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Of Tweets and Typewriters
I had every intention of contacting Dr. Bruce Kintz when a press release from Concordia Publishing House (CPH), of which Kintz is the chief executive officer, found its way to my desk and into a file of story ideas. Because Kintz is also a Fontbonne alumnus, I had taken note of the company and intended to pursue an article with its CEO.
That's why, a few weeks later, I was surprised when Kintz contacted me — and I was even more surprised by his mode of communication. He didn’t call, write or e-mail.
“I’m a Fontbonne alum too!” his message read, a reply to a comment about a fellow Fontbonne University alumnus on Twitter, the online microblogging platform. Kintz, 49, is not only the CEO of CPH, he’s also a 1989 traditional MBA graduate who embraces communication of any and all kinds, including of-the-moment, 140-characters-or-less tools like Twitter.
“I make it a point to be very available. All calls are forwarded directly to my cell phone, which I answer 24/7,” Kintz said, in person this time, pulling out an iPhone from his jacket’s breast pocket. “By making yourself available, your customer’s needs get met.”
And the publishing company meets millions of those needs each year. A not-for-profit company and the official publisher of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, CPH offers more than 8,000 different products for use in Christian congregations, schools and homes. Kintz said that people of all denominations from all around the globe use the company’s products, which range from hymnals and vacation Bible school programs to Christian curriculum resources and books for pastors, teachers, students and children.
After 140 years of operation, CPH seems to have more vigor than ever, perhaps because of the company’s engaged and energetic leader, who, aside from his typical 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. work day, answers his own e-mail, updates his Facebook page and contributes occasionally to the company’s podcasts. And to think that when Kintz joined the CPH team in 1999 as a director, he initially felt unsure if the company was even a good fit for him.
But as it turned out, Kintz, who grew up just one block from CPH’s Jefferson Avenue headquarters in South St. Louis, couldn’t shake his connection to the company.
After he graduated from high school, his family didn’t have much money, and he needed to find a way to finance his own education. So he applied and was selected for a police cadet program with the St. Louis Police Department, allowing him to work during the day and earn an associate's degree at night at St. Louis Community College. His strong work ethic has never changed. Over the next 10 years, he cultivated a lively career reaching the level of director at McDonnell Douglas, started a family, and completed two more degrees: a bachelor’s in mathematics at Maryville University, and his MBA at Fontbonne.
“The best MBA program I found in the area was at Fontbonne. I went to class at 8 a.m. every Saturday, and took three classes per semester,” Kintz explained. “My MBA served me well at McDonnell Douglas. It launched my career — I was at the head of the pack.”
But in 1998, not long after McDonnell Douglas merged with The Boeing Co., Kintz felt that it was perhaps time for him to move on. His pastor suggested he look into CPH. For the longtime Lutheran and active church member, the position felt natural — a good fit.
“Somewhere in the back of your head, you have goals and dreams,” he said. “I always wanted to be in management, but never knew how high I would go. I find myself where I am now because of God’s blessings.”
Kintz was hired as a director at CPH, was promoted to vice president, then added chief operating officer to his title. He became CEO of the company in 2006. In 2009, he earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Lindenwood University. And last year, he received word that CPH earned the 2009 Missouri Quality Award, a goal Kintz set for CPH 10 years prior and a testament to the company’s rigorous standards and performance excellence.
But in spite of his lofty achievements, Kintz remains grounded. He is an accessible leader, and his employees seem happy and ambitious. Longevity with the company is common and rewarded.
“Because we’re 140 years young, we stand on the shoulders of the people before us,” Kintz said. He keeps tokens of decades past — a turn-of-the century manual typewriter, a candlestick rotary telephone — in his office to remind himself that the company has evolved. And he doesn’t forget that it continues to evolve, embracing new technology, new communication tools and new generations of employees.
“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Don’t strive for perfection; just be persistent,’” he reminds future business leaders. “In your approach to the future, allow for innovation, think and practice. The journey is more important than 100 percent success.”
If you’re on Twitter, you can follow Bruce Kintz at @CPHCEO or follow Fontbonne at @FontbonneU.