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A CONVERSATION WITH TOM CUNNINGHAM

BIC Magazine, March 2019 –  According to CLIMAX CEO Tom Cunningham, “business is booming.” Cunningham became CEO of CLIMAX in 2014, and he’s proud of the company’s two greatest strengths: exceptional people and terrific products. BIC Magazine recently visited with Cunningham to learn more about the reasons behind CLIMAX’s expansion, key moments in his career, and the ongoing endeavor of balancing work and home life.

Q: What is the biggest news at CLIMAX right now?

A: We recently opened our new satellite facility in Saudi Arabia, continuing the massive expansion of our global footprint. Our latest product, the FF5300 flange facer, has been the fastest-selling new product in company history, following close on the heels of the successful launch of our Speed Facer and our immensely popular new CALDER valve testers line. We are working on 15-20 bespoke design projects at any given time, launching compelling new products at a rate of at least one per quarter and building up our formidable intellectual property portfolio. Business is booming!

Q: Do you have any plans to grow/expand CLIMAX?

A: In the past six years, CLIMAX has acquired BORTECH, CALDER and H&S TOOL. All of these have been successfully integrated into a healthy whole, which is no small feat and a true testament to the terrific people we have. CLIMAX continues to look at smart acquisition opportunities. The critical ingredient is Industrial Growth Partners (IGP), the private equity firm that owns CLIMAX. The constraint is never capital or market intelligence; it’s only about finding the right opportunities when they come along. It’s really refreshing and powerful to have backers like IGP.

Q: What has been a pivotal moment in your career?

A: One pivotal moment in my development as a leader occurred in my first job out of college at Intel. I had a project that wasn’t going well, and I had a meeting with my manager, who was a good mentor to me. I couldn’t get my job done because another department had not delivered what they said they would. I said, “It’s not my job to manage their work.” He told me successful people get what they need to be successful; they don’t make excuses, and they “find a way” to win. Anyone can lead people who “have to” listen, and even that can be challenging. But could I go a step further and lead people who don’t work for me through persuasion and negotiation, insightful analysis, helpfulness, teamwork and cogent dialogue about what’s best for the business? That changed my whole way of thinking, and I have been thankful for it ever since.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote?

A: The quote people most often hear me say is “We compete with our products; we win with our people.” I like this because it nicely combines the two greatest strengths of CLIMAX.

Q: How do you maintain a good work/home life balance?

A: When I was in business school, I found a program called “Total Leadership” by Stew Friedman. It laid out a philosophy and practical methodology for being the leader and companion you want to be for the people in your life. The gist of it is you have to achieve authenticity in yourself and a healthy integration across the various domains of your life, as well as be innovative in trying to achieve improvement through continuous experimentation. It’s not a fad; it makes you do the hard and deliberate work required to become the whole person you want to be. There are no shortcuts. For me, this has been the key to the work/life balance, an ongoing endeavor.

For more information, visit www.climaxportable.com or call (800) 333-8311.

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