“I always tell people: Don’t snort that cocaine yet.”
—Rebecca Minkoff on acceptingventure capital.For more, see page 38.
16 ; INC. ; OCTOBER 2019 ; ; ;
PRIVATE TITANS Sinking About the Future
It’s a lot to bite o; when a company
embraces a value that states: “We are in
business forever.” So far, though, Elkay
Manufacturing, the Downers Grove,
Illinois–based producer of;residential
sinks, high-end plumbing, and commercial
kitchens as well as bottle-fill stations and
water fountains, has taken some profitable
steps toward realizing that ambition.
Consider: Next year will be its 100th
“When they recruited me, I really
wondered about that ‘in-business-forever’
line, as everyone does,”;says CEO Tim
Jahnke, who joined the company in 2007
after 22 years at Newell Rubbermaid.
“When discussions got serious, I came to
realize that it wasn’t the typical BS that
companies put up on the wall.”
The; 2,500-employee outfit that
Leopold Katz (L-K, get it?) and his son
Louis founded in 1920 on Chicago’s North
Side operates in sectors populated by
imposing competitors like Kohler, Moen,
and Delta Faucet. And Elkay—whose
popular sink brands include Harmony,
Lustertone, and Dayton—must ceaselessly
grapple;with shifting consumer demand
as well as cyclical construction markets.
It’s a high-growth, high-margin industry
during good times, but a serial bankrupter
For now, prospects appear quite shiny.
Elkay booked close to $1 billion in 2018
revenue and, beyond surviving the Great
Depression and numerous;recessions, has
earned a reputation for strong financial
results, savvy expansion, and timely new-
product development. Says Jahnke: “We
honestly try to do what’s right for our
brands, our people, our customers, and our
suppliers.” The motto, he adds, “truthfully
represents who we are.”
Remaining a closely held outfit with
evident survival skills—executive chair-
man and former CEO Ron Katz, 83, is
Leopold’s grandson—has advantages.
“We’re not scared of a down year,” says
Ted Hamilton, a fifth-generation Katz
family member and head of Elkay’s key
plumbing division. “We can take the time
to build foundations for our products.”
That approach recently led Elkay;to
what hydrologists and economists might
call a watershed moment. The company is
diving deep into H2O, including its sourc-
ing, purification, delivery, and storage.
One such investment is in Sun To Water
Technologies of Richardson, Texas, which
is developing technology to squeeze fresh
water from humidity. In an increasingly
water-short world, it’s a smart gamble
that could help Elkay thrive, if not quite
forever, then at least for decades to come.
Swatting the buzzwords of business since 2014.
BY BEN SCHOTT
A barrage of factual claims
thrown by politicians to overwhelm
rational debate. In business
lingo: earnings calls!
Source: Full Fact
QUANTUM WINTER •noun
The current phase of quantum
computing, when it doesn’t “live up
to the hype”—and presumably why I
still don’t have a jetpack.
Source: Business Insider
“The joy in knowing that as a Slack
group grows, the likelihood of a new
member searching their name and
finding they’ve been slagged in
earlier conversations reaches
99.9 percent.” *Immediately logs
on to Inc. Slack*
Source: The New York Times
Swedish term meaning “flight
shame,” intended to stigmatize air
travel. What we really need is the
Swedish term to stigmatize seat-
reclining on short-haul flights.
Source: Mother Nature Network
FATHER AND SON
Leopold and Louis Katz in 1926. They built a
company as durable as their plumbing.
Elkay Manufacturing has endured for a century in an unforgiving,
cyclical industry by innovating relentlessly around the ordinary.