve enjoyed the journey ever since.”
Kevin Sauder: Quick Glimpse
• Education: BS, Business, Miami University 1982; MBA, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University 1985
• Years at the company: 20
• Years in the industry: 20
• Words that best describe you: Optimistic and determined
• The person(s) you have tried to emulate in business and why: I greatly admire the examples set by my father and grandfather in growing and leading this business, and have used their principles and values to create my vision of how to lead the company in these turbulent times.
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