On Thursday November 8th, Miles S. Nadal and Peerage Capital were honoured to host David Kohler, President & CEO of Kohler Co, for an intimate fireside chat. Guests were invited to interact with Kohler displays including a bathroom grooming mirror, which incorporates Amazon Alexa technology, and striking state-of-the-art faucets and sinks.
A highlight of the night was the presence of the Ryder Cup, which guests were welcomed to be photographed with. The next Ryder Cup will take place at Whistling Straights in Kohler, Wisconsin in 2020, and David is serving as the General Chair for this prestigious international professional golf event. Whistling Straights was named by Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., Executive Chairman of Kohler Co., who was inspired while walking the land during early construction of the golf course along the shores of Lake Michigan.1
After a warm introduction from Miles, David provided guests with some insights into the history of Kohler Co., started by his great grandfather, John Michael Kohler, an Austrian immigrant. The business has been run by four generations of Kohler family members since its inception in 1873.
What John Michael Kohler saw in 1873 when he looked at a cast iron horse trough was in fact the bathtub that launched a global plumbing company. A visionary, he understood the two essentials of exceptional design: an uncompromising commitment to craft and a willingness to be bold.2
Following the introduction, Miles engaged David in a Q&A session covering a variety of topics from David’s insight into Kohler Co.’s approach to emerging markets, the product design process, advertising and sustainable initiatives.
David’s father had the foresight to expand into China twenty-five years ago. Presently, Kohler is the number-one plumbing brand in China, and David projects that this market leadership position will continue growing stronger over the next twenty years. When Miles asked what other emerging markets Kohler Co. is excited about, David cited India for its rapidly growing middle-class cohort, and that Kohler Co. is already the number-one international plumbing brand in India.
David cited the words of John Ruskin, when asked about Kohler Co.’s approach to the design process.
“Life without labor is guilt. Labor without art is brutality.”
– John Ruskin
He used this quote to illustrate Kohler Co.’s approach and respect for the design process. David and his father Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., review each new design in person before it is approved and submitted for production. They will often go through several rounds of iterations on a new design before they feel it meets the Kohler standard and is ready to be sold to customers. This attention to detail does not exist only at the high-end luxury tier of products, but also across all product lines.
“We maintain a single level of quality regardless of price point across our many product and service categories.”3
– Herbert V. Kohler, Jr.
Sponsorship of Manchester United
Miles asked David about Kohler’s Co.’s decision to become a principal sponsor of Manchester United for its first-ever sleeve sponsorship deal unveiled this past July, 2018. David stated that the decision for the five-year sponsorship was well-founded as Manchester United sells a shirt every 11 seconds. It is the most popular sports franchise in the world, reaching into the US, Canada, The UK, China, South America, Asia and Europe. It is an alignment of two international luxury brands with strong histories and integrity. The marketing success of the partnership has already been fruitful. David shared that since the sponsorship was announced, Kohler Co. Facebook traffic has spiked with an incredible 400 million new views on the company’s corporate Facebook page.
David was genuinely proud of the work that Kohler Co. has been doing with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to design and fabricate closed loop flush toilet systems for field testing in developing world locations without adequate sanitation.4 Further to this concept, David stated that the ultimate innovation will be to create a waterless toilet, which he says is absolutely possible.
Following their fireside chat, David stayed to meet and be photographed with guests and the Ryder Cup.
As a privately held organization with a strong financial position both short-term and long-term, and leaders in innovation, design, emerging markets and sustainability, this incredible company is beyond impressive. It is a well-oiled machine. We look forward to watching them grow on the international stage for years to come.