Walk a mile in his shoes: Allen Edmonds CEO to speak on servant leadership

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February 22, 2016

Paul Grangaard

Paul Grangaard, chief executive officer of Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation.

Paul Grangaard, chief executive officer of Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation, will deliver a lecture in the Mark Kennedy Frontiers of Freedom series at 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, in the Founders Room (room 170), Quadrangle Building, Saint John's University.

Grangaard will speak about servant leadership - a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world - in business and personal life. The event is free and open to the public.

Founded in 1922, Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation is a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of premium men's footwear and accessories. But when Grangaard joined the company in 2008, it was facing a serious financial situation.

Allen Edmonds had seen revenue fall from $94 million to $72 million between 2007-09, according to an article by fastcompany.com. During a period when 98 percent of shoes bought in the U.S. were made internationally, Allen Edmonds was still producing its shoes in a factory in Port Washington, Wisconsin, 20 minutes north of Milwaukee.

Grangaard reshuffled the executive team of the company, laid off about 8 percent of its existing staff, reintroduced four of the company's top sellers and introduced a new collection of casual styles. He also led Allen Edmonds to diversify beyond shoes, adding coats, jeans, ties and socks to its catalog, according to the article.

The results? Allen Edmonds logged over $100 million in sales for the first time in 2011. Staff has increased to over 600 in the United States.

Previous to coming to Allen Edmonds, Grangaard worked in various roles for U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray from 1995-2005. He also worked at The First National Bank of Chicago for six years.

He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University, and a master's in finance and international business from the University of Chicago.

The event is sponsored by the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.

Kennedy, who served Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-07, is a 1979 graduate of SJU. The goal of the series is to add intellectual diversity to the McCarthy Center.