December 01, 2010
Celebrating a Century of Success
by Barbara Seale
A Family Affair
Pictured (from left): Ryan Reigle, Director of International Sales; Matt Reigle, Director of New Business Development; Jeff Reigle, President & CEO; James D. Reigle, Chairman of the Board; Doug Reigle, COO; all under the watchful eye of the West Bend Co/Regal Ware Museum tribute to the founder, J.O. Reigle.
“Family” is probably the word Jeff Reigle uses most often when he talks about Regal Ware, the century-old business that his family has run since 1945. He talks about the family of companies. He describes Regal Ware’s 400 employees as a family. Many of them represent the third and fourth generations to work at a Regal Ware company. The sales consultants who own Regal Ware distributorships around the world are another branch on the family tree. And he refers often to the company’s dedication to the families who use the high-quality products Regal Ware creates.
“We are a big family—that’s central to our corporate philosophy,” he says. “We make decisions considering what’s best for our family of employees and consultants, and we do our best to live our guiding principles of integrity, dedication, performance and pride. Those are also the principles that are central to successful families. Our company was founded on them, and we try to make it obvious in everything we do.”
The roots of Jeff’s attitude probably stem from the fact that he is the third of four Reigle generations involved with the company. Each of them knows the company inside out because they all worked in its ground-floor functions before becoming management trainees and eventually company leaders. And he often refers to his grandfather, who founded the company.
James O. Reigle sold cookware door to door before he and a small group of investors bought the Kewaskum Aluminum Company and later renamed it Regal Ware. His vision was to develop “the finest plant with the finest equipment to produce the world’s finest cooking ware.”
After growing the company for 20 years, he turned its leadership over to his son, James D. Reigle. Maintaining his father’s philosophy, James D.’s goal was to carry on the company’s growth. He achieved that goal in spectacular style. Between 1965 and 1990 Regal Ware grew rapidly, and employment grew 285 percent. But he strongly believed that “the second task of a good executive is to train his replacement,” making the transition to his successor a smooth one. His eldest son, Jeffrey A. Reigle became Regal Ware’s president in 1992.
Two of Jeff’s three sons continue the tradition of working at the company. His brother Douglas J. Reigle is the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
Through wars and depressions the Reigles have been committed to maintaining a strong company that provides secure employment, satisfying work, and a business opportunity that consultants know they can count on. After all, that’s the way you treat family.
The Regal Ware family of businesses has been cooking up success for a solid century.
In the world of direct selling, only a few companies can lay claim to such impressive longevity. And since cookware is found in every department store and discount chain, 100 years of selling it direct to consumers is even more notable. The Direct Selling Association recognized Regal Ware’s longevity with its Century Club Award at its 2010 annual meeting.
Regal Ware actually will celebrate the birthday during 2011, marking 100 years since its West Bend® division was established. Regal Ware acquired West Bend in 2002. The two companies had always been aggressive, if friendly, competitors. The marriage of the two enduring entities made sense. They had so much in common. Both were well established—Regal Ware Worldwide has been run by the Reigle family since 1945. Both manufactured high-quality cookware, and both sold it through direct selling. They were even located less than 10 miles apart in southeastern Wisconsin.
When West Bend became part of Regal Ware Worldwide™, it joined a dynasty of companies that make up a true family of kitchenware kin. Its family tree includes well-known direct sellers Saladmaster® and Kitchen Fair®. When the company expanded into England and Europe in 1991, direct seller Classica® joined the family fold.
Regal Ware Worldwide wasn’t started by the Reigle family, but they’ve owned it for most of its life. James O. Reigle worked his way through college selling cookware door to door. He never forgot those times, and later he and two associates bought the Kewaskum Aluminum Company. They incorporated it as the Kewaskum Utensil Company. Its first product, shell casings for the military, soon gave way to a full line of high-quality aluminum cookware and electrics. Reigle’s preferred sales channel: direct selling.
Over the years, the company acquired several other companies and developed a culture of innovation and excellence. It introduced materials and products that revolutionized the industry and the way people cook. Colorful anodized accessories, stainless steel waterless cookware for direct sales, and patented lifetime nonstick coatings on cookware were just a few of the industry-leading ideas that emerged from Regal Ware. Employees who work in the company’s two major manufacturing plants take such pride in producing high-quality, beautiful merchandise that they actually refer to the silvery products as jewelry.
