April 21 2008 12:00 AM

LASCO Fittings


"When I grow up, I want to be like Mr. Jack," said Quentin Gallivan, vice president of sales and marketing for Lasco Fittings. Even though Gallivan is almost twenty-five years Jack McDonald's senior, he was half-serious when he made this statement about his friend and boss.

Gallivan explained that as McDonald first walked through the plant when joining Lasco Fittings as president in 1992, the employees referred to him as Mr. McDonald. He asked them to call him Jack, but 'southern etiquette' would not allow that, so they started calling him Mr. Jack, and the name has stuck.

McDonald has earned the respect and admiration of every one of the more than 500 employees located in the Brownsville, Tennessee plant. This is quite an accomplishment for a man who has only recently turned forty. The employees celebrated this special birthday with him by dressing in black and decorating the plant with black balloons, topping the day with black cake.

McDonald was born in Philadelphia, the oldest of three children. His father was a Ford Motor Company executive and recently retired as controller for Jaguar North America. His mother stayed at home to raise her children. McDonald received his bachelor's degree in business from Eastern Michigan University, and went to work for a building materials manufacturer, where he advanced to national sales manager.
In 1990 he joined Philips Products, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tomkins, PLC, a publicly traded, engineering conglomerate. At the age of 29, he was given a company to ?turn around.? Considering this a huge opportunity, he set about to prove himself to be the man for the job. His superiors, impressed with his abilities, asked if he might be interested in operating a company in Tennessee, also owned by Tomkins. After considering the possibilities Lasco Fittings had to offer, the young family moved South in 1992.

McDonald says it has taken time for his wife, Sherri and two sons, Christopher, 13, and Colin, 10, to adjust to living so far away from their extended family. Therefore, he has made an effort and has been successful in dividing his time between his family and the company. He helps coach Little League, soccer and basketball, enjoys tennis with his family and plays in the only adult ice hockey league in Memphis. He says that?s his way of keeping in shape.

To be the person Gallivan gives him credit for, he would have to be in excellent shape. "We travel together all over the world, and I have never seen anyone like him. He never gets tired and knows no stranger," says Gallivan. "If I had one word to describe him, it would be balance. He has balance in his personal life, church life and business life. He is a remarkable man with a keen, unusual sense of humor."

McDonald uses that sense of humor in his management style. Lasco Fittings is a big supporter of United Way. He divided the plant into teams and as each team met their goal, the prize was to 'Boss the Boss' and have him work in their department for one hour, doing whatever they wanted him to do. That year Lasco reached well above 100% of their goal, and McDonald worked in every job capacity in the plant. "It was physically draining, but I sure did enjoy it!" McDonald said.

It concerned McDonald that Brownsville, where Lasco is headquartered, did not have a place for kids to go after school. He did his homework, got involved and soon a YMCA was being built. He became a founding member of the board. "Lasco Fittings is committed to giving back to the community," McDonald said, without taking any credit himself. "We wanted a safe environment for the kids in Brownsville." Lasco Fittings also participates in Partners in Education with the school system. They attend Show & Tell programs, and sponsor school job fairs.

Habitat for Humanity is another of McDonald's charitable sidelines. While he has worked on many Habitat projects over the years, the one headed by former President Jimmy Carter several years ago in Houston was the most memorable.

McDonald and several others were asked by Carter to take over a project that had been abandoned by another team. When the house was completed, Carter came by and personally thanked him. A picture hangs in his office of this momentous occasion.

Healthcare and a healthy workforce are top priorities with McDonald. One way he encourages a healthy environment is by holding health-oriented fairs for the employees, offering flu shots, blood pressure and cholesterol tests. He also offers computer classes and has educational assistance programs for employees who want to earn their GED or college degree.

By far, McDonald's biggest accomplishment has been the new state-of-the-art facility Lasco built last year. "We needed to increase capacity, and unfortunately none of our competitors were for sale, so we constructed a new plant," McDonald explained. "As a result, we now have a world-class manufacturing facility, with many automated processes that will enable Lasco to grow in the future."

McDonald attributes his early successful climb up the business career ladder to the way he was raised and to the people he works with. "Early on, my parents preached the golden rule and to always do more than is expected of you. I have been blessed to work with people and at companies who share this same philosophy."