Hach President on Leadership: Measure Impact Instead of Checking Boxes
By Dave Hendrick
Hach Co. President Kevin Klau (MBA ’02) attributes much of his career success to what he described as his good fortune to align himself with three “extraordinary institutions” in his life: the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and Danaher.
Speaking to Darden students at a recent event, the president of the Danaher-owned water infrastructure and analytics company described each as values-driven institutions that aligned with his personal work ethic and outlook.
Klau said he was the first Danaher hire recruited out of the Darden School, and he planned to spend five years at the company before buying a small business and striking out on his own. “I’m now in year 17 of a five-year plan, and that’s partly because I continue to experience things that are really fulfilling,” Klau said.
Klau’s 17 years at Danaher have been varied ones, beginning as a marketing manager, holding the president position at two operating units and serving as corporate vice president of human resources for three years.
Through it all, Klau said he tried to measure his career and personal progression through the metrics of 7 F’s: faith, family, fitness, fulfillment, future, fortune and friends.
As he gained confidence in his current role at Hach, Klau said he has found himself less “goal-oriented” than he was earlier in his career. Having built an impressive resume, he said he draws fulfillment from solving thorny problems with real world-impact, as opposed to always considering what’s next.
“I’m now focused on complexity, impact, challenge, scope and scale,” Klau said. “At Hach, I now come to work every day working on something as important and inspirational as water. I no longer just have that goal I’m working toward — now I’m making an important impact on the world, and I’m really happy about that.”
It’s the kind of confidence that comes in part from a successfully brisk climb up the corporate ladder — from the initial marketing manager position fresh out of Darden to president of a 1,300-person organization, the Danaher unit Portescap, at 33, to leading the human resources function for a multi-billion company despite no formal background in the space. The leadership positions were deeply uncomfortable experiences at the time, and each came with significant self-doubt, Klau said. He encouraged Darden students to look for opportunities that made them uncomfortable, as well, because discomfort often comes coupled with the highest potential for personal growth.
Said Klau, “Over a period of time, my record becomes very important to me, not because it’s bullets on a resume, but because it’s my character.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia