It was never a part of Gerry Krippner’s plan to take over the family business, but 25 years after graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, he sat in front of a group of California State University, San Marcos students to discuss what it is like to be the CEO of a company founded by his father and co-owned by his brothers.
Horst Krippner founded HK Plastics Inc. in 1974. The company specializes in creating different plastics parts for other major manufacturers and has a division that makes screws.
Gerry, Horst’s third child, vowed he would not work for the company shortly after graduating from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. After spending some time working as a consultant, Gerry decided to give the family business a chance in 1990.
He spent his first year or two at the company designing and engineering products until one day when his father approached him with a piece of paper and told him to sign it. Gerry did so without question.
“I asked [my father], ‘What did I just sign?’” recalled Gerry. “And he goes, ‘Well, you’re the president now.’”
Gerry said he was not sure why his father picked him to run the company over his older brother Peter, now CFO of the company, or younger brother, Ron who is the vice president. However, he said he feels that his father made the right choice.
“It went surprisingly smooth,” said Gerry about his brothers’ reactions to when he became CEO. “Even to this day, we get along as family very, very well. So, no, there hasn’t been any animosity.”
However, Gerry said working with family does not always go smoothly.
He said he and his brothers have different ideas about the direction the company should take -- he wants to continue growing the company while he said his brothers are content with how things are at the present.
Gerry said his family -- and his company -- will have to work out those different thoughts and believes they will. He said communication has been the biggest key to working with people.
Eighteen years after joining the family business, Gerry Krippner said he could not imagine doing anything else but running his family’s company -- except for possibly being a bicycle mechanic.
“I love tinkering with stuff and getting my hands dirty,” he said. “But, of course, you can’t make any money being a bike mechanic.”