My Best Self: Russell Kohl
Life is good for Russell Kohl. As the president/CEO of Freud/Diablo Inc., a nearly $1 billion industry-leading manufacturer and marketer of cutting and portable power tools, a jet-set lifestyle comes with the job. Though his trips to Italy allowed him to learn deep-rooted Italian techniques for one of his favorite culinary hobbies, it’s being surrounded by friends, family, and the outdoors that make life meaningful for this Georgia and Florida resident. Here, the father of two talks work-life balance, fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs, giving back and more.
By Alex McCray
Why is giving back important to you?
It’s part of creating a legacy. It set in when the College of Business at my alma mater, Florida State University, asked me to come back and be a keynote speaker. I was shocked they knew who I was. That got me back involved with Florida State and the importance of making education better and sharing what I’ve learned. Currently, I’m on the College of Business Board of Governors, and the Board of Trustees for the Florida State University Foundation. I want to make sure I’m giving back, and not just with money, but by being involved.
What is the greatest personal challenge you’ve overcome?
I have four manufacturing plants in Italy and two in Switzerland. So I’m in Italy and Switzerland every six weeks. When you land, you lose a lot of sleep and then there are social events every night. The struggle is to do all of that and still balance a social life, being engaged in the community here, and keeping my fitness up. When I’m on the road, it feels like there are no gyms in Europe. You just have to get clever.
What brings you real joy?
A lot, but I’d say love. What also really does it for me is grilling on the beach with a bunch of friends and enjoying great food with a little too much wine. I’m a Big Green Egg fan and I dry age my own meats. I do nearly every fish you can imagine.
When you’re feeling out of whack, how do you center yourself?
The whole fitness aspect is very relieving for me and now, I’m doing yoga. Other guys are skeptical but I find more of them are actually doing it and I’m getting a lot out of it. I have the coolest instructor named Georgia Deane at the Buckhead location of Highland Yoga. She makes me want to sell everything I have, buy a VW bus, go to California and soak in suntan lotion. Anything to do with water or skiing is very therapeutic and calming. I love to surf and ski, and generally be outdoors.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I love what I do so I want to continue to run my business and maintain my involvement with educational boards. Having a place in Telluride, Colorado, and Italy are on my ‘victory board’ for 2025. I also want to invest in more small businesses that I enjoy.
Who/what helps you be your Best Self?
Michelle Hodgson was an incredible influence on what I am doing personally with my company to create a legacy of making the world better, which led to the development of the Best in the World, Best for Our World theme for my life and approach to business. Once we connected, I helped her raise money for Children Helping Children, create structure, and organize. In return, she challenged me. The Young Presidents’ Organization, which I’m also involved in, has had a huge influence on me.