Paul inherits a strong legacy of leadership and innovation as the new head of the Fluoroproducts division, which includes famous brands such as Teflon™ and Opteon™. His vast experience in industry and operations introduces a fresh perspective to the future-oriented thinking that is driving sustainable change at Chemours.
Q. How has your professional background prepared you for your role as president of the Fluoroproducts business?
I was fortunate enough to have two careers: one in big business, and one as an entrepreneur. I think the combination of these two backgrounds helps me look at things from a different perspective. I developed a fundamental belief that there is always something more and better we can do in any business.
Q. What does it mean to innovate within the Fluoroproducts business, particularly since it’s been the established leader for many decades?
Innovation means understanding the changing needs of society and our customers, and then developing high-value solutions to address their needs. It means not only meeting but also exceeding those expectations more quickly than our competition. We’ll continue to do this by leveraging our knowledge and capabilities gained through decades of experience, and bringing differentiated products to the marketplace.
Q. Opteon™ YF (HFO-1234yf) has been in the news consistently over the past few years. How do you see the future for Opteon™ or other lower global warming potential (GWP) products?
I see the future for Opteon™ and other low GWP products as very bright, especially going into the next decade. In addition to regulations driven by global warming concerns, there are energy efficiency standards throughout the world that would drive adoption of all Opteon™ products.
For example, we expect HFO-1234yf adoption in mobile air conditioning units to grow from 25 million vehicles by the end of 2016 to 50 million vehicles by the end of 2017. For commercial refrigeration, our product Opteon™ XP40 is expected to be adopted in 5,000 supermarkets and commercial refrigeration systems globally by the end of 2017.
And, as more countries continue to implement the new energy efficiency standards, I expect that Opteon™ growth will continue in other heat transfer and foam insulation applications well into the future.
Q. How has the increased focus on sustainability and responsible products/processes impacted the pipeline of products in development, or changes within the Fluoroproducts portfolio?
We’ve used sustainability and energy efficiency regulations as an opportunity to develop new products and businesses. Over the last several years, roughly since 2005, our R&D focus in fluorochemicals has been exclusively on the development of new Opteon™ products.
We expect the Opteon™ portfolio of products to play a key role in reducing global warming trends on our planet by reducing greenhouse gas effects. Global warming will be reduced both by lowering emissions from high GWP products and by reducing fossil fuel usage through energy efficiency.
Also, our capstone short-chain molecules are making way for more sustainable Teflon™ products that deliver excellent value for a segment of the industry that requires unique performance, like water-based stain repellency. Teflon EcoElite™ is a unique, bio-based, non-fluorinated finish that is being widely adopted as the market leader in high-performance, durable, water-repellent finishes in the textiles marketplace today.
Q. Can you describe what the Chemours values of Collective Entrepreneurship and Customer Centered mean to you, and how you see them in action?
I would say that Collective Entrepreneurship, for me, is really any endeavor that requires novel thinking, considerable initiative, and an above-average amount of risk. I would characterize it here as our transformation from a neoclassical enterprise as DuPont to 21st century Chemours.
Customer Centered, for me, means profound dedication to your customers—really putting your customers at the front of all your decision-making processes.
Q. What is your number one management or leadership tip?
I actually have several rules that I personally follow:
1. Always separate targets from ambition. With targets, you need to have a firm plan to hit your mark. Ambition is more about what we think we can do beyond targets that we don’t necessarily have a plan for, but we want to aspire to.
2. Field a great team.
3. Run a good plan-do-check operating system (“execute flawlessly” is another way of putting it).
4. Think about how you interact with your team. There’s a great saying by Fujio Cho, who is the father of lean. He basically boiled it down to, “Go see, ask why, show respect.”
"I had a paper route. The lesson I learned from that job is that accounts receivable is really not much fun."
What Surprises People
"I recently learned that I am a descendant of Charlemagne. Given the fact that he’s the king who united most of Europe, I’d say I have quite a legacy to live up to."
Paul Kirsch joined The Chemours Company in June 2016 from Henkel AG & Company, where he served as senior vice president of supply chain and operations for the past three years, responsible for more than 140 factories, 200 warehouses, and 15,000 employees in 62 countries. Prior to that, he was president of the automotive, metals, and aerospace division of Henkel AG & Company KGaA, a multibillion-dollar business with more than 40 operations and sales offices in 20 countries on 6 continents. He also served as cochairman of a Henkel-BASF joint venture.
Before joining Henkel, Paul spent nearly 25 years in various engineering, operations, and business development roles of increasing responsibility within the automotive and telematics industries. He was vice president of Hughes Telematics, where his responsibilities included business development, quality, and strategic planning. He also served as vice president of XM Satellite Radio, where he was responsible for growing and running the automotive business of the Washington, DC–based firm.
Paul started his career at Delphi in 1985, where he worked for nearly 19 years, in both regional and global roles ranging from product engineer to director of engineering for Asia Pacific to director of mergers and acquisitions, as well as general director of sales, marketing, and strategic planning. He also served as a board member of Delphi Packard Electric China and two joint ventures in Japan.
Paul holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2012, he earned an executive advanced management certificate from Harvard Business School. He is a board member of 4th Bin, an electronics recycling, data destruction, and IT asset management company. He has a US patent pending, and he is an avid pilot and an accomplished triathlete.