What led Karen Strauss to a career in woodworking was the “firm belief that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and the opportunity to differentiate and bring branding to this space.”
As president of Masco Cabinetry, Strauss is in the unique position to do just that. Since 2006, she has overseen efforts at Masco brands Merillat, Kraftmaid and Quality Cabinets, as well as the DeNova countertop brand, helping the groups bring new products to the marketplace while ensuring environmentally responsible manufacturing. Also under her direction, the company consolidated both the retail and builder cabinet divisions into one streamlined, organizational structure.
“As part of that, we’ve established core teams focused on innovation in product development, services, marketing and sales. This is a huge undertaking, but we’re already seeing success from this cross-functional approach to business.
“We also established a business model that supports both cabinetry and countertops from a single source. We like to say that every bottom has a top and top has a bottom. Our best practices of combining the two to create business efficiencies for our channel partners – dealers, builders and home improvement retail centers – and easier ordering and decision-making for homeowner consumers, have gained traction and are proving to be important innovations in design and service efforts,” Strauss says.
In addition to making news for its innovative product developments, Masco Cabinetry has been recognized for its commitment to lean manufacturing. In 2008 it was named one of iSix Sigma Magazine’s Best Places to Work, and in 2009 Strauss accepted the Global Six Sigma CEO of the Year Award on behalf of the former Masco Builder Cabinet Group team. “In addition, four of our manufacturing plants have received recognition for environmental stewardship (Ohio, Kentucky and two locations in Virginia). Finally, our KraftMaid cabinetry brand has been recognized as a leader in customer satisfaction by JD Power and Associates (2011),” she adds.
And while the company has control over internal factors, outside influences, such as the economy and housing instability, continue to have an impact on the cabinet industry. With the business mantra of: “Control what you can and always look for opportunities,” Strauss says, “Our challenge will be to stay true to our goal of bringing innovative kitchen and bath solutions to homeowners in an economic atmosphere that demands superior product and design excellence at a value.”
Having spent 33 years in the building products industry, Strauss is indeed up to the challenge. And when she’s not opening new doors in the cabinet market, Strauss enjoys traveling, reading, boating and gardening.
• Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Bowling Green State University (OH) and MBA, Oakland University (MI)
• Years at the company: 12
• Years in the industry: 33
• Words that best describe you: Optimistic about the future
• The best advice received: Build business teams deliberately. After all, it’s all about the people.
• The person you have tried to emulate in business and why: I’ve tried to emulate leaders across all areas, who inspire others to achieve more than they thought they could.
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