During the holiday season we should take time to reflect on all of the great things that have happened throughout the year. The Rodon Group is very grateful to have had yet another momentus year full of recognition, awards and great customers.
12/19/13 1:05 PM
10/10/13 11:09 AM
While our government may have come to a standstill last week on Friday, October 4th, Manufacturing Day at The Rodon Group continued with a few last minute changes. Absent were our local congressman and delegates from the Commerce Department. However, we still had a great turnout including educators, workforce development professionals and local business leaders. Our speakers included our President and CEO Michael Araten, the CEO of Bollman Hats and Founder of American Made Matters, Don Rongione as well as John Grant, Manager of Government Affairs for SPI, The Plastics Industry Trade Association.
7/23/13 10:13 AM
Michael Araten, President and CEO of K'NEX Brands, L.P. and The Rodon Group, was interviewed by Liz Clamen of the popular Fox Business After The Bell show on Friday, July 12th. Mr. Araten revealed a new intiative to market the K'NEX brand in China.
7/10/13 10:41 AM
100 CEO Leaders throughout the country were recently interviewed in a new publication from STEM Connector®, an organization with the goal of becoming “The one-stop for STEM Information.” According to their website “STEMconnector® works closely with corporations and other organizations to provide them with a set of tools and resources that support their corporate development, corporate structure and smart STEM investments.” STEM Connector® offers resources to both the corporate and educational communities; all supporting the goal of compiling and disseminating information to STEM related stakeholders.
Liz Clamen, co-anchor of After The Bell, a Fox Business News program, featured an interview with The Rodon Group and K'nex Brands President and CEO Michael Araten.
6/21/12 10:00 AM
When I first arrived at K’NEX in 2006 I was asked to outline a vision for growth. As president and CEO, I had to find a way to blend the culture of the toy business with our manufacturing business, The Rodon Group.
The two companies never really had a joint vision before so, in order to encourage growth in both organizations, I realized I would have to create a strategic plan that would move both companies forward yet maintain their separate agendas.
As I sought input from our nearly 200 employees and received advice from outside agencies, I realized that the key to a successful plan was to carefully craft objectives and then monitor progress towards them to ensure that our actions were effective.
Listen before you act
First, ask a lot of questions about what is working, what’s not and get everyone’s opinion on why that is. A key part of any CEO’s job is to assess the people they’ve got and then assess the information you are getting. You then need to weigh your options based on what you think has the most credibility and gain a sense of where you are.
Next, look at the marketplace and decide what you can do to gain more of a market share. I believe that you either grow or you die. Identify your competencies. At K’NEX, we define a core competency as something that we don’t want anyone else to have or would take a lot of time and money for someone else to copy. Once your competencies are identified, evaluate the avenues that are open for growth, then the X factor is who you bring into the room for that process.
Some people say that when you get more than six people in a room, things start to breakdown, but I believe more heads are better than one. You need all disciplines represented because if you don’t, someone’s not doing checks and balances of keeping you honest in what you’re trying to accomplish.
At K’NEX & Rodon we involved people from every major discipline in our discussions and we encouraged them to share our findings with their groups on a departmental level.
They came back and said, “We shared this at our team meetings last week, and we got some other things where they thought, yep, we agree with a lot of this, but here are some things we think you can focus on more or we think you missed.” Ultimately we involved about 80% of the company in some way.
Ask yourself the right questions
The big three questions for me are 1. Do we believe what we’re doing is going to maximize our chances at success, and why? 2. Do we have the resources, whether it’s time, people, capital, to pursue what we think are the best options? 3. Do the people have the skill level to do what you need them to do? If not, how are you going to train them or supplement them with other talent?
The quickest way to get buy-in is to identify some easy opportunities that you can execute against quickly to show people the potential. Nothing makes people believers like success. It’s finding some quick wins and then reminding people of them. The reasoning is: if we set these goals, we can go get them, because here are the goals that we’ve already achieved.
It’s constant communication because when you get mired, as people ultimately do in their day-to-day grind of whatever it is they’re focused on, they may feel like they’re not moving the ball forward. I think it’s the CEO’s job to remind them, “Here is what we’ve done so far. Here’s the period of time we’ve done it in. Here’s where we’re headed. We’re not all the way there yet, but let’s understand that we have made progress along the way.”
Gauge whether the plan works
It’s about the bottom line. It’s about meeting the profitability goals. If the strategy is delivering to the bottom-line, then it’s working. Sometimes there’s a balance between delivering to the bottom line and, at least on our toy side, buying market shares. As long as you understand and measure progress towards the goal, you’ve measured it appropriately.
Not everything pays back the month or quarter you invest in it. You just have to acknowledge that going in. If you are beyond the expected payback period, you need to investigate whether it’s the right strategy, the right tactics or even the reasonableness of your expectations.
I think that’s sometimes where companies fall astray. They say, “Well, I don’t see any returns yet; let’s move on to the next thing.” I think you have to be disciplined, patient and ask “When did we think this would pay back? When did we think we would see these gains? Are we there yet? If we’re not, let’s understand that.
About the author Michael Araten joined K'NEX and the Rodon Group in May 2005 to serve as Vice President and General Counsel, became President and COO in January 2006 and assumed his present position, President and CEO K’NEX Brands and the Rodon Group, in January 2009.
Michael Araten can be seen on the CNBC's series titled "How I Made My Millions". The CNBC show will rerun on Sunday, June 24th 8:00PM ET.
6/12/12 12:00 PM
Hatfield, PA – May, 2012 – K’NEX, the only US construction toy company focused on Building Worlds Kids Love™, and its sister company, the Rodon Group, are honored to announce that they have been named a 2012 SmartCEO 100 Best-Run Company, a program run by SmartCEO magazine. One hundred companies that have experienced consistent growth and are leaders in their industries are awarded this prestigious accolade.
The Rodon Group/K’NEX Brands President and CEO Michael Araten Participates in Upcoming Corporate Philanthropy Summit
4/3/12 11:30 AM
Michael Araten, President and CEO of The Rodon Group and K’NEX Brands will join the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Philanthropy Summit: Meet the Champions of Charity held on April 26, 2012 in Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia Business Journal and presenting sponsor Wells Fargo convene with the region's leading business and civic leaders to share best practices about philanthropy and community engagement. The summit’s keynote message will be by Shane Victorino, MLB Player, Philadelphia Phillies and Founder of The Shane Victorino Foundation. The Shane Victorino Foundation is dedicated to promoting opportunities for under-served youth by engaging in projects which provide children with educational, recreational and wellness programs.
Michael Araten, President and CEO of K’NEX Brands, will appear on Executive Leaders Radio Program broadcasts September 24th-26th. As part of the elite interview format, Araten shared his views on the opportunities and challenges K’NEX Brands faces.
K’NEX Brands has 2 operating units – K’NEX, the only US construction toy company focused on Building Worlds Kids Love™; and The Rodon Group, an American custom plastic injection molder specializing in high volume, small plastic parts for over 100 industries.
“At K’NEX and Rodon, we’ve learned that manufacturing in America is often more cost effective than manufacturing overseas,” said Michael Araten, President and CEO of both K’NEX Brands and The Rodon Group. “We are thrilled to make this kind of quality, cost effective domestic manufacturing available to other businesses looking to eliminate the risks of offshore sourcing.”
Araten’s interview can be heard on these stations:
Saturday, September 24th on WNJC/1360AM at 4pm (live stream www.wnjc1360.com)