The United States of America is the world’s largest economy. With a land mass covering 9.83 km2 and home to over 300 million people, it is the third largest country by land area and population. The country is diverse in geography, climate and ethnicity. It is often referred to as the “land of opportunity”, signified by the Statue of Liberty situated in the middle of New York harbor.
The country is propelled forward by the ideals of individual freedom as expressed in the American Dream and rooted in the Declaration of Independence which states that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Our US headquarters is located in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, a quiet working-class town of approximately 20,000, nestled in the Meadowlands area just 20 minutes’ drive from New York City.
Lyndhurst retains its quaint and typical American small-town appeal to many hard-working men and women raising their families and going about normal life while living in the shadow of our big sister New York City. Here on this place we met Christoph Ganz, the Sika President & CEO Region North America.
What comes to your mind thinking about Sika US?
An independent Sika region which develops, produces and sells basically all Sika technologies in both the US and Canada; around $800 million in sales (North America), 1400 employees and various factories all over the US and Canada. Sika US is the biggest single Sika Company in the Group. The Markets are all significant in size, the largest being Market Roofing with around $260 million in sales.
What are your personal secrets in leading a big team?
Live the Sika Spirit of doing business. Allow entrepreneurship; be demanding but respectful to all Sika people on all levels. Do not just talk but deliver and try to be a role model. My leadership style is about motivation and animation! Do not just focus on the first level of managers but include Sika people on all levels. Factory workers want to be motivated as well as sales guys and finance clerks!
I have a management trick which I call management by positive provocation. Provoke your guys with a surprising question and you will get to the true point of an issue much faster! People tend to react more spontaneously and more honestly if they are provoked!
The recovery from the 2008–09 recessions remains the most challenging in the past century. The U.S. economy shrank at a 1 percent annual rate in the first quarter, but analysts foresee a strong growth for the coming months. What are your impressions?
Sika US has come out of some difficult times caused by the financial crisis. We have to lead the company back from cost saving thinking to profitable business growth and development. Switching from a cost and EBIT mode into a growth mode at a big organization is quite a challenge. The first 3 months of 2014 were influenced by one of the strongest winters in the history. The winter affected the US economy as well as our sales, nevertheless we still achieved 7.3 % organic sales growth in Region North America after the first 4 months.
This result is encouraging for the months ahead of us. We will implement many business initiatives for this year which will trigger growth including opening new factories in Denver, Atlanta and Vancouver (Canada) in the next weeks and months. In addition, we have invested into additional sales staff which the Americans call “boots on the ground.”
The United States present an extremely diverse but also challenging economic surrounding. Where do you see special opportunities for the upcoming years?
The US economy basically consists of a few important economic regions like California, Texas, Florida, Chicago and the East coast metropolitans like Boston, NYC and Washington DC. These are the regions where the music plays and this is where we have to invest in factories and people. This is what we are doing and that is what should bring us more growth in the future.
Another important challenge is to combine the full potential of all our Target Markets on big projects. We call this initiative Cross-Selling or SikaSMART® where we try to specify Concrete, Flooring, Roofing, Waterproofing and Refurbishment products on all the mega projects being built!
How about the construction market? Where does the US need Sika?
The US Construction market is huge and one of the biggest in the world. Projects like high rise buildings, distribution centers, data centers, dams etc. in the magnitude of several billion dollars are being built around the country and are numerous. Such huge projects you rarely see in Europe, only in Asia and the Middle East do these exist!
Sika is the problem solver for the construction industry and helps specifiers and contractors to build faster, safer, and more sustainable! We are Building Trust as our slogan says, and that very much works here in the US! Sika is a reliable partner to the construction industry and this is highly appreciated by our customers!
Any extraordinary Sika projects in you would like to tell us about?
1 -The Hoover dam by pass, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch gravity dam with a height of 221.4 m and a length of 379 m in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. It is on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada.
Sika US played a key role in concrete production, protection, structural bonding and ultimately the overall durability of the structure. We supplied a number of products over 5 years, including post tension grout, segmental bridge adhesives, precision grouts and concrete admixtures on this outstanding infrastructure project in the US. These products have helped the contractor meet special production requirements throughout the entire project.
2 - San Francisco Bay bridge (Total length: 7,180 m) Oakland Bay Bridge was constructed at the same time as the Golden Gate Bridge and opened for traffic in 1936. On October 17, 1989 an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale severely damaged the double decker truss structure east of Yerba Buena Island knocking down a portion of the upper deck.
The Californian authority completed an investigation and study and concluded it would be far more cost effective and safer to build a new eastern span rather than retrofit it. The new structure is designed to meet current seismic codes as well as other codes pertaining to roadway shoulders, lane widths, stopping sight distances and other factors to substantially improve public safety. Sika was one of the main suppliers for this project, including grouting, structural bonding, admixtures, joint and sealants.
3 - Empire State Building is a 103-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. We have helped to carry out ongoing renovation work on the Empire State Building (built in 1930/31), transforming it into the most environmentally-friendly building in the city.
Our Sika products have contributed to a 38% reduction in energy consumption through renovation work to windows, cornices, roof terraces, facade elements and elevator shafts. To improve the insulation properties, the windows were sealed with Sikaglaze®, and then used Sikasil® to complete the waterprooﬁng and airtight installation work. All of the products and systems on this prestigious project are from Sika.
Where is Sika US heading? What are the targets?
Market penetration. We have to get back to a good a growth rate and for this we are investing into new people, new products and technologies and we are building new factories around the country. Also, acquisitions are an important topic for us to complete our product offering. For 2014 we want to grow sales organically between 5 – 10 %!
We want to be the leader in our industries; innovative and reliable to our customers; this includes the production of quality products which we ship on time and in the right quality!
What are the best things about living in New York City and what can you not be without?
I live in in iconic Manhattan, in the middle of New York City together with my family. Many people cannot imagine living in such a big and noisy city. We are City people though and enjoy the great opportunities of culture, art, music, etc. which NYC offers. Of course NYC also has some disadvantages like the traffic and the constant speed; for example car horns before the traffic lights turn green, just to make sure you will move!
What do you wish for your country for the future?
I am Swiss citizen and will always remain a foreigner in this country, although gently welcomed by the Americans. The Americans are very positive thinking people and therefore I am sure they will come out of this recession caused by the financial crisis soon and with an even stronger confidence!
The American way of life is “if you make it there, you make it anywhere!’’
For more information please visit Sika US.