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March 27, 2020

Hire Smarter Episode 09: Chris Kliefoth, Advisor and former CEO of Nationwide Industries


Welcome to our 9th episode of Hire Smarter. Our mission is simple: to educate building industry leaders with best practices for hiring talent while helping professionals make better career decisions.

This is a longer episode with some important information we don’t want you to miss – so we’ve outlined some key moments below. 

0:45 – Introduction

2:05 – Chris shares how he got into the industry

10:25 – One of Chris’ greatest successes & failures

19:50 – Lessons learned from Chris’ greatest mentor, Peter Dachowski

46:35 – The importance of a blameless culture

49:55 – Leading through a crisis & how to handle the current situation

54:35 – How the coronavirus is different from other economic crashes

56:05 – Chris shares the most critical step to crush your competition

1:12:40 – Closing thoughts & take-aways

In this episode, we address coronavirus (COVID-19) and leadership through uncertain times. Under normal circumstances, most leaders face the challenge of controlling emotions and remaining fact-based and disciplined in their decision-making skills. The current shock over the virus epidemic and economic whipsaw is causing panic, fear and impulsive decisions from many leaders in the industry. Our guest today is Chris Kliefoth, a client but also, most importantly, a long-time industry friend. Over the years, Chris is a proven leader with ice water in his veins – he does not get rattled. His career came up through Morgan Products, the millwork distribution business now owned by Andersen Windows, eventually joining CertainTeed, where he built and led the cement siding business. He then went on to grow Nationwide Industries from $10m to $70m in sales, surpassing the private equity ownership’s profit expectations. Today, Nationwide Industries is a manufacturer of fencing hardware and locks serving contractors, dealers, OEM, and wholesalers nationally. Chris is generous and candid with sharing insightful responses to the following questions:

How were Chris’s most significant success and failure both wrapped in building the CertainTeed Cement Siding Division?

What are the greatest lessons learned from his mentor? (Peter Dachowski – CEO of Saint Gobain Isover/ CertainTeed Corp from 1996- 2011)

What are the core elements of leadership communication?

How do you avoid tunnel vision leading through a crisis?

How do you gain an advantage over your competition during a crisis?

Do you know what your strategy switching costs are?

What are the biggest mistakes you should be waiting for your weakest competitors to make?

Chris’s answers to these questions are direct, simple and actionable for every leader. What steps are you taking to fight PTSD from 2008/2009? What are the many ways this situation is different? Access to cash and market liquidity, relatively low debt in the construction industry, short supply of homes and apparent pent up demand.

In the 2008/2009 crash, the weakest leaders did not react quickly enough. What if in 2020 the mistake is cutting people too fast? Ask yourself, what is the fatal error your competition is waiting for you to make?


Hire Smarter – Tony Misura

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