, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Locking on to Teamwork 4289

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Locking on to Teamwork

When your product is designed to be "stronger than steel," it's hard to believe your business still might need Superman. Yet with sales of our Kryptonite locks pointing the company in new directions—and with a raft of competitors working furiously to make inroads on our traditional sales—a Superman of soils was exactly what the company needed, someone who could come in and lift the business to a higher plane.

Many entrepreneurs confuse giving something up with giving something away. But if you can't be a superhero and take on every challenge yourself, it pays to own up to what you don't know and find someone who can fill your voids.

Kryptonite Corp., the Canton, Mass., company I stalled in 1971, makes locks, notably Ushaped bicycle locks. By last year—with my brother Peter and I running the business—we had grown to 70 employees and roughly $20 million in sales.

Over the past 25 years, our market has grown from just bikes to mopeds, motorcycles, and, most recently, automobile security. While we were expanding into obvious markets, our locks were also being used for lots of things besides wheeled vehicles. In fact, people were going to bike and motorcycle shops for the locks and then securing everything from gates to power tools and ladders on trucks. We wanted to pursue this new business. With competitors making cheap knockoffs of our products, new markets were needed to sustain growth. But we didn't want to go bankrupt tilting after windmills—trying to steer people toward home-security distributors, for example, when at least a segment of that market already knew where to find our products.

All signs pointed to bringing someone in from outside to help us grow and to give Peter and me the time to pursue those avenues of business that best suited our talents and interests. Bringing in new personalities to a company with strong family ties—our late father made our first locks, and Mom still signs checks and opens the mail—isn't an easy decision; our choice was complicated by the fact that past efforts to expand the top management team with outsiders had failed. Finding the right leadership for any company means knowing and being honest about both personal and corporate strengths and weaknesses, as wTell as culture and goals.

For our part, this past September we named Gary Furst as Kryptonite's chief executive officer. As chairman and company spokesman, I now devote most of my time to the manufacturing and product-development aspects of the business. Peter oversees sales, and Gary has ultimate responsibility for new-market development, greater corporate profitability, and the use of technological advances to better communicate with retailers.

There have been several keys to making this new corporate structure work. In Gary, we found someone with experience in large-corporation and international sourcing—knowledge we needed—but who understood the culture of a family business, something we felt was vital to the success of any new relationship. Gary, who had been on our board of directors, was the fourthgeneration head of American Bnish Co. before Stanley Works, of New Britain, Conn., purchased the company.

Equally important, we're responding to Gary's efforts to formalize not onlv our internal communieations but also the procedures of our board of directors. Gary reports directly to the board, and what had been an informal group has been professionalized with clear objectives.

Rather than seeing Gary's addition as a loss of control or a blow to our egos, Peter and I see it as an opportunity for all of us. While our family remains majority stockholders, we have given Gaiy an ownership stake in the firm—a reason beyond his paycheck to make things happen. And we're taking advantage of the reduced responsibility, from having more time to ourselves to focusing on what we do and enjoy best to help Kryptonite reach its full potential. Individually, none of us is a superhero—but you don't have to be, if you have the right amount of help and teamwork to keep your small business growing.

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