Meet the new CEO of Kreg Tool
A closer look: Edward McGreen
Edward McGreen was named the new CEO of Ankeny-based Kreg Tool in early April. He joined the company, which makes tools for do-it-yourself woodworkers, as chief financial officer in September 2022. Before joining Kreg, McGreen was at Berkshire Hathaway, where he worked in three different roles during his tenure with the company, and where he helped launch and became CEO of a home mortgage company.
He later joined Berkshire Hathaway Energy where, at its subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Co., he and a team were given the role of turning the company into an agile, forward-looking renewable energy company. McGreen later served as president of MidAmerican Energy Services, the unregulated retail arm of Berkshire Hathaway, selling energy in 11 states.
Today he’s leading Kreg Tool through a journey back to its roots and has seemingly mastered the video game Fortnite (keep reading for more on that). We recently caught up with him.
How has your professional experience prepared you to lead Kreg Tool?
I’ve had the benefit of working for some spectacular leaders and getting to understand how they collaborate within the organization and solve problems and focus the organization on the few key areas that are necessary to move it forward and to the next path of where the organization needs to be. From my perspective, organizations and leadership within organizations have really three functions. One is how do we get everybody together to problem-solve because a business is just a group of challenges and problems set in front of us, so how do we solve them and move forward? How do we focus on really the areas that are important and let the areas that are not important, put them to the side and get laser-focused on the three or four areas that are really going to impact an organization. Then creating that vision and communicating throughout the organization so people understand why we’re working on the things we’re working on, why it’s important to the organization and how everyone can participate in those opportunities so you can have the entire organization moving forward.
You say you’re not a “wood guy.” How does that relate to your mission at Kreg?
I’m familiar with the product we offer and with construction in general. I’ve done home improvement projects myself. I worked construction to work my way through college, but it’s not what I do when I go home every day. But we do have customers that do that, and we try to focus on and try to connect employees to what we’re trying to do, how we go about our business and making sure that we’re customer-connected, which is one of our core values. I think about that as when a customer has a tough day at work, they go home and want to forget the little issues of the day. They want to center themselves. I see them as using our products to get a sense of accomplishment. It’s a way for us to help our customers throw off the issues of the day and get centered as an individual.
What goals do you have for the company as CEO?
Whenever I step into a new role I try to lay out a 100-business-days plan. The environment today is a pretty difficult environment for everyone. We’re coming off the pandemic and I think we’re sitting in a place where everybody has sort of a COVID hangover. So navigating that process in the near term by ensuring that we’re doing things that are appropriate for the long-term sustainability of the organization, while at the same time focusing on things that are going to help us hit the ground running after we come out of this COVID hangover period. So in June we’re introducing a new innovative initiative. We’re going to be holding a number of communications and activities and starting a new innovative committee for our employees so we can get ideas throughout the organization. So we can start, whether it’s new product development, how we’re spending money in a certain department or how we’re marketing out products, trying to get all those ideas and get every single employee activated so we’re hearing all those voices. We’re also looking at how we connect with customers and how we can do that better than we do today.
What is your management style?
I’m a problem-solver at heart. So I’m always looking to see what are the issues we have to address that are most important. How do we simplify our approach to those issues, and how do we get as many of our team working together to solve those issues? I’m not a woodworker in my spare time, but we have amazing, intelligent individuals in our product management and product engineering group who look at all the woodworking projects that customers work on and they come up with the solution to solve that problem for that woodworker. I told [previous CEO and current board Chair Todd Somerfeld] if you’re looking for me to develop the next product, that’s not where I’m going to help. But working with our team to find the solutions to the challenges we need to solve — how do we go about that simply and quickly — that’s where I can really help focus teams.
What’s next for Kreg Tool?
I think the next step for our company, most people might think it’s a step backward, but it’s regrounding ourselves in our roots. We had gotten a bit too diluted in how we were going about what problems we were solving for our company. We were on a path where we were starting to think outside our core base of customers and we really need to focus on where the company is going and who the customer is, and those are joined at the hip. We always have to think about who our core customers are and how we support them in what we’re doing, and we started thinking outside of that area.
Tell us your secret for making eggs Benedict in under five minutes.
I made it once for my boys and they loved it, and so when they were younger they played baseball and we’d have to get out the door, so I’d ask them what they want for breakfast and they’d say eggs Benedict, so I’d make it really fast. You’ve got to be prepared for what you’re doing. The hollandaise sauce, I’m so used to making it, it’s pretty quick.
Is there a lesson in being prepared that you can bring to the office?
I try to learn lessons from everything. There’s lessons to be learned everywhere, and I try to impart that on my children as well. And even from mistakes and failure. As part of our innovative regrounding, we talk a lot about fail fast, fail often. If we’re really going to be ingenious about developing new products to provide better solutions, that’s really hard and you can’t do that overnight. You have to really focus on trying something, failing at it, learn your lessons from what you’ve learned and then try again.
Tell us something people may not know about you.
I have 64 Fortnight solo wins. The way I was able to achieve those is, my boys when they were in middle school or around that age, I wanted to make sure I understood what they were into. So I started playing with them and their comment was “Dad, you’re trash.” I was really terrible and I would jump into a game, lose and get thrown out almost immediately. My oldest son came to me and said I wasn’t good at battling so I should practice that. He said, “You have to drop into Tilted Towers because that’s where everyone learns to battle.” So I followed that advice and got much better. I still can’t build in the game and I’m still terrible at building, but through that I was able to start winning.
At a glance
Family: Married, two sons
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration with concentration in finance from Ohio State University; master’s in finance from George Washington University.
Activities: Plays golf, likes to cook (he tells us he can make eggs Benedict in less than five minutes).