Instant Message: Q&A with Cooper Industries’ Kirk Hachigian

For this month’s installment of our “Instant Message” series, Kirk Hachigian, president and CEO of Cooper Industries, graciously took the time to participate in a Q&A session with Hachigian opened up about who he is as a leader, who inspires him and his optimistic outlook on the electrical industry. He also gives his advice to someone just starting out in the industry and explains the best advice he’s ever received. Read more of Hachigian’s thoughts in the Q&A featured below.

Q: Describe
your leadership style

A: In general, I consider myself to be a demanding, direct and detail driven
individual who shuns bureaucracy for a flatter organization with free flowing communications.
I believe these qualities are reflected in a leadership style that encourages
collaboration and discussion amongst employees to continually set and achieve
demanding but realistic goals.

Q: What or who inspires you as a leader?

A: As
a leader, it doesn’t get much more inspirational than the work of individuals
like Tony Blair, Ronald Reagan, Jack Welch or Steve Jobs. Each of these men
challenged those around them to think differently in order to solve problems
and develop solutions. They embraced change, recognizing it as an opportunity as
opposed to a threat. They were innovators long before the term became

Q: What
keeps you up at night?

A: EVERYTHING! Like most leaders, I worry the most about our employees’ safety, as well as
global events and major issues affecting our business around the world. I try
to minimize those worries by starting very early each day and staying connected
24/7. I’ve found that day-to-day execution of the long-term strategy of the company
– whether it’s investments in new products, factory productivity, the
development of our people or large M&A acquisitions – can become a lot less
stressful when I’m able to stay informed and on top of the situation. 

Q: What
advice would you give to someone just starting out in the industry?

A: This
industry is one of the best in the world. It is global; it is growing; it’s
constantly evolving with new technologies; and you are satisfying a great consumer
need. I tell young people that the best way to start out is to work for great
companies, great leaders and to think big.  Work hard to gain valuable experience
and become an expert in sales, finance, technology, human resources, and
manufacturing – something they’re passionate about.

Q: What’s
the best advice someone has ever given you?

A: When
things are going well, try not to take too much of a “curtain bow” because it
generally doesn’t last long. On the converse of that, when things are not going
well, they are generally not as bad as you think they are – stay focused and
work hard because it will get better.

Q: What
is the most shocking thing you’ve ever heard in a job interview?

A: Fortunately,
my experiences have been mostly positive and not very shocking. However, when I
was interviewing back in college, a gentleman from Clorox made kind-of a
derogatory comment about young students at Berkeley which I found was somewhat
offensive. But that’s really it. I’ve found that most people have been very
relaxed and composed in job interviews.

Q: What
would you consider your biggest success?

A: My
biggest success has been the growth of the company, Cooper Industries, over the
past ten years. The fact that we have been able to transform the company from a
more domestic, conservative electrical component supplier, to a global,
high-technology, fast growing company with great wealth creation both for our
shareholders and employees has been remarkable. At the same time, we have been
able to promote and develop talent from within the company while making a
positive impact on our industry and helping our customers achieve their goals.

Q: What
would you consider your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

A: I
don’t really consider my biggest failures, failures. When something doesn’t go
right, I try to use it as a learning experience. In general, I’d say I learn a
lot more from mistakes or things that didn’t go well as opposed to those things
that were successful. That said, the biggest disappointments over my career have
been with respect to people; where someone has either let me down or cases
where I thought someone would develop a lot faster into a bigger role. I have
had to move to take people out of jobs and it is a very unfortunate thing to
do. They are always difficult decisions to be made, but I think my expectation
around certain leaders would be my biggest area of disappointment.

Q: Finish
this sentence…”If I wasn’t in electrical industry, I’d be…”

A: I’d
say in the technology arena somewhere. Probably with an IBM, a Hewlett Packard,
an Apple or an Intel since technology has always interested me. I’ve also
always been fascinated with space, so maybe in the aerospace industry, working
for NASA or possibly furthering my education to eventually become a teacher or
professor in the science and space fields.

Q: Where
do you see the industry going in the next 5 years?

A: Definitely
up. The outlook is just terrific – that the upgrading of the infrastructure
both domestically and in Europe needs to be spent on extensively; that emerging
markets continue to dominate the GDP growth around the world; that new
technology around efficiency and deep water drilling, LED technology and smart
grid all will transform our industries; and of course, the demands and needs
for safety and protection – whether it is people, equipment, or facilities, it
plays right into the strength of our industry. Overall, I am very excited and
optimistic about the long-term prospects of the electrical industry.


Kirk S. Hachigian serves as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cooper Industries. Mr. Hachigian joined Cooper in 2001 as Executive Vice President with responsibility for the five divisions of Cooper’s Electrical Products segment. In 2003, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer, and in 2004 he was named President and joined Cooper’s Board of Directors. In 2005, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer, and became Chairman in 2006.

Prior to joining Cooper, Mr. Hachigian was President and Chief Executive Officer of Asia Pacific Operations for GE Lighting. He held a number of key management positions with GE in Singapore, Mexico, Cleveland, and at the corporate headquarters in Fairfield, CT. Mr. Hachigian also worked for Oak Industries in general management, sales and marketing positions, and was a consultant with Bain & Company.

Mr. Hachigian serves on the boards of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, PACCAR Inc., the Houston Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Forethought Financial Group, Inc., the College of Engineering Advisory Board, University of California, Berkeley, and formerly served on the Boards of American Standard and National Association of Manufacturers. He is also a member of the Business Round Table. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.

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