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Dick Haworth to stand down.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

After more than three decades at the helm of Haworth Inc., Dick Haworth is stepping aside to let his only son, Matthew Haworth, become chairman.
It\'s the realization of a dream to pass the torch to the third generation of Haworths, said Dick Haworth, 66, who will remain involved in the Holland furniture company as chairman emeritus.
\"One of the things I wanted to avoid is staying too long because it is one of the things that happens at times,\" he said. \"Therefore, the next generation doesn\'t get the chance to develop the experience it takes to be successful.\"
The transition comes at a challenging economic juncture for the 61-year-old privately held manufacturer.
Responding to declining sales, the Holland office furniture maker cut costs by announcing the closure of its Allegan factory, shedding hundreds of jobs and reducing the pay of salaried workers.
The privately held company employs 7,000 worldwide, including 2,500 in West Michigan.
Matthew Haworth, 40, will lead an executive team headed by CEO Franco Bianchi.
\"This is something we have been working toward for a long time, and it\'s rewarding to see it come together,\" Bianchi said.
The last 10 of his 18 years with company have been focused on preparing the younger Haworth to lead the $1.65 billion company.
The job ahead of him is dramatically different than when Dick Haworth took over as CEO in 1976, at age 33. Then, Haworth had 220 employees, annual sales of $10 million and no formal board.
\"This is more deliberate and planned,\" said Matthew Haworth, noting his father\'s succession was accelerated by his grandmother\'s terminal illness.
\"I\'ve been given every opportunity to prepare for this,\" said Matthew Haworth. \"That is a great thing but also a little daunting. ... If it doesn\'t work on my part, there are no excuses.\"
Dick Haworth is credited for taking the company founded by his father, G.W. Haworth, to national and international markets. Haworth has 10 facilities in Michigan, with half of those located at its Holland headquarters.
Matthew Haworth was drawn to the family business at an early age, when he tagged along with his dad to work on Saturday mornings. By age 10, he convinced his grandfather to give him his own office -- a space in the company\'s small library -- where he \"played business.\"
\"He always liked to ask tons of questions,\" Dick Haworth said. \"It used to drive me a little insane. He can still do the same (now) asking tons of questions, which is actually a great asset. He is very curious.\"
Matthew Haworth likes the variety that comes with the office furniture business. That mix includes design, practicality, technology, business trends and work culture
He spent his high school and college summers working different jobs at the family business, except for the year he explored his interest in teaching with a job as a camp counselor.
\"I decided I could do more teaching as a business person than I could as an academic professional,\" said Matthew Haworth, who gets his teaching fix coaching his three children\'s recreational soccer teams and leading Sunday school classes at Christ Memorial Church.

Trained as an engineer, Dick Haworth is a technical whiz with more than a dozen patents to his name.
Matthew Haworth\'s interest is in marketing. He led the company\'s systems product line marketing department for eight years. The position exposed him to the marketplace, designers, product and manufacturing engineers, and the customers.
Dick Haworth made sure his son spent time in nearly every aspect of the company, from production to dealerships.
\"He knows the company in a very broad way, which is very wonderful for the role he is going to be taking on,\" Dick Haworth said.

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