Terry Tanker met with Rich Benninghoff, President and CEO of Malco Products, SBC, based in Annandale, Minnesota. Malco is one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of high-quality, American-made specialty hand tools for the HVACR industry. The two discussed bucket lists, sage advice, motivating employees, management style, and business philosophy.
1. YouTube or Netflix or Prime video?
Netflix – recently I’ve been watching “The Last Kingdom” and “Ozark”.
2. Where is your favorite place to travel on business?
A couple of years ago I traveled to Australia for work, and it was a very cool trip – there is so much natural beauty there. I took tons of pictures and was able to get out to see a couple different landmarks in addition to business meetings.
3. What are the top three things on your bucket list?
My wife and I have a Europe trip on our list, and I’d love to do a golf trip to Ireland or Scotland someday. I’m also a bit of a car guy, so someday I’d love to own my dream car, a 1967 convertible Corvette.
4. My dad/mom always said?
“Be honest” and “trust your instincts” – my parents said these two things all the time! They’ve never steered me in the wrong direction.
5. What always puts a smile on your face?
My 7-year-old Labrador Retriever, Gus!
6. What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
People matter. No matter what decision I am making or what opportunities arise, I always start by checking in with the idea that “people matter” first and that we need to take care of them.
7. Are there specific areas of opportunity that you are focused on this year within HVACR?
We have spent 70+ years manufacturing high-quality tools for HVACR trade pros, and because of this dedication to quality, the Malco brand has earned a great reputation in the industry. This year, we’re focusing on brand elasticity and vertical integration, leveraging feedback and ideas directly from end-users for products that can help them get the job done more safely and efficiently.
8. What's your background?
I’ve had a 25-year career with all sizes of companies in the manufacturing industry, in a wide variety of roles and ownership models. I’ve touched everything from business development to strategy and growth, product management, business unit management, executive leadership and more.
9. What business principles or values guide you in managing the company?
Malco’s core values are “Together, we ARE Malco” – Achieve Results, Respect Others and Engineer Solutions. These values guide our internal culture and focuses.
10. What aspects of managing the business do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy setting strategy, determining plans for growth, and being able to use some forward-looking vision for the future.
11. What do you least enjoy?
I always want to have someone on my team who enjoys financial planning & analysis – looking at P&L statements, cash balances, etc. – because it is not my favorite!
12. Is there an aspect of the business you enjoy managing but should delegate?
At Malco, we follow the EOS Traction model, so by design, there are many day-to-day operational tactics that are delegated through our COO, allowing me to stay focused on the company’s growth and our vision for the future.
13. In which areas of management do you excel and why?
I am fairly good at managing, motivating and inspiring people, as well as thinking big and planning. I really enjoy my job as Malco’s president and CEO. I get to share a lot of exciting new strategic projects with our employee-owners and explain everyone’s role in how we accomplish our goals as a company. It’s a lot of fun!
14. What do you do to keep your business acumen sharp?
I like to participate in networking and thought leadership events and groups to stay connected with fellow business leaders. I’m in a variety of groups such as the Vistage CEO Network, the Hand Tools Institute, and the National Center for Employee Ownership.
15. What is the center of your business philosophy?
The center of my business philosophy is the fact that people are a company’s #1 asset. That’s certainly true at Malco, which is employee owned. If we put in the time and energy to ensure associates are developing and thriving, the rest of the business is (relatively) easy.
16. How do you effectively communicate with your management team?
We have a variety of meetings to touch base – we have a weekly staff meeting, monthly company “huddles” and I maintain a genuine open-door policy to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for communication.
17. How do you inspire your managers and other team members?
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favorite things to do. I joined Malco about a year ago and made it a point to meet with every single one of our 200+ associates soon after I came on board. I think it’s so important to sit down with employees to give them the floor to express their thoughts and ask questions. I believe that creating connections creates trust, as does appreciation for a job well done. We recently rolled out an internal employee recognition program that I think is valuable and resonates with associates.
18. What fundamental business areas are you focusing on right now?
I’m focused on several areas of our business. One of the most fundamental is our technology footprint, particularly when it comes to digital and social media activities and our marketing capabilities.
19. What do you view as your most important management responsibility?
Creating value and creating a clearly defined vision for the future (as well as how we’re going to achieve it) are two of my most important management responsibilities.
20. Looking in your crystal ball, what are you forecasting for 2022 and beyond?
We are looking at having another strong year of performance and growth for 2022, as we did in 2021. A big part of that will be our new Eagle Grip line of locking tools, which is being rolled out this spring!
Terry Tanker is the owner of JFT Properties LLC and publisher of HVACR Business magazine. He has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming JFT Properties LLC in January 2006 he spent 20 years with a large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace. In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI NATE and ABMA.