By Kelsey Hoff
When James Kettinger, President and CEO of Kenosha-based IEA, and a 1980 University of Wisconsin-Parkside graduate, returned to campus Tuesday, April 3, as the spring 2012 Executive in Residence he had a major announcement to make. After being introduced by School of Business and Technology Dean Dr. Fred Ebeid, Kettinger told students he had reached an agreement to purchase IEA from its long-standing owners and expected to complete the acquisition in the next few weeks.
Kettinger's journey from UW-Parkside business student to ownership of a company that generates millions of dollars in revenue and employs nearly 300 people was the basis for his presentation "Applied Leadership Lessons: Career and Business Success Essentials." His mantra for the day: "Begin with the end in mind." He stressed the importance of setting goals and following through with them, and the value of making decisions that pave the way to career success.
He personalized the program for UW-Parkside students, challenging them to set their goals very high.
"When you ask yourself the question: 'What can I do with a UW-Parkside degree?' the answer should be: 'Anything you want,'" Kettinger stated.
Starting with a quote from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," in which Alice asks the Cheshire Cat "Which way should I go?" Kettinger said that is the most essential question in career planning. The steps he took--and recommends for job-seekers--are actions clearly targeted to reaching stated career goal. These steps include association memberships, networking, continuing education, strategic job changes, and even relocating as long as every action is aligned with career goals.
Kettinger said he personally took those steps in order to embrace his community and engage with other people. He explained that individual success is actually a community effort, and community support can be gained by using empathy: seeing from other people's point of view to create an image and make career decisions; striving to create win-win situations with others to make a good impression and expand your network.
Under the heading "You, Inc.," Kettinger encouraged students to view themselves as individual business entities--even when working for a company; with services to differentiate, market, and sell to customers.
"Never be fooled into believing that you are working for anyone but yourself," Kettinger emphasized. "You should think like a winning service provider and a business executive at all times."
Using IEA as an example, Kettinger said he treats his own employees as business executives first and employees with operational tasks second.
IEA provides heating and cooling systems for large-scale internal combustion engines used mainly for power generation. The company's other product line is Silver Linings, which are thermally-managed enclosures for modular data centers. Kettinger said the demand for cloud computing and data usage has necessitated more flexible and efficient data centers, making them industrial products rather than architectural structures.
The company employs 270 people in Kenosha and Menominee Falls. He added the company has made great strides in the past five years going far beyond its previously narrow customer list and product base by diversifying its product line.
Kettinger pointed out that IEA is a completely green operation with a careful concern for the environment.
"IEA has grown from a small, entrepreneurial manufacturer to a rapidly growing supplier of world-class products to a global market," he said.
Held once each semester, the UW-Parkside Executive In Residence program gives students and faculty an opportunity to learn directly from area business leaders. Each program provides students with expert guidance for entering and succeeding in the world of commerce while enhancing UW-Parkside's partnership with businesses in the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor.
In the photo, Executive in Residence James Kettinger, center, speaks with SBT board members following his presentations to students. He is flanked by UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford and Dean Fred Ebeid.