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Ethics and Effort for Effective Leadership

Work hard, be ethical, hire people smarter than yourself, look internationally, and other wisdom for multi-generational business success.
Jun 06, 2023

IMTS+ is honored to share the story of Richard “Rick” Kline Sr., chairman and CEO of Gardner Business Media in Season Three of “Profiles in Manufacturing,” an IMTS+ Original Series. The premiere aired May 25 on IMTS+ on IMTS.com, followed by his full episode. The documentary-style series follows a diverse set of leaders, visionaries, and influencers who have shaped the future of the modern manufacturing industry.

“I was a young Modern Machine Shop representative calling on the Detroit auto industry in the 1960s, which was the Mad Men era of advertising,” recalls Richard “Rick” Kline Sr. As the grandson of company founder Don Gardner, Kline Sr. could have fulfilled the cliché about family businesses: the first generation makes it, the second generation maintains it, and the third generation kills it. Instead, he thrived. “With all the industry purchasing agents and automotive ad agencies, it was a tough market to be in, but it was a great market because it made me prove myself.” 

Under his leadership as chairman and CEO, Gardner Business Media (GBM) has become a preeminent publisher of manufacturing technology magazines with a reach beyond the United States, and has expanded its reach as a media provider to reach audiences in a variety of ways. Kline Sr. has expanded the company to about 120 people producing eight English-language publications and three publications for the Mexican market as well as becoming an industry digital content leader, diversifying its products with Gardner Intelligence reports and in-person industry events.  

Moreover, Kline Sr. has ensured that the next two generations understand what it means to be a leader. These include son Rick Kline Jr. (president), daughter Melissa Kline Skavlem (chief marketing officer), a niece, a nephew, and grandchildren. 

“I joke and say you have to pick your kids and grandchildren very carefully,” says Kline Sr. “Seriously, I tell our family that the ethic and effort they exhibit will become models for the company." 

 "Rick Kline Sr. is one of those rare individuals whose impact on the industry is hard to measure but unquestionably profound,” says Doug Woods, president of AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology. “His vision helped advance the manufacturing industry – amplifying its value to the well-being and prosperity of future generations. To recognize his lifetime dedication to the manufacturing technology community, AMT honored him with its Albert W. Moore Leadership Award.”   

Kline Sr. is quick to shine light on others. One of the not-so-secrets to GBM’s success is “hiring people who are smarter than we are and not getting in the way of good people.” During the early days of his leadership in the 1970s, he cites Modern Machine Shop editor Ken Gettleman for pushing more coverage of international developments and numerical control.  

At the time, Kline Sr. recalls how the machine tool industry was provincially American. They became complacent, prideful, lost their way, “and overseas competitors ate our lunch. That was when Modern Machine Shop started to become a thought leader. We’re still doing it that way today, helping people navigate technologies such as automation and additive manufacturing. If we keep producing content that people want and doing good things for each other, we can’t help but succeed.” 

On Friday, April 28, 2023, AMT presented Rick Kline Sr. with the Albert W. Moore Leadership Award at The MFG Meeting 2023, powered by AMT and in partnership with NTMA, in Phoenix, Arizona.  

Watch all three episodes of Season 3 Profiles in Manufacturing on IMTS+ on IMTS.com.

Peter R. Eelman
Chief Experience Officer
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