StoneAge, Inc. was established in 1979 and has since become a global leader in the industrial cleaning industry, crafting high-pressure waterblast cleaning tools and innovative robotic equipment. In 2009, the Board of Directors made a bold decision to appoint a young 28-year-old, Kerry Siggins, as CEO, who had joined StoneAge a few years earlier as the Director of Operations. Kerry fondly recalls, “I quickly learned how to adapt my leadership style to effectively guide a team of brilliant individuals who possessed far more expertise than I did. As a relatively young leader, especially in my role, I had a lot to discover—not just about our products and the industry, but also about the art of managing and inspiring people.”
Navigating the intricacies of leadership and motivation demands exceptional skills. Kerry shares, “Honestly, I made my fair share of mistakes in my early days, and I continue to learn from the challenges I face today.” Despite the hurdles, Kerry’s leadership has propelled StoneAge into establishing a robust global presence, leading to remarkable double-digit growth year after year.
In 2023, Kerry earned recognition as one of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Her exceptional leadership also landed her a spot as a finalist for Colorado’s CEO of the Year in 2017. Today, she not only guides StoneAge but also serves on multiple other boards, bringing her valuable insights to diverse arenas. As a member of YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), she plays an active role on the executive committee of the Business Networks Council.
Leading the Transformations
StoneAge has a fascinating history that began in Durango, Colorado. The company started by creating a unique water jet drill for uranium mining, making explosives work safer. But soon after, StoneAge made a smart decision to switch gears and focus on industrial cleaning, which has led it to become a global leader in the industry. Today, the company offers a wide range of resources, cutting-edge technology, and automated equipment to customers in 50 countries. Reflecting on this journey, Kerry shares, “StoneAge is a company known for its ability to pivot, and during my tenure, we’ve undergone significant transformations. We’ve redefined our business model by developing robotic solutions and venturing into the global market.”
StoneAge is currently rolling out a revolutionary digital customer experience platform poised to reshape industry norms. Leading this charge is their latest innovation, Sentinel Automation Technology™, which generates invaluable data for customers to fine-tune heat exchanger cleaning, enhancing precision and quality. Furthermore, StoneAge has expanded its reach through strategic acquisitions, most notably Medium One, an Internet of Things (IoT) cloud platform software. This addition strengthens Breadware, StoneAge’s wholly-owned subsidiary, dedicated to end-to-end IoT product development.
Kerry’s philosophy underscores StoneAge’s success, “Our ascent to becoming the world leader in waterblast tooling and automated solutions is deeply rooted in our identity and values.” Guided by the visionary founders and the unwavering commitment of its employee-owners, StoneAge leaves an indelible mark on the lives of its workforce, customers, and local communities. Kerry emphasizes, “By remaining steadfast to our core values—creating meaningful jobs, nurturing a constructive culture, engineering top-tier products and services, and delivering an unparalleled customer experience—we’ve not only cultivated our corporate culture but also fostered customer loyalty and enduring business prosperity.”
StoneAge is more than just a tool-making company. They’re problem solvers who are driven by their passion for excellence and dedicated to putting their customers first. The company’s top priority is workplace safety, and it is constantly adapting to meet the changing needs of the market. StoneAge is also known for sharing its technical expertise with others in the industry, which helps promote safety, efficiency, and productivity for everyone. Kerry passionately states, “Our mission is to inspire both our employees and customers to ask, ‘Why choose anyone but StoneAge?’ This firm focus on our mission makes us the leaders in our industry—a combination of innovative products, exceptional service, and the unyielding resolve of our employee-owners to deliver outcomes that resonate deeply with our customers.”
Empowering Employees to Embrace Ownership
At StoneAge, ownership isn’t just a concept; it’s a way of life. This culture of ownership has been ingrained in the company since the 1990s, when it became proudly employee owned. Initially, the stock purchase program was implemented not with succession in mind but as a means for the founders to share the fruits of the company’s success with its dedicated team. Over time, an ESOP emerged as the most viable succession solution, as the founders wanted to exit the stage gracefully. Kerry elaborates, “We’ve fostered an incredible environment where every employee thinks and acts like an owner.”
This sense of ownership among StoneAge’s employees becomes a powerful catalyst for their customers’ success. Kerry explains, “Our industry can’t match our culture and how it translates into customer satisfaction. It’s a source of immense pride and gratitude when our customers visit us at our Durango, Colorado headquarters and exclaim, ‘I’ve never seen such content and proud employees. Can I join the team?’ We distinguish ourselves through a rare blend of top-notch, user-friendly products, exceptional customer service, and a cadre of brilliant, dedicated employees.” Kerry is deeply passionate about what she terms “The Ownership Mindset.” It’s about fostering growth, self-awareness, accountability, enhanced communication skills, and taking full responsibility for every aspect of life, even the challenges.
