The Five

By Deb Levy

Here’s a riddle: There have only been five of them, and I’m the only person on earth to have interviewed all of them. Who are they? Answer: the CEOs of Apogee Enterprises Inc.

It’s been an honor to interview each of them over the years, going all the way back to the first, Russ Baumgartner, one of its founding fathers.

I had hoped for a couple of years to turn the quartet of interviews into a quintet. That privilege came on May 24, courtesy of the current CEO, Ty Silberhorn. Editorial director Ellen Rogers and I met with him at his offices in Minneapolis for a wide-ranging discussion about Apogee’s future and his first few years in the job.

Each CEO was at different points in their career when I interviewed them. Russ Baumgartner was a bit of a rarity in business-a lawyer by trade willing to take significant amounts of risk. By doing so, he grew a small auto glass shop into one of the largest U.S. glass industry companies and one of the few publically traded. He was contemplating the future of his company beyond him when we met.

Don Goldfus worked for many years before taking over from Baumgartner. When I asked how he defined success, Goldfus said any day he made a new friend was a success to him, and I believed he meant it. But that comment belied a sharp, aggressive businessman who gambled at the game of business as well as the best card players in Vegas gamble at poker. I got to work with him on various industry projects and I enjoyed and learned a lot from him.

Russ Huffer was the last “homegrown” CEO to rise from Apogee’s own ranks. He was one of the first to realize the advancements needed and opportunities ahead for those who created energy-efficient facades.

Joe Puishys brought 32 years of experience at Honeywell to Apogee and focused on the energy-efficiency in a different way. He helped the industry realize that the commercial retrofit market was bursting with opportunities for increased energy efficiency. Every old façade could be new again with upgraded efficiency.

And Silberhorn? You’ll get to meet him beginning on page 38. His many years at 3M have begotten a consummate professional focused on Apogee’s efficiency, growth and employees.

Besides longevity (three of the past four are still with us), there are common traits among all five CEOs. They all, as Puishys said, “bleed Apogee blood.” They have focused on employees as a key to success and concentrated on efficiency in manufacturing. It’s been an honor to write about each of them.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *