Chris Koch: Leading Carlisle through Dynamic Change 

by Mike Hunter 

D. Christian “Chris” Koch, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Carlisle Companies Incorporated, is leading the diversified industrial company through one of the most challenging times in recent economic and geopolitical history: the global pandemic. 

Carlisle factories and facilities manufacture highly engineered products and solutions for their target markets that include construction, aerospace, medical technologies, defense, transportation, automotive and general industrial. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, the 103-year-old company holds a portfolio of businesses with a global footprint in more than 180 locations. With locations throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe, Carlisle faced the gravity of the initial COVID-19 pandemic well before the impact of the virus was felt on the shores of the United States.

“Our first priority was and is protecting the health and safety of Carlisle’s approximately 15,000 global employees,” Koch says. 

Koch credits the Fortune 1000 company’s ability to respond effectively during the pandemic crisis to Vision 2025, Carlisle’s multi-year strategic plan. Initiated in 2017, Vision 2025 incorporates the best aspects of Carlisle’s historically decentralized and entrepreneurial model with center-led philosophies. 

True to Carlisle’s entrepreneurial culture that seeks to empower its leaders, Vision 2025 was built from the ground up, meaning the businesses conducted the research, built their models — which were tested by globally recognized consulting firm Bain Capital — and presented their plans to Koch. This inclusive process ensured buy-in throughout the organization. These plans provide the foundation of Vision 2025’s objectives of $8 billion of revenues, 20 percent operating income margins and 15 percent return on invested capital. 

Coupled with the Carlisle Operating System, Carlisle’s lean operating system, Koch is convinced the center-led philosophy and entrepreneurial culture are central to Carlisle’s success in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic quickly and accelerating the business beyond it.

Carlisle’s established crisis management protocols were first developed in January as the coronavirus threat began to impact its multiple Chinese facilities. From the start of the pandemic, Koch and his team looked to professional resources that could provide information and education on how to better protect employees while continuing to fulfill business functions. By early March, travel restrictions, facility access limitations, a sick- and family-leave policy, social distancing and environment cleaning protocols were in place company wide. Korea, Germany and U.S. companies and governing health organizations also provided insights and ideas that helped Carlisle formulate a comprehensive strategy that continues to evolve.

“While we could not foresee a pandemic in 2020, we anticipated a downturn would occur during the course of Vision 2025,” Koch says. 

Koch is convinced that, coupled with ample liquidity and a fortress balance sheet, Vision 2025 provides the financial and strategic foundation for Carlisle to not only weather the crisis but to accelerate growth plans during and through the recovery. 

Through June 30th of 2020, Carlisle has invested $49 million into capital expenditures to drive organic growth, including plant and equipment improvements to drive efficiencies; repurchased $192 million of stock; and paid shareholders $56 million of dividends. In August, Carlisle increased its dividend for the 44th consecutive year and continued its track record of acquiring synergistic and strategic “bolt-on” acquisitions for its core platforms, the latest closing in mid-July.

“Sometimes, leaders today are constrained by the model that defined past success instead of thinking about what is possible. The construction of Vision 2025 focused our teams on unlocking their full potential and the potential of their businesses.” Koch says. “At Carlisle, we have a bias for action culture. As a result, Carlisle’s employees have not only delivered for our customers during this challenging time but continued to focus on long-term initiatives central to the success of Vision 2025.” 

An example of this is Carlisle’s efforts on ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). In 2018, Carlisle appointed Dave Smith to the role of its first Director of Sustainability, who in a center-led role, was responsible for publishing Carlisle’s first Corporate Sustainability Report. This report showcases how Carlisle has always sought to treat employees fairly, respect the communities in which it operates and put forth its best effort to ensure it remains a responsible business partner. More importantly, it highlights Koch’s belief that the issues surrounding society and the environment cannot be put on the shelf in times of crisis, but rather need to be supported and invested in to maintain momentum. 

“Surviving and ultimately emerging from the pandemic requires a focused and committed organization. This begins with the power of clarity that a well-constructed strategic plan delivers,” Koch says.

He notes, “We’ve seen massive upheaval in our end markets since the beginning of 2020 as the pandemic has migrated across the world. With the support of Vision 2025 and our strong financial position, Carlisle’s employees have risen to the unprecedented challenge and delivered value for our customers and shareholders, and supported our communities and each other.”  

Fostering Diversity and Sustainable Business Practices

In 2018 Carlisle joined CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ (CEO Action), an organization with over 1,000 CEOs supporting businesses to cultivate a workplace where diverse perspectives and experiences are welcomed and respected.

“Carlisle is committed to measurable strategies that will contribute to sustainable business practices, including increased diversity across the enterprise. We do this not because it’s a trending subject, but because we believe these behaviors are necessary and drive significant value to our employees, communities, and shareholders,” says D. Christian “Chris” Koch, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Carlisle Companies Incorporated. 

Did You Know: The Carlisle Interconnect Technologies division of Carlisle (CIT) is participating in the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission by providing CIT-engineered products that support the communication link between NASA and the Perseverance Rover, helicopter and based command, continuing Carlisle’s almost three decades of partnership with the U.S. space program. 

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