At the Helm: Natalie Kaddas

By Patricia Olsen

A few minutes with the president and CEO of Kaddas Enterprises Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah

Generation of family ownership: Second.

Company revenue: Between $5 million and $10 million.

About the company: Kaddas Enterprises, a 100% woman-owned company, manufactures thermoformed plastic parts for a wide variety of industries, including medical, transportation and utility. The company has 25 employees.

Years with the company: In the summer of 2018, it will be 10 years.

First job at this company: General manager. My husband’s family started the company in a kitchen in 1966, and since college he’s worked here as an engineer. I did a short stint as a receptionist in 1992 when I was in school, but following that I spent 15 years with Marriott, rising to director. When my mother-in-law said she needed help, I stepped in as general manager. I wasn’t sure my husband and I would work well together, but we do.

At what age? 35.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father-in-law: He’s the ultimate innovator. His tag line is, “We can make that.” He has a reputation for finding solutions for customers, and says if we can do that, even if it’s not our product, they’ll remember us.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother-in-law: Perseverance. She’s been through some tight times, but she never gave up. She refinanced her house, cashed in stocks and put her retirement funds into this company.

Best thing about this job: Watching my team come up with solutions I couldn’t necessarily come up with on my own. Watching the spark of creativity grow, and then seeing a product being developed, and shipping that product.

Our greatest successes: Turning a customer into a friend. One company was really frustrated with us. At one point I thought we could lose them, but we came to understand the root problem from their perspective and made some design modifications for them. It took the whole team, but we turned it around and, through that, we developed a friendship. They’re our largest customer and our biggest advocate.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: Continuous improvement. We’re constantly trying to improve our systems, our processes, our products and our people. It’s part of our work ethic.

On my desk: A Ritz-Carlton doorknob from the original hotel in Boston in the 1920s. I use it as a paperweight. It’s a significant piece of my professional development. Their philosophy is, “We’re ladies and gentlemen taking care of ladies and gentlemen,” and I feel that way.

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One of my greatest accomplishments: Growing the family business. When I arrived in 2008, we had to let a lot of people go because of the economy. We were down to six people and were able to grow it into a company with an international presence. We sell products in 14 countries.

Best thing about working in a family business: The opportunity to take the legacy and move it forward. There’s pressure to do that because I’m an in-law, but I can see the greatness that is the foundation.

Worst thing about working in a family business: The pressure of moving the legacy forward as an in-law. When the family name is on the building, there’s pressure to make everyone proud.

My advice for other family business leaders: Have a succession plan, document it and communicate it, whatever it is, whether to pass the company down, bring in outside investment or sell.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: We support HawkWatch International, a science-based non-profit that studies the impact of urbanization on birds of prey. We also support the Girl Scouts of America.
 
I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow when… the company was able to fund my in-laws’ retirement. Now they can relax in this next chapter of their life.

Future succession plans: We’re going to continue to grow the company and position it for the next step, whatever that is. We’re focusing on new products and moving into a new facility. I don’t know if our children will play a role.

Words I live by: “Seek first to understand.”

Copyright 2018 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.
 

Article categories: 
Issue: 
March/April 2018

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