Name: Walter C Johnsen
Job Title: Chairman and CEO
Company: Acme United Corporation
Describe what you do in less than 15 words. I lead a highly innovative global supplier of cutting, measuring and safety products.
What were your childhood ambitions? I wanted to start a company and work for myself.
What was your first full-time job? During college, I was an intern in the US House of Representatives, Banking and Currency Committee. I worked on a loan guarantee for Lockheed.
What was your first vehicle/car? It was a row boat with a 5hp motor. I was 13 and spent my summer days fishing.
What is your favourite holiday destination? The beach in Antigua, West Indies. I have not been there in three years.
What do you begrudge spending money on? I get upset when people do not treat our corporate assets as their own. It happens very rarely at Acme.
What makes you angry? Investors who view our company as a tradable piece of paper, instead of understanding its vision, people, efforts and potential.
What was your luckiest break? Marrying my wife Wendy who is incredibly bright and supportive. We have a lot of fun together.
What is your best piece of advice? Surround yourself with talented people who get things done.
Which industry figure do you most admire? Why? Tom Stemberg who had a dream, did it with a great team, and left a huge legacy.
What has been the best moment in your career? In 2005 Acme United won the OPI Vendor of the Year award. I was humbled accepting the award on behalf of our team.
What has been the worst moment in your career? Closing seven plants globally and laying off hundreds of workers. It continues to pain me.
What would you like to be doing in five years’ time? I would like to be CEO of Acme United, which might be triple its current size.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would go to college again, study harder, and stay longer.
Have you got a claim to fame? Six years ago, I was one of the founders of a yacht club because I could not get in the local one. I am the Commodore and we have 400 members. Last year, one of our members won the Swan 45 World Championship in Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK. Another won the World 470 Championship in Sydney, Australia.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? I was a bar tender for a day. There were rows of people, spilled drinks, wrong orders and lots of complaints. The next day I was being served seated at the bar.
What has been your biggest achievement? We turned Acme United from a struggling manufacturer of scissors to a leading global supplier.
What is the most memorable (or annyoying/scary) travel experience you’ve had while in the OP industry? I flew to Hong Kong a week after 9/11. The tension and anxiety were incredible.
Have you got any annoying habits? I sometimes snore. One time a flight attendant woke me up to let the rest of the passengers sleep.
Do you have any interesting/unusual hobbies? I enjoy history from about 1800 to 1850. It was an exciting period with Napoleon, Nelson, whaling, pirates, the China Trade and gold rushes. I find it fascinating.
What do you think has been the best innovation (product, process, system, etc.) in the OP industry in the last two years? The Blackberry and iPhone. They have revolutionised communication. Last year I was in touch from a ship in the very northern Arctic Ocean.
What do you think will be the biggest single factor/issue affecting the OP industry over the next five years? Retailers will continue to expand their global presence and create huge opportunities in developing markets.
What business/management book would you recommend as essential reading? Who Moved My Cheese. Markets, sources, and customers change. Business models change. There are no entitlements.
How would you like to be remembered? As an executive who pulled a great team together and built a quality company with integrity.