New CEO Profile: Chris McIntire
With more than 30 years of experience in building water technology companies, Chris McIntire is leading the growth strategy for KKR and XPV Water Partners’ new global strategic water quality platform – and he’s ready to make an impact when it comes to the world’s water challenges.
As the platform’s leader, McIntire is tasked with building value and executing a strategy to address water treatment challenges by bringing together companies that have an unmatched depth of knowledge and expertise. Now six months into the role, McIntire shares his enthusiasm for the platform, his plans to drive its growth, and the reason he’s using the XPV Water Partners hiring approach to build his team.
Q. You’re already an accomplished CEO, and you’ve successfully managed the acquisition and integration of more than 20 businesses. Tell us a bit about your professional background.
Chris McIntire: I have about 30 years of experience in the water sector – primarily in instrumentation – and started in a role that involved a roll up of acquisitions. In this new role with the platform, it seems things have come full circle. Not long after that first company was acquired, a few of us decided to raise some money to start a new company called Nova Analytics. We grew the company through nine acquisitions, and it sold to what is now Xylem.
At Xylem, I managed the instrumentation division and, for the last few years of my tenure there, the water treatment division. Over six years, I applied my small company roll-up strategy and completed some large acquisitions.
About five years ago, I decided to answer the strong call of helping to grow smaller companies. I left Xylem and began KPM Analytics, where we focused on food testing technology and executed a similar roll-up strategy. Last year, I completed what I’d intended to do.
Q. What was it that initially caught your interest in the CEO role for the water quality platform?
McIntire: Initially, it was the opportunity to get back into the water space, which I missed. More importantly, I had served on the board of an XPV portfolio company, so I already knew David Henderson, Khalil Maalouf, and their team. Our core values are well-aligned, and I respect their approach to building and growing companies. The team has an incredible depth of knowledge, so I knew they could help build the platform in a way that would add a great deal of value.
Q. What differentiates the water quality platform? What are the greatest growth opportunities that you see for it?
McIntire: We’re focusing on acquiring smaller businesses and growing them in a way that preserves what is special about them. Many of the companies we’re working with don’t always focus on why they regularly beat their competition. The reason is that they have extensive application knowledge and the expertise to solve their customers’ problems, whatever they might be. They also know how to bring this expertise directly to the customer. Big companies tend to lose sight of this. They become too large, they spend a lot of time thinking about profit, and their experts become difficult to access.
With this platform, we want to retain the value that small businesses bring to their customers. When we built Nova Analytics, one of my goals was to make it so successful and profitable that even if a bigger company bought it, it could continue to operate. A small business is a special place. There’s a real sense of pride in the company and the work that it does.
Regarding the platform’s growth, I think we have an incredible opportunity. As the population continues to grow and the world becomes more acutely aware of environmental impacts, regulations continue to demand treatment to higher standards. Our focus is on nutrient removal, which can have an incredible impact on water quality. To do this work and help preserve our natural waters, we need strong domain knowledge and expertise. This platform will help us make that global impact.
Q. How was XPV’s recruitment process different from other recruiting processes you have been involved in? Are there any parts of the process that stood out for you?
McIntire: XPV’s recruitment process is very detailed. It’s designed to go beyond the surface and get to the heart of a candidate’s ability and accomplishments. It’s a long process – we spent nearly 10 hours on the phone. But, by the end of it, I felt very comfortable that we had gotten to know each other very well. When you come into an opportunity like this, it’s reassuring to know that both you and the employer believe you’ve made the right decision.
Q. You’re using the same process to recruit a new CFO and CCO for the water quality platform. Why did you decide to take this approach?
McIntire: After going through the process, I developed a respect and appreciation for the approach, so it was an easy decision. For an employer, that investment of time is a challenge, especially when you need to fill the position. However, taking the time to find the right person is the right strategic move. When I’m interviewing candidates for critical roles on my team, I want to get to know them well. I want to know their capabilities and accomplishments, and what drives them forward. If the fit isn’t there, I don’t want to force it.
The fact that XPV supports that patience in finding the right person says a lot about their values. I don’t feel any pressure to make the wrong decision.
Q. You’re now about six months into your new role. How are you feeling about the platform’s progress?
McIntire: We’re much further down the road. Because the interview process was thorough, I knew what I was getting into, and the job is exactly what I expected it to be. I feel lucky to be working on solving such a critical global challenge.