Avi Kahn is President and CEO of Hilti North America, a position he rose to in just 12 years.
“I started at an entry level position in sales,” says Avi Kahn, CEO of Hilti North America. That was in 2004 in San Francisco where he was a territory sales representative for construction. From there he was promoted to regional manager in San Diego and Hawaii and in 2008 became the Chicago-based West Great Lakes division manager. Named Hilti Canada general manager in January 2011, he was promoted to CEO of Hilti North America in January 2017.
Headquartered at The Shops at Legacy in Plano, Hilti North America is a manufacturer and supplier of specialized construction products, services and software and employs 3,200 team members across North America.
“In 12 years I was able to go from an entry level position to basically the highest we have here in North America,” says Avi.
So how did he do it?
“I had five different positions and I lived in five different cities,” he explains. You have to be flexible. When the opportunity came I took it.
“The concept of flexibility, especially when it comes to picking up and moving with a wife, with kids, is something you have to think through. I wanted to be successful in my career and I was willing to sacrifice for it. You have to decide your tradeoffs.”
“I always had that drive; I always wanted to be better and I was willing to work hard. Every team I’ve been on, even outside of this company, I’m proud to say I was always one of the hardest working.
“Hard work does pay off in life and I don’t think we should be afraid to say it. But if that’s how you want to define yourself, make sure it’s known and make sure your presence and commitment is known.”
ASK FOR THAT PROMOTION
“I didn’t just keep my head down, I did ask my boss, ‘When is my next promotion coming?’ I really recommend that. If you just put your head down you might wake up in three years later and say, ‘What happened to my career?’”
TAKE THE PROMOTION
“I never declined a promotion. There are people who do and I respect that, but I don’t think they can come back and say I’m disappointed about where my career is going.”
AVI KAHN ON MILLENIALS
Now that he’s at the top, Avi Kahn is passionate about embracing millennials as part of the Hilti North America workforce. “Millennials are the best for us and for many companies out there,” he says. According to Avi, there are three reasons that are millennials a positive for the workforce.
“In tech you go through trends. Now, it’s all about “big data”. Corporations have so much information being thrown at them that we don’t know what to do with it. Who’s better suited to help companies with that challenge than a generation who grew up being flooded with information everyday? We’re very excited about the ability we already see from the millennials we already have working here.
“The second reason we’re excited and why I think many companies should be excited is as companies grow they need leaders. And what we know about millenials is that they are driven. Millennials are not entering the work force with a mind set of, “I just want to be stable, have a stable job, get a job with a pension.” That was a common mindset in previous generations. We need leaders.
“The third reason is community involvement. We really believe in partnering with our team members and helping them get involved in the community. If you work here you get two paid days off for community service. Many millennials are looking for opportunities to make a difference. There is a real opportunity today in the work force to really make a difference.”