Generation to Generation
The culture arises from two things. First are the company’s core values of integrity, dedication, performance and pride. Just as important, Regal Ware is a corporate family, rather than a collection of brands. It’s a concept rarely found in today’s competitive business landscape. But for the Reigles, it’s a foundation that has let the company put down deep roots and retain its employees and salesforce for generations.
President and CEO Jeffrey Reigle is modest about the company’s enviable retention rate.
“We’re located in a small town, and we’re all kind of a big family here,” he says. “We know each other, and we know each other’s families. And we treat our employees and consultants like family. We try to live our core values with them, and I think they recognize and appreciate that.”
Simple day-to-day recognition of a job well done is part of the culture, and it results in a sense of pride that extends throughout the company.
“Although we’re proud of the company and what we accomplish, as a management team we’re not prideful people,” he says. “We give credit to the people who really did it. Recognition goes a long way in developing loyalty and making people feel good. And that makes me feel good about what I do.”
The management style that dedicates itself to bringing out the best in people and treating them like family has been a tradition from the beginning. The Reigles themselves have been at the helm of the company since 1945, starting with James O. Reigle.
When he retired in 1965, his son James D. Reigle was named President. He held that position until 1992 when Jeffrey A. Reigle became President and Chief Executive Officer. Jeff still holds that position, supported by two sons and a brother who work in the company. Jeff notes with pride that the company will continue to be led by a family member for a long time to come.
Born in the USA
But as proud as Jeff is of his family’s legacy at Regal Ware, he is equally proud of their accomplishments along the way. He takes great satisfaction that the company has continued to manufacture almost all of its products in the United States, primarily in its home communities of Kewaskum and West Bend, Wisconsin.
“It’s part of our overall vision,” Jeff says. “When my grandfather founded the company, it was a U.S.-based company, and sales were all U.S. based. His vision was to build wealth in this country and in this community for the people to work with us. My father continued to expand on that vision. Now we’re under some challenging economic times. It’s important that we keep those opportunities grounded here in the United States.”
Many of the company’s 400 employees work in one of those facilities, which are the only factories in the USA capable of manufacturing different cookware styles under one roof. Whether they’re producing multi-ply cookware, stainless steel cookware, gravity-cast aluminum cookware, or in-home water purification systems, having the facilities in the United States lets the company ensure consistent, high-quality products. It also gives it close control over the way products are delivered to customers, shipping almost any order within 48 hours to any one of the 50 countries in which it does business.
Each facility follows lean business and manufacturing practices—a system that drives all waste out of each process so that customers get the best possible value for what they buy.
“More than 40 percent of our revenue comes from outside the United States, but virtually everything we sell is made in one of our two factories here,” Jeff says. “There are some things we just can’t produce here, and we outsource them. But well in excess of 90 percent of what we sell is made here.”
Efficiency plus Environment
Regal Ware cooks up all that efficiency and top-notch customer service without sacrificing the environment. Executives say that at Regal Ware, “green” isn’t just a color. Instead, its Green by Design program demonstrates the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. It has developed procedures that minimize environmental impact. For example, its manufacturing air emissions, wastewater and solid waste treatment and disposal operate at levels that not only meet, but exceed all regulatory standards. It recycles enough paper and cardboard to save 3,283 trees and 19,309 gallons of gasoline annually. Its scrap metal recycling program saves 4,300 barrels of oil annually, and state-of-the-art fluorescent lighting systems save some 1.5 million kilowatt hours, or 137,000 gallons of gasoline, annually.
Perhaps the company’s dedication to the environment is inspired by the location of its manufacturing facilities. They’re not situated in industrial parks. Instead, the Kewaskum corporate office and manufacturing facility are located at the gateway to the unique Kettle Moraine State Forest, and the West Bend manufacturing plant is immediately adjacent to the scenic LacLawrann Conservancy, a beautiful 104- acre nature center that is managed for nature study and outdoor recreation.
Regal Ware’s business heritage, family-focused culture, commitment to business integrity, manufacturing excellence and environmental dedication are just some of the reasons the company’s salesforce joins and stays with the company, sometimes for generations.