At StoneAge, providing employees with fulfilling jobs and the opportunity to collaborate with extraordinary colleagues while accomplishing meaningful work in the industry is a core tenet. Kerry states, “As a 100% employee-owned company, we’re tasked with conducting ourselves as astute owners. This means merging the challenges and rewards of business acumen with our skills, talents, and knowledge. It also means connecting on a human level as we perform our roles to ensure our company remains a trailblazer in the industry.” Anchored in values such as “Be a Great Teammate,” “Practice Self-Leadership,” and “Deliver on the StoneAge Assurance Promise,” StoneAge’s culture empowers employees to grasp how their performance and their personal presence contribute to their success, both in their careers and lives. Kerry adds, “We firmly believe that when our employees fully embrace the ‘Own It Mindset,’ it will perpetuate StoneAge as a thriving business for generations to come. We all shoulder the responsibility for nurturing our culture, which we take with the utmost seriousness—because we OWN IT!”
StoneAge’s ambition reaches beyond the confines of the workplace. The company aims to create 1,000 millionaires through its employee ownership program. This endeavor aims to redefine capitalism’s narrative by spreading significant wealth across all levels of the organization, not just at the top. “The path to creating a thousand millionaires lies in our dedication to innovating products and services that enhance our customers’ lives. We’ve got big plans to disrupt our industry, and we are beyond excited for the future,” declares Kerry.
Crafting a Workplace of Excellence
StoneAge, led by Kerry, has been recognized as a distinguished member of Outside Magazine’s Top 100 Companies to Work For and Inc. Magazine’s Best Places to Work. Kerry believes that this recognition is due to the company’s culture of care. She says, “We look out for our employees, and in return, they extend their care to each other, our valued customers, and the fabric of our organization.”
Investing substantially in the well-being, happiness, and engagement of its workforce, StoneAge offers an array of perks that reflect its dedication to employee welfare. The company boasts an on-site gym and a comprehensive wellness program that rewards individuals for maintaining their health.
But it’s not just physical well-being that receives attention. Kerry shares, “We’ve gone the extra mile by incorporating a life coach into our team, specifically focused on helping employees understand their stress responses and triggers.” Such initiatives underscore the company’s commitment to addressing the holistic needs of its employees.
Transparency is a cornerstone of StoneAge’s culture. In its decision-making processes, the company operates with an open-book policy, treating its employees as trusted adults with a stake in the organization’s journey. Kerry highlights, “We embrace the notion of work being fun while simultaneously playing a vital role in sustaining the supply chain. It’s this fusion of dedication and enjoyment that defines us.”
The strong feeling of pride among the employees of StoneAge can be felt throughout the entire organization and impacts the industry as a whole. Kerry shares, “We have created a culture that is truly exceptional through careful attention to detail, and it is the collective effort of everyone that drives this achievement.”
Fostering a Culture of Empowerment and Ownership, the Kerry Way
Imagine being a CEO, especially one who’s young and relatively new to the role. Leading and inspiring a team to take ownership and thrive is quite challenging. Kerry firmly believes that leaders should prioritize listening to their teams regardless of background. She says, “It’s amazing what you can do when you listen carefully to what people tell you and then help them solve problems.” Kerry understands that this simple act of attentive listening can be the foundation of trust and stronger team connections.
In Kerry’s view, a leader’s strength derives from the team they lead. She advocates helping individuals discover where their unique talents and strengths fit within the organization. It’s not just about having great team members; it’s about ensuring they’re in roles that allow them to shine. Kerry shares, “Once you have the right people on your team, you must ensure they are in the right roles, aligning their talents with their job.” This commitment to aligning talents with roles earned Kerry the affectionate title of “Human Engineer” from her team. It reflects her dedication to ensuring that each team member occupies a position where their potential can flourish.
Challenges are integral to leadership, and Kerry doesn’t shy away from them. She encourages leaning into the discomfort of uncertainty and making tough decisions. She pinpoints, “The only way through challenges is by taking action.” This straightforward approach to facing challenges is symbolic of her leadership style.
Kerry identifies four essential qualities for effective leadership: integrity, authenticity, transparency, and decisiveness. She believes these qualities are the cornerstones of an ownership mindset within an organization. Kerry states, “Great leaders are honest and transparent and make well-thought-out but decisive decisions.” These attributes serve as both a guide and an inspiration for her leadership philosophy.
Ultimately, Kerry’s leadership isn’t about striving for perfection; it’s about embodying an ownership mindset and inspiring others to do the same. She aims to create a workplace where everyone feels a strong sense of responsibility for the organization’s success. “We’ve built a remarkable culture, and it takes each of us to do it,” concludes Kerry.
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