Growing up in a small town in Scotland, Alan McLenaghan was taught that education opened doors to anything he dreamt of doing. His widowed, deeply intelligent mother worked hard to provide for McLenaghan and his sister and guided them on a path toward university so that they could “escape the treadmill of being a working-class person in Scotland.”
This path, however, led him on a different, equally challenging journey to become an educated, resourceful man. He studied in the fall and worked in the summer to afford his education and pave the road his mother always wanted for him.
McLenaghan was always interested in science—particularly in the fundamentals of chemistry. He was curious about how certain materials worked and how to develop the properties that made plastics soft, hard, or malleable. After earning a degree in applied chemistry, he earned his PhD in physical chemistry and materials. His dedication to his education provided him myriad opportunity around the world to work in manufacturing, building plants and working in nuclear reactors.
Eventually, McLenaghan joined Saint-Gobain, where he cut his teeth in the glass and construction industries. Here, not only was McLenaghan recognized for his incredible work ethic, but also his amicability.
When Saint-Gobain acquired SageGlass, McLenaghan was an obvious choice to head the operation. He and his wife moved to Minnesota to take on this new adventure, and in one year’s time, he was appointed chief executive officer. Now, six years later, McLenaghan is using his influence to support SageGlass in its new ambitions, while inciting modern change to its internal operations.
In his position, McLenaghan emphasizes the importance of building a community based on transparency and humility. He feels that embodying these traits is imperative in allowing companies in the manufacturing industry, like SageGlass, to move forward by using a collective think-tank to drive strategy. He wants everyone working next to him and under him to feel welcomed and involved in the bigger picture of the company.
“I’ve never been afraid of not being the smartest person in the room. My job is to pull together the smartest people to form a team that can use each other to gather ideas and feel engaged in the material,” McLenaghan says. “I want to share our goals, values, wins, and losses to make people feel more included. Humility requires courage and trust, and with trust comes empowerment.”
Through his efforts, McLenaghan has developed a holistic view of authenticity inside the company. He has been instrumental in opening communication among his team to carry this authenticity, using weekly newsletters, email messages, social media, regular meetings, ad-hoc lunches, team member satisfaction surveys, and shared business performance reports.
He has also strived to strengthen SageGlass’ diversity and inclusion by being hyper-mindful of the kinds of people he hires daily. In six years, his efforts have increased the number of women in the company’s workforce from 7 percent to 30 percent and have built an incredibly diverse team comprised of people who speak 26 different languages.
Just as McLenaghan strives to connect his team internally, SageGlass’ products reflect his mission by providing dynamic glass options that comfortably connect building occupants to the outdoors. But, SageGlass’ products are more than just glass—they’re dynamic, adapting windows that allow occupants to interact with the outdoors, but be in control of the connection.
“Our glass blocks unwanted heat and glare, while maximizing daylight and access to the outdoors for the occupants in the building,” McLenaghan explains. “It leads to happier, healthier, and more productive people, which is the largest asset to any building.”
As the company continues to grow globally, it hopes to transform smart glass into the norm—to be relevant for all applications and buildings. In addition to constantly updating its products, SageGlass is also looking into new pricing options, charging customers a small fee over time, rather than the whole sum upfront, to make its products more accessible. McLenaghan says, “We continually discover more use cases for dynamic glazing. In the end, our goal is to constantly evolve in innovative ways to make people’s experiences in a building refreshing.” Wholly, SageGlass’ windows change the way people experience spaces in buildings just as much as it changes how architects and designers use glass to heighten their projects.
At the same time that SageGlass moves forward, creating the windows of the future, McLenaghan hopes to continue developing as a compelling, compassionate leader. His goal, in life and his career, is to “live a different day every day.” In other words, to live a life of purpose that strives toward advancing as a leader and an innovator.
He believes that his behavior as CEO determines the success or failure of the company, encouraging him to translate his passion for betterment into his work by taking risks, caring deeply about the people around him and the world we inhabit, changing the way SageGlass approaches its products to make a difference in the world, and of course, accentuating transparency and humility with regard to everything he does. At SageGlass, whether it’s building a team and or creating dynamic windows, transparency is the key to success.