Business Profile | Martin Slark

March 2012 View more

NMAG0312_BusinessIn his 35-year career with Molex Incorporated, Martin Slark has served the Lisle-based electronic-component manufacturer at its offices in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. His cosmopolitan outlook and experience surely has bolstered Slark’s ability to grow and move the Molex product portfolio deeper into international markets. In fact, Slark directed Molex’s global reorganization that was started in 2007, the most significant change to the company in 40 years. The company experienced record-breaking revenues and profits in fiscal 2011, and is well positioned for future growth.

In addition to serving as the vice chairman on Molex’s board of directors, Slark is a board member of the Hub Group, a Downers-Grove based intermodal logistics company; Liberty Mutual Insurance, a Boston-based property and casualty insurer; and Northern Trust, a Chicago-based financial holding company. Naperville Magazine recently interviewed Slark to learn more about Molex Incorporated, our corporate neighbor to the east, and his role as its chief executive officer.


From electronic and fiber optic interconnects to switches and application tooling, Molex manufacturers over 100,000 products in three main product divisions. Can you give us a summary of who your customers are and how your products are used?

Our customers are major global original equipment manufacturers; since virtually any electronic or fiber optic device requires a connector to work, most major global companies are our customers. You will find our products in thousands of applications that range from automobiles, smart phones, tablets, and computers to heart monitors, appliances, robotic equipment and network servers. Last year we sold 60 billion components to 10,000 customers. More recently we have expanded into solid-state lighting and audio components.

You’ve served Molex in various administrative, operational, and executive positions, both here and abroad. I’ve been told that almost half of the 800 employees in the corporate office in Lisle live in the greater Naperville area. Does Molex have a formal career development program?

We take talent management very seriously at Molex. Our global talent-management program extends well beyond Lisle and covers a large portion of our more than 33,000 employees worldwide. Elements of our program include assessments used for recruitment and selection, a strong on-boarding program, assessments of performance and potential to identify high potentials, a comprehensive succession planning program, and customized leadership development at various levels of our organization. We also provide many personal and professional learning opportunities for all of our employees through our online learning management system and training programs.

Molex is indeed a philanthropic neighbor; the company makes sizeable donations to the Morton Arboretum, DuPage Habitat for Humanity, Fermilab Friends for Science Education, and SciTech. Tell us about the special lighting system that the company donated to the Arboretum.

Molex is a longtime supporter of the Morton Arboretum with the Krehbiel Family, who founded Molex, who started the association many years ago. With the Arboretum being a leader in identifying green practices and techniques, we thought it would be a perfect fit for our sustainable-lighting system. These LED lights have a long life span and are not manufactured with mercury or other toxic substances that are environmental and health hazards if not disposed of correctly. Our Transcend RM2 lights operate more efficiently and consume less electricity than conventional incandescent or fluorescent lighting, so we were very pleased to offer the Arboretum the opportunity to showcase this environmentally friendly lighting system.

You’ve run more than a dozen marathons and won the CEO Challenge in the Chicago Marathon 50+ age group in 2007. Can you share with us more about this passion of yours?

My priorities are health, family, and career. I make health a priority because without it, you limit the time you spend with your family and your ability to build a career. I am passionate about running for many reasons, but one big one is that I travel a lot—often overseas—and you can’t always find a gym. You can find a place to run almost anywhere you go in the world. Molex has a successful running team; I am happy to tell you that we have a lot of younger team members who are much faster than I! For me it is a great stress reliever that also helps me stay physically fit. I think no matter what activity you like to do, getting regular exercise—so you stay active and healthy—is the best thing you can do for your family, your career, and yourself.

You serve as the vice chairman and treasurer of the Landmark School in Massachusetts, which serves students with language-based learning disabilities. How did you become involved with the institution?

My wife Cathy and I are both involved with Landmark School. Our son David went there at the age of 14; even though he has a strong IQ, he struggled with reading. David was diagnosed with dyslexia, which he inherited from me. After four years at Landmark, we were very proud that he received an academic scholarship to college. About one in 20 children in America suffer from dyslexia, and unfortunately many do not get the right support and aren’t able to reach their full potential. What we realized, as a result of my son’s experience, is that the way you overcome challenges—like learning disabilities—is through the help of a good support system. In my son’s case, that was Landmark School. Even though our son graduated more than 10 years ago, because of the difference it made in his life, both Cathy and I continue to serve on the Landmark board and are active supporters of the school and its mission.

Photo by Mike Hudson