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Discovery Newsletter: Perspective, Dave Robertson

January 1, 2016

min read

Last month, I celebrated my 10th year as KII’s president and chief operating officer. So this seems like a good time to reflect on what’s changed, what hasn’t and what’s next for Koch.

Our changes during the past 10 years have been significant. Just to name a few, we’ve updated our Vision and Guiding Principles, spent more than $46 billion on acquisitions, investments and capital expenditures, and transformed our Wichita campus.

Our strong financial performance helped us acquire Molex (which has more employees than any other Koch company) and enabled FHR, GP, Koch Chemical Technology Group and Molex to make significant acquisitions. We have also funded the building of world-class production facilities (still under construction) for INVISTA and KAES.

On a more personal note, Charles Koch wrote two best-selling books, celebrated the marriages of both of his children and is now a proud grandfather.

Not so happily, we have become even more of a target — especially for politicians and media attackers who choose to misrepresent our company, our principles and our owners. Consequently, we are managing our corporate reputation and telling our story much more actively.

What hasn’t changed

As much as we talk about embracing change, it should be clear to everyone that our shareholders have remained steadfast in doing what’s best for the company in a way that benefits society. They continue to fund our growth by reinvesting 90 percent of profits back into the company. 

Our desire to remain private, to hire based on values before skills, to be principled entrepreneurs and to emphasize humility and integrity continue to set us apart. 

I am especially proud of our company’s commitment to environmental, health and safety excellence. It is a big part of what defines us as a company.

We also continue to believe that Koch companies are capability-based rather than limited by industry areas. That’s why we continue to seek new opportunities where our capabilities can add value, rather than just doing more of the same.

And our fundamental goal to succeed by creating value for our customers and society as a whole is unchanged — which is why our opposition to corporate welfare remains so strong.

What’s next?

As Charles often reminds us, “the future is unknown and unknowable.” Even so, I’m willing to hazard a few thoughts about what’s ahead of us.

If we live up to our Vision of doubling earnings, on average, every six years, we will be a much bigger and even more diverse company in the year 2022. 

Just as we broadened our horizons with the acquisitions of INVISTA, Georgia-Pacific and Molex, I have no doubt that 10 years from now we’ll be in businesses that most of us can’t even imagine today.

Given the significant investments we’re making in new software, and the unrelenting pace of technological innovation in general, the tools we will have at our disposal are likely to be radically different in the years to come. 

We’re already hard at work developing bio-derived processes for creating chemicals and fuels, and finding new ways to engineer smart processes into our operations and products.

When I became president 10 years ago, there were no iPhones. Twenty years ago there were no DVDs. The future is likely to bring about more life-improving innovations at an even faster pace. 

So what? 

I’m confident that as an employee of a Koch company, you can look forward to more, better and different opportunities for applying your comparative advantages, leading to an even more fulfilling work life.

This company, shaped by our MBM® Guiding Principles, has made a real difference in the world and will continue to do so. 

Every day, we have more than 100,000 employees around the world working to produce products and provide services that help people improve their lives. That’s something I’m proud of, and I hope you are as well.

When I look back — not just 10 years ago when I started this role, but to 1984, when I began my career here with Koch’s asphalt business — it’s amazing to reflect on what has happened. 

What’s even more amazing is to think about what we will do tomorrow, next year and in the next 10 years. 

Given our unique combination of shareholders, private status, MBM culture, Guiding Principles and extremely talented employees, I have great confidence in the future of Koch Industries.

As Charles wrote in the conclusion of his new book, “Good Profit,” what we are doing at Koch contributes to a better life for millions of others around the world.

By pursuing our capabilities and passions, we “make a difference by helping others improve their lives.”