The Hohenshelts will continue to own the company. They bought Paragon Industries 31 years ago, and they look forward to building kilns well into the future.
John S. Hohenshelt has run the company for 15 years. “Leaving Paragon is the second hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life,” John said. “I’m leaving because I feel that it is time that I move on to greater challenges. It is difficult to leave, yet I am also very excited about the future.”
“I wasn’t surprised when John came to tell me that he wanted to leave,” said his father, John R. Hohenshelt, Sr. “When he came to work here full time, I had to persuade him to stay at least five years. It’s been 15 years since then, and because John is very intelligent and ambitious, I understand his need to leave us. John’s health is excellent, and he is leaving on the best of terms. My family will continue to own the company. I bought Paragon 31 years ago and want to keep the company for the long term.”
The Hohenshelt family has hired Todd Lokash as the new company president. When they approached him for an interview, he had just written his next career goal, which was to be with a family-owned, small to medium size, privately owned company. “I know the culture that comes in a family-owned business,” said Todd.
For Todd, coming to Paragon “just felt right.” Getting acquainted with the Hohenshelts “almost felt like it wasn’t an interview. I hit it off with John Sr. very fast. The family and I just sat around and got to know each other.”
In his last position, Todd was director of manufacturing for a large engineering and construction firm in Texas. “I have been put in sticky situations throughout my career,” said Todd. He once moved a construction crane factory from Mexico to Texas. He found the new plant location by searching empty Texas fields from a small plane.
Todd is familiar with kilns. He worked for a foundry that made, among other things, 24’ diameter bushings for ship engines in 30-ton furnaces.
Todd is excited about meeting the Paragon distributors and customers as soon as possible. “It is important that I talk them,” said Todd. “I want to understand their needs and listen to their thoughts on how we can better support their efforts. If there is a problem, tell me about it. If you don’t tell me, I’ll have a hard time figuring it out.”
“The technical side of the manufacturing at Paragon is going to be smooth,” added Todd. “I have a lot of experience in manufacturing. My biggest challenge is finding out the customers’ needs. Getting to know employees and customers is always interesting.”
What is Todd’s business philosophy? He follows Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership, which, according to the Greenleaf organization, “enriches the lives of individuals, builds more effective organizations of all kinds and, ultimately, creates a more just and caring world.”
Servant leadership is “service above self,” said Todd. “You’re still running the ship, but you are learning and teaching. I believe in letting people do what they do without interference. It’s not the executive who makes a company money. It’s the people in the company. People will do the right thing. I rely heavily on the expertise of the people who do the jobs. I try to learn as much as possible from them.”
“It is satisfying to have a role in the personal and professional successes of others. I don’t need personal credit for successes within an organization,” he explained.
What does Todd see in Paragon’s future? “I’m happy with the way the company is run,” he said. “I see strategic growth in niche markets where we can do well. And I want us to constantly improve our designs and service. Paragon is solid. It is running smoothly. In the near future, the direction of the company will not change. This will be a seamless transition. At first I am mainly going to learn.”
John S. Hohenshelt will remain with Paragon for the next two to three months or until Todd feels that he is ready to run the company without John’s assistance.