“People see the company as an opportunity to work in a family atmosphere,” Jeff says. “Our reputation and guiding principles, the longevity and stability of our business—we’ve been here a long time. And we’re not just survivors. We’re leaders. We have great products, great programs, and we do a great job of presenting our opportunity. In the end, it becomes obvious how we can make a difference in the lives of consultants and customers.”
Regal Ware employees host various activities to give back to the communities in which the manufacturing facilities and offices are located.
Regal Ware’s consultants may represent different brands, such as Lifetime®, Royal Queen®, Saladmaster or others. But in the company’s direct selling lines, they all sell straight to customers. But unlike most direct sellers, they do it in locations ranging from private homes to county fairs to home shows, steaming and sautéing their way to sales. A set of cookware is a big purchase that customers will use for years to come, so income opportunity is substantial.
Some brands, such as Saladmaster and Kitchen Fair, work with their independent consultants to effectively grow in specific geographic areas. These consultants—entrepreneurs who own their own Saladmaster or Kitchen Fair business—often work in it full time. The consultant recruits independent salespeople who offer the company’s high-quality, low-moisture cookware. These independent salespeople often identify new sellers who join the company, but they don’t recruit downlines. It is, rather, a network of salespeople working together for success. One of the richest sources of new sellers or consultants is the company’s many satisfied customers.
Since Regal Ware consultants are constantly face to face with customers, they gain insights into the kinds of cookware that customers want and use most often. Those insights led the company to launch an innovative new line of cookware that will lay the foundation for a new business division.
New Company Planned
“We’re in the process of developing a new party plan program called Cooking for Applause™. The first test parties have been quite successful,” Jeff says.
He says that research as well as consultant experience show that many customers don’t need a big, traditional set of cookware. Instead, over time, they purchase a certain kind of cookware for frying, another for stews or soups, and yet another for steaming. Yet retailers and even direct sellers have traditionally offered sets of pots and pans that were all of the same material. Regal Ware has a different idea.
“Let’s let them buy what they need,” Jeff says. “That’s the concept behind Cooking for Applause. We designed this cookware around what our customers really need, as well as around our manufacturing capabilities. Aesthetically, we’ve made it a single line of cookware. It fits together visually but it’s of different constructions. No one has ever done that before.”
The company plans to increase the frequency of test parties and to fully launch the new brand in early 2011.
Family Dinner Table
Cooking for Applause is just one innovation in the works at Regal Ware, but it helps support another initiative: a program to encourage families to get back to the dinner table and eat together.
“Studies have shown that families don’t eat together anymore,” Jeff says. “When families sit down and eat dinner together regularly, studies show that problems go down. That’s when people talk to each other, so we want to give them an easier way to prepare a better meal, and it may help bring families back to the table.”
The company’s research turned up some stunning revelations. No one was surprised that today’s busy families rely on fast food for many of their meals, and home-cooked dinners are far less frequent than they were a generation ago. That creates a nutritional challenge that contributes to obesity and an increase in the number of type 2 diabetes cases. But the research revealed that the effects were more far-reaching than health issues. It showed that half of all teenagers will use an illicit drug by the time they finish high school. However, teens who eat family meals more than three times a week are half as likely to try drugs. Some 40 percent of kids who eat often with their parents report getting better grades in school than kids who have two or fewer family dinners a week.
Regal Ware responded by introducing the multi-construct cookware that Cooking for Applause will feature, but it went further. The company began to include the results of its research in its sales presentations to increase awareness among its customers.
“We think it’s something missing in our culture,” Jeff says. “If I can come into your home and talk to you about a way to enhance your family’s life, I think that resonates incredibly well. In the end, we really care about families.”
Regal Ware is still developing additional ways to enhance the program.
Over the next century, the Reigle family plans to continue to innovate and expand even as it maintains traditions such as family leadership and commitment to its employees, consultants, customers and community. All will be included in the 100th anniversary celebration—still a work in progress—that will be held in September 2011. It plans to invite them all to the West Bend facility for a celebration and tours of the Cookware Museum, which is devoted to the products of Regal Ware and its acquired companies and the impact that these products have had in nationally shaping American consumerism and women’s history. It will be a celebration that commemorates the company’s history even as it looks forward to a great future.