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Posted: September 01, 2009

Executive edge: Bob King

Veteran CEO looks to lead Boulder’s Eco-Products

Lynn Bronikowski

It didn’t take long for Bob King to get back into the swing of the corporate world after taking time off from a diverse career most prominently marked as CEO of Corporate Express – which over seven years he took from a $50 million regional office supplier to a $4.5 billion international company acquired by Staples.

“You think taking some time off is going to be fun,” said King, 59, a native of tiny Haileyville, Okla., who grew up loving sports, pitching for small colleges and took up pharmacy at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. “But you can only play so much golf and travel so much.  I was anxious to go back to work."

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But not before one more trip – to Tanzania and Kenya with his family where a trek to an ecosystem brimming with wildlife inside a dormant volcano crater would forever stay with him.

“You really gain an appreciation for issues around the world after a trip like that,” King said. “And you see that people live very simple lives compared to ours.”

 King returned home to Denver and began looking for a new opportunity – preferably applying his proven forte – helping a company grow as he did as CEO of FoxMyer Corp. and Requisite Technology, two other companies on his career path.

Around that time, the two-generation Boulder-based family business Eco-Products — the nation’s leading brand of food-service ware made from renewable resources — was looking to move to the next level.

“Bob was a natural choice for us because of his experience with Corporate Express and how he successfully managed their growth,” said Steve Savage, who co-founded the company with his father, Kent, in 1990.  “Eco-Products is on its way to great things, and I needed someone with his experience to help guide us.” 

King admits he’s taking the helm during challenging economic times.

“It’s a tough environment to try to get something going, but the planets aligned, and I saw a company that has a lot of potential and enterprise, plus young, vibrant people – and that’s what attracted me,” said King, who joined the company in July as CEO to work alongside Savage, who remains president.

King oversees a staff of 55 amid rapid growth that spiked 565 percent between 2006 and 2008.  The company manufactures 100 eco-friendly food-service products for thousands of clients and recently added King Soopers as a retail channel carrying the company’s GreenStripe line made from renewable resources.

“Here I have a chance to work with a company that’s doing good and is in a perfect position to expand,” said King, the son of a social studies teacher and school superintendent.

“My parents instilled in me a basic sense of caring about people, and the  golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – reflects my management style,” King said. “And it’s also a very powerful sales tool. If you can understand what the other person needs and care about their needs, well, that’s a very powerful tool in business.”

King said the time is right for Eco-Products to expand, as the company is well ahead of looming competition and already supplies to large food distributors, restaurants and coffee shops.

“Everybody at the company is committed to environmental issues, and we have the ability to develop some solutions,” King said. “And it just doesn’t get any better than that – or more fun.”

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Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.

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