However, a move to New York to study furniture design and space planning led to an epiphany. “It was at that point that I knew I wanted some type of career in contract furniture,” says the general manager of Steelcase’s Wood division. “I believe the merging of hands-on skills with design thinking has helped me throughout my career.”
For his efforts, Klipa has been recognized as a 2012 Wood Industry Market Leader by Wood & Wood Products magazine.
Klipa’s passion for furniture design and manufacturing has rubbed off on his two sons, who also have shown an interest in the industry. “I can’t imagine any better achievement than that,” he says.
Employed at the contract furniture giant for 27 years, Klipa took over leadership of Steelcase’s Wood division when the company revamped in January 2011. “Part of this plan was the redesign of Elective Elements 6, based on research into changing user work habits and organizational demands. Today, EE6 is one of Steelcase’s most successful products,” he says.
Klipa adds, “The main goals of the Steelcase Wood division involve the evolution of our market offering according to changing work modes and shifts in social and spatial trends, building a stronger global product portfolio and continuing our quality and efficiency improvements.”
The motivation and dedication Klipa brings to Steelcase, and the industry, are derived from lessons learned during his college years at William & Mary.
“In college, our football team was coached by Lou Holtz, one of the most interesting and motivating individuals that I have ever met,” Klipa says. “The lessons I learned from Coach Holtz on the football field have stuck with me throughout my life. My favorite quote of his is: ‘Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.’”
Klipa has incorporated these lessons into the business mantra: “work hard, keep learning and enjoy what you do” — both on and off the job.
In his spare time, he says, “I still enjoy working with my hands. We recently purchased a lake house in Northern Michigan that is a real fixer-upper, so that is occupying most of our weekends and vacations. Otherwise, I enjoy skiing, sailing and reading.”
• Education: BA in Economics, College of William & Mary; Masters of Management, Aquinas College.
• Years at the company: 27
• Years in the industry: 35
• Words that best describe you: Compassionate competitor
• Best advice received: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” - Lou Holtz
• Person you have tried to emulate in business: I’ve always been fascinated with stories of entrepreneurs who started with a simple idea....and built successful businesses by following their passion.
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