Dial Corp. will stay rooted in Scottsdale — and in its current quarters — if its new chief executive officer has a choice.
"It’s my desire to keep as much of Dial on this street corner as possible," said Brad Casper, who took over the reins of the consumer products company less than a month ago.
Casper was responding to rumors that Dial’s research and development center, which is across the street from the company’s headquarters, would be homeless in 2008 when its lease is up. He hasn’t even talked with the property owners yet, but he has been told that they want to turn the space into a high-end retail development.
Casper thinks Dial brings more prestige to the area than one more posh shopping center.
"We believe the community wishes to have us here," he said. "We think we are good the economic diversity of this community."
After a nearly yearlong nationwide search, Henkel KGaA tapped Casper, thenpresident of the personal care division of Church & Dwight Co., to head Dial Corp. Henkel had just bought the $1.3 billion soap maker a year earlier.
Dial, whose signature products include Dial soaps, Purex laundry detergents, Renuzit air fresheners and Armour canned meats, has nearly 3,000 employes; about 650 of them work out of Scottsdale.
Casper came to the company with plenty of consumer products credentials.
Church & Dwight, which Casper piloted since 2002, makes and markets Arm & Hammer, Arrid, Nair, Trojan and other popular, brandname consumer products. Before that, Casper worked for Procter & Gamble for 16 years.
But possibly the new chief’s biggest backing comes from his predecessor, Herb Baum, who turned the oncelanguishing Scottsdale soap company into a leader.
Baum said Casper is a man in his own image.
"We have the same people skills," Baum said when Casper took the job. "We feel exactly the same about employee loyalty and running a high-integrity company. I’ve extended my contract four times to get this kind of person."
But while Baum’s mission was to fix the foundering company and set it on course, Casper sees his job as steaming Dial full-speed ahead through familiar and unchartered seas.
Casper said Dial’s future is in personal care products such as Dial soaps and household products such as its Purex laundry detergents and Renuzit air fresheners.
The Armour canned meat line is, "an important part of our heritage," Casper said, but he admits its not a growth area for the company.
He did not rule out unloading the food division for the right price.
"But if we sold it, we would want something of equal size and profitability in its place," he said.
Casper sees a huge opportunity in expanding Dial’s personal care line.
Personal care is a $20 billion market, he said, and soap is only about $2 billion of it.
Expanding into hair care and skin care lines would make sense, he said.
Dial stuck its toes in those waters before and nearly drowned. Pre-Baum management bought some boutique lines of beauty products, and they turned out to be big money losers.
Casper isn’t dissuaded. He said in that instance, the "intention was right, the execution was wrong."
Dial got to keep the cache of cash it had on hand when Henkel bought the company, Casper said, and he plans to use that to purchase existing products as well as continue to develop new ones in Scottsdale.
So far, Henkel has given Dial the promised autonomy to chart its own course and the clout — Henkel is more than 10 times the size of its new subsidiary — to compete with the big guys such as Casper’s own former employer Procter & Gamble or rival Colgate-Palmolive.
While the clout may be invisible to the outside world, having a giant for a parent allows Dial to think long-term and commit to brands longrange, rather than have a "short-term, quarter-toquarter mentality," Casper said.
For example, Henkel has invested big bucks in new advertising for a couple of existing but not lavishly marketed products — Dial body washes and Renuzit Airlets, scented oil-based, plug-in air fresheners.
Henkel also is adapting Dial products for European distribution, taking the company into the international marketplace in a much bigger way than Dial did or could as a stand-alone.
Casper said he was surprised when he arrived at Dial to find the company was already poised to be a major player in the world market.
"I came to Dial with many preconceived notions, and to the great credit of this organization and Herb Baum, they proved every one of them wrong," he said. "Dial behaves and thinks like a much bigger company than it is. I’m incredibly impressed."
The company’s changeover from cost-containment mode to growth mode will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Casper said.
And it is pegged to happen right at the intersection of Dial Boulevard and Greenway-Hayden Loop, he said.
"And if we do have to relocate DCI (Dial Center for Innovation, the company’s name for its research labs) I want to find a convenient location in the general vicinity. We are going to continue to grow with Scottsdale as our hub."