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30 Best Leaders to Watch 2022

Engineering the Power of Water: Employee-Centric StoneAge, Inc., a Globally Recognized Innovator, Plans to Expand its International Presence

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“Our success in being the world’s leader in waterblast tooling and automated solution is all about who we are and what we stand for.”

Kerry Siggins is the CEO of StoneAge, Inc., a global leader in designing and manufacturing high-pressure waterblasting and sewer cleaning tools and equipment used in the industrial cleaning industry. StoneAge sells and supports its products throughout the world and has over 170 dealers in 45 countries. She is also the Vice President of the Waterjet Technology Association (WJTA).

Kerry joined StoneAge in January of 2007 as the Director of Operations. In 2009, she was named CEO by StoneAge’s Board of Directors and has since led the company in building a robust global presence resulting in double-digit growth year over year. She recently acquired Breadware, an Internet of Things (IoT) product development firm based in Reno, NV.

Under Kerry’s leadership, StoneAge became an ESOP company in 2015, and her employees enjoy a strong culture of ownership and engagement. She is proud that StoneAge shares a significant amount of its success with its employees and believes that ESOPs are a viable model for founders looking to exit their companies. 

Kerry was named a ‘Top Influential CEO’ in 2021 and was a finalist for Colorado’s ‘CEO of the Year’ in 2017. StoneAge is recognized as a top 100 company to work for by Outside Magazine. Kerry sits on several other boards, including Chinook Medical Gear and the Fort Lewis College School of Business Advisory Board. In addition, she is an avid supporter and volunteer for multiple organizations, including Fort Lewis College, Trails 2000, La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, and the Women’s Resource Center. Kerry is a member of YPO Colorado, where she is on the executive committee of the Doing Business Globally Network. She is a dynamic, sought-after speaker who presents worldwide at corporations, universities, seminars, and conferences. She hosts two podcasts, Industrial Theory and Reflect Forward. She is an author, blogger, and contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Authority Magazine, and BIC Magazine, and her blog is visited by thousands of readers each month. 

The Silicon Review reached out to Kerry Siggins, who spoke about how the company is making a difference in this segment and leading the pack from the front. Below is an excerpt.

Head to Head with Kerry Siggins, CEO of StoneAge, Inc.

Q. What’s your story?

After graduating from college in 2001, I was lost. From a career perspective, I knew I didn't want to be an engineer, but I didn't know who I was or what kind of job I wanted. Feeling useless, I succumbed to my wild ways again and developed substance abuse issues. I decided a fresh start would help, so I moved to Austin, TX, working for Eaton Corporation. Eaton helped me find my love for people management and the complex world of manufacturing and engineering operations. Still, my drug issues, ever-present, diminished my effectiveness and almost took me down. In 2006, I decided enough was enough. I knew I had potential and could live a more fulfilling, successful life, so I moved back to a rural town in Colorado to start over, once again. When I got to Durango, I did what you do in a small town, apply for jobs posted in the local newspaper. StoneAge was looking for a General Manager, and even though I was grossly underqualified, I applied. The co-founders saw something in me – potential, drive, smarts, and a positive attitude – so they took a risk and hired me. I had just turned 28.

Q. Who do you look up to and why?

I am currently admiring all kinds of different authors. I am getting ready to publish my first book and I have been reading like crazy to learn from writers I admire. A lot goes into writing a book worth reading and I am inspired by writers who can convey their ideas clearly and inspire action.

Q. What makes StoneAge the world’s leading waterblast tools and automated solutions manufacturer?

Our success in being the world’s leader in waterblast tooling and automated solution is all about who we are and what we stand for. Guided by the vision of our founders and the dedication of our employee-owners, StoneAge creates an impactful and positive presence in the lives of our employees, customers, and local communities. By staying true to our core values of creating rewarding jobs and constructive culture, engineering industry-leading products and services, and providing an exceptional customer experience, we have grown our company culture, customer loyalty, and long-term business success.

We use creativity, resolve, and comprehensive job performance to equip our customers with exceptional products, training, and expertise. We listen to our customers. We work diligently to solve their problems and adapt to market changes, drive business success, and enable safe work for their employees. We share our technical expertise freely to promote and facilitate safety, efficiency, and productivity across our industry.

Our mission is to inspire our employees and our customers to say, "Why would I choose anyone but StoneAge?" Our focus on our mission makes us the leaders in our industry. It’s the combination of innovative products, exceptional service, and the determination of our employee-owners to deliver outcomes that our customers appreciate.

Q. Where does StoneAge stand at the moment relative to other participants in the industry?

While we pay some attention to our competitors, we primarily focus on solving customer problems and creating a workplace where people care deeply about providing our customers with great products and excellent service. Because our employees are owners, they are invested in our customers’ success, making a huge difference. No one in our industry can compete with our culture and how it translates into customer success. It fills us with pride and gratitude when our customers come to visit us at our headquarters in Durango, Colorado, and say, “I’ve never seen such happy employees. They are all so proud of the work they do. Can I work here?” We differentiate ourselves by our unique combination of high-quality, easy-to-use products, exceptional customer service, and brilliant, hard-working employees. We also take calculated risks that advance our vision for the company and work hard not to be distracted by opportunities that take our focus off our most important strategic initiatives. I believe all of these things combined put us far ahead of the other manufacturers in our industry.

Q. In what industries are your clients? And what are the different products and equipment your company offers?

Our clients are primarily industrial cleaning contractors who provide maintenance services to industrial facilities such as refineries, chemical, petrochemical, food processing, and power plants, to name a few. We provide our customers with waterblasting tools and equipment used to clean equipment in these plants. Think squirt guns on steroids, but safer and more effective.

Q. Currently, StoneAge is active in 47 countries. Do you plan to expand your global footprint?

Yes, absolutely. The world is a dirty place, and someone has to clean it. And if whoever is doing the cleaning is going to use water, they should be using a StoneAge product.

Q. No doubt StoneAge is charting new territories in this segment. Given how frequently circumstances change, what plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?

We are rolling out a digital customer experience platform that will change the way the industry works, and our newest product, the Sentinel Automation Technology, produces data that our customers can analyze, improving cleaning quality and accuracy.

We recently purchased Breadware, an IoT product development firm based in Reno, Nevada. While they continue to help their clients bring IoT products to life, they also help us develop new technology and bring it to market faster.

We also have a custom engineering division called StoneAge Solutions that develops one-off solutions for unique cleaning applications. Many of our “off the shelf” product ideas have come from this division. We separate research and development, which helps us explore new ideas without the pressure of turning them into a product.

“We are rolling out a digital customer experience platform that will change the way the industry works, and our newest product, the Sentinel Automation Technology, produces data that our customers can analyze, improving cleaning quality and accuracy.”