Frank talk

I spent yesterday with Frank Hasenfratz, founder and chairman of Linamar Corp. He is the subject of a new book called Driven to Succeed (Dundurn) written by Susan M. Papp and me. Usually it’s the authors who promote their books, but Frank is such a great storyteller and media savvy business leader that we thought the focus should be on him.

Before Frank spoke at lunch to the Toronto Rotary, one of the members droned on for far too long about the public relations effort involved in the club’s one hundreth anniversary. Fortunately there was an interesting tidbit amid the dross. She did a quick survey of the one hundred people in the audience to see who was using what social media. About 10 percent were on Twitter, 30 percent on Facebook, and 50 percent on LinkedIn. The surprising popularlity of LinkedIn likely shows the business focus of the audience but I was astounded at the penetration of social media in general.

Frank was also interviewed by Howard Green for a thirty-minute segment on his BNN show, Headline. Prior to the taping in their terrific new studios at 299 Queen St. W., I enjoyed chatting with several former colleagues from fifteen years ago at The Financial Post: Scott Anderson, Tony Keller, and Zena Olijnyk. Paul Bagnell was also there, but on air, so we didn’t talk.

Even after the many hours Susan and I spent interviewing Frank, Howard managed to find a new insight. Early in the segment Frank  talked about how he and his family, who had lived in Hungary for 250 years, were targeted by the Russians during the Second World War because of the family’s German ancestry. Howard noted that Linamar did no business in Russia today but had operations in China. How could be explain choosing one but not the other given that both were communist, a form of government Frank despised. Frank pointed out differences between communism in Russia versus state capital in China but said that the real reason he felt more positively about the Chinese was that they had not hurt his family while the Russians had.

At another point, Howard asked Frank, “Are you cheap?” In response, Frank told a story from the book. All 15,000 employees are well aware of Frank’s ongoing efforts to cut costs. In one plant he visited, the employees put two pennies on the floor where they knew he’d see them. They waited and then watched as he bent down to pick them up only to discover that they had been glued in place. Everyone laughed, including Frank.

BNN has three clips of the interview with Frank available on the Video Player. Here’s one.

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