The American Home Furnishings Alliance has awarded its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, to Kevin J. Sauder, President, CEO and third-generation leader of Sauder Woodworking of Archbold, Ohio.
The honor was presented November 4 during the organization’s Annual Meeting and CEO Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
The award is presented each year to an industry executive selected for his or her contribution to the home furnishings industry, to AHFA and to the recipient’s local community. Sauder is the 56th recipient of the award, which was first presented in 1966.
In announcing the honor, Farooq Kathwari, chairman, CEO and president of Ethan Allen, described Sauder as “a builder of innovative business strategies.”
Following completion of his bachelor’s degree from Miami (Ohio) University and his MBA from Duke University, Sauder joined Northern Telecom (now Nortel Networks) in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1985 handling business systems and marketing. Three years later he joined the family business as marketing and sales director for the newly formed office products division, for which he directed a national sales force that built the company’s office superstore business. In 1992 he was promoted to vice president of marketing and initiated a major brand awareness effort including national advertising and public relations campaigns. He also championed the development of new upscale product lines for residential and commercial office use.
For five years, there were three generations actively leading the family business: Erie Sauder, who founded the company in 1934, served as chairman of the board while his son (and Kevin’s father), Maynard, was president and CEO. Erie remained chairman until his death in 1997.
In 1999, Maynard transferred operating responsibility for Sauder’s RTA furniture business to Kevin, and two years later he became president and CEO of the company.
Kevin Sauder “takes tremendous pride in the community that his burgeoning employee workforce calls home,” Kathwari noted. “He is additionally respectful of his responsibilities to the beloved furniture industry that has served two generations before him.”
Among the ways that respect is manifested is in the company’s commitment to product safety and sustainable operations. Founded on the principles of stewardship and servanthood, Sauder Woodworking continues honoring these values with continuous advancements in water and energy conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and waste and recycling efforts. Sauder-branded product and its packaging is made from 97 percent recycled material, and residual sawdust from the production process is converted into electricity with the company’s own cogeneration plant. Sauder is also committed to transparency and the advancement of best practices throughout the industry, evidenced by the company’s public sustainability report published annually since 2013. In 2011, Sauder received one of only five annual Sage Awards for Environmental Excellence presented by AHFA.
“Innovative, steady and forward-thinking, (Kevin) is constantly looking for ways to improve his company’s product assortment and manufacturing methods by studying what buyers and consumers want,” Kathwari told the AHFA gathering. That personal drive is the engine advancing the company to broader distribution channels and dramatically expanded core businesses, Kathwari added.
Today, Sauder Woodworking Company is the nation’s largest manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture. With some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, its Archbold facilities include nearly 4 million square feet of space and is the core of an expanded family of companies and divisions that employ more than 2,300 workers.
Kevin Sauder’s Distinguished Service Award is inscribed “Industry Visionary.” He received the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association Pillar of the Industry Award in 2011 and served as chair of AHFA’s Board of Directors in 2015.