Meet Team Kadant – John Lefkowitz, Director of Paper Sales
Department/Title: Sales / Director of Paper Sales
Worked at Kadant Since: September 2004
Tell me about your career path and how you got to Kadant Johnson.
I spent 17 years with Beloit Corp. / Lenox Division - Winder Group. I started as a regional sales engineer and held numerous positions at Lenox including vice president of sales and engineering.
After Beloit, I spent four years with JJ Plank Corp. where I was responsible for European sales and operations and created a joint venture company to supply Spencer Johnston spreader rolls to the European market.
In 2004, I joined The Johnson Corporation just prior to it being acquired by Kadant. I started as a salesman and throughout the years have held several positions including regional sales manager, director of regional sales, and currently, am the director of U.S. paper sales.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your time at Kadant Johnson?
How important the correct equipment and steam systems are in the process of drying paper.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Working with my U.S. sales team as a coach and advisor.
How did you become interested in sales?
I started in sales right out of college as a sales engineer selling bearings and power transmission equipment. I enjoyed it so much that my whole career has been in sales including 35 years in the paper industry.
What do you think is the most important quality for success?
Listening. I think that whether in sales or anything else you have to listen in order to provide what the other party is looking for. This is extremely important when dealing with customers.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
When there is a serious issue, confront it head-on and as soon as possible. Serious problems or differences only get worse over time if they are not resolved. The sooner you get them behind you the better off everyone is.
What aspect of your day-to-day do you enjoy the most?
I do like to travel for work as you get to see parts of the country and world that you will never see from an office.
In your words, an initial sales conversation should feel…
Like a learning experience with the goal being to figure out as much as possible without wasting anyone’s time.
What is your favorite type of project to work on?
Larger capital type orders where you need to develop a strategy and a plan in order to succeed. You also must have a complete team approach as you will not succeed alone.
What trends have you seen in the pulp and paper industry over the last 20 years and what do you see in the future?
We have seen the consolidation and elimination of both suppliers and mills. I believe the mergers will continue and machines producing printing and writing grades, magazine, news, and coated grades will continue to be shut down and converted to grades such as boxboard and liner. I also think that foreign competition will continue to invest in the U.S. paper market and could eventually become the biggest players.
Do you use any specific tools or have a routine that helps you stay productive?
Time management in sales is critical. You can work very hard at something for an extended period and if it’s the wrong choice, it gets you nothing. In other words, you don’t have a task list every day of things to do, so when you decide what to spend your time on it needs to be the right thing.