“If You Can Measure It, You Can Improve It”
Measuring Success with Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) President Werner Braun
When Werner Braun’s parents moved their young family to the United States from Stuttgart, Germany in 1949, they came with nothing but three large suitcases and their dreams for a better life.
Werner grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where his father worked as head pastry chef for the Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres Department Stores, whose famous downtown tearoom has been meticulously recreated in a permanent exhibit of the Indiana State Museum.
A talented student athlete, Werner attended St. Edward University in Austin, Texas, on an athletic and academic scholarship that covered all of his expenses, including tuition, books, room and board, and laundry service. “The laundry was the best part,” he says.
In 1998, Werner retired from The Dow Chemical Company after a 31-year career in analytical chemistry, where he specialized in pharmacokinetics – the study of how the human body handles various drugs – a field that later led to toxicology. Although he started at Dow working as a staff chemist, a job he describes as “full of redundancy”, he moved up quickly into group and then issues management. “I love challenges that require creative solutions – at Dow I created a unique niche for myself, and that helped me stand out.”
After retirement, Werner worked as an independent consultant, but when an opportunity arose later that year to be Senior Director of International Affairs with the Chlorine Chemistry Council (C3) in Washington, DC, he took it. “You have to understand, I retired with a one and a three year-old at home,” he says.
Shortly after joining C3, Werner got a call from a contact in Dalton, Georgia asking him if he would be interested in a leadership position at CRI. Industry leaders remembered Werner for his help with issues management during the now-discredited “killer carpet” furor that erupted in 1989-90 while Werner was still at Dow. The deal was made, and Werner moved to Dalton and the Presidency of CRI.
Werner restructured the CRI from a traditional trade association into a more traditional business model, with products and brands, such as CRI’s signature programs Seal of Approval and Green Label Plus. “CRI’s product is information, and we use surveys and research to develop science-based information for the industry, the public, and any audience relevant to the carpet industry.” Werner instituted Issue Management Teams to improve the information flow from one CRI interest area to another. “There used to be three information silos at CRI – Technical, Marketing, and Government, and each one was a world unto itself – one area didn’t know what the other areas were doing,” he said. Now, CRI IMTs include members from broad cross-sections of the industry.
Werner’s varied interests include tennis, photography, rock climbing, golf, and European sports cars. He is a student of history and an avid chef with a weakness for Cajun food. He attends his children’s sporting events faithfully and is a stalwart supporter of their projects and community fundraising activities, offering to match dollar-for-dollar whatever any CRI employee donates to the cause of the day. Known for his colorful phrases and vast vocabulary, Werner is the only person I have ever heard use the phrase de minimis in a sentence. (I looked it up – it means really, really small.)
Coming up on his ten-year anniversary with CRI, Werner says he is grateful for the friends he’s made in what he considers to be a great American industry. “On many levels - economic, social, and environmental - [The carpet industry] works hard at doing the right thing. It’s fun to be a part of an industry like this.”
Thanks, Werner, you make it fun for the rest of us, too.
Note: here is a link to Werner Heinz Braun's CV listing his many accomplishments.
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