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A Mandate to Innovate: Yankee Candle's Rick Ruffolo

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: May 3, 2007, from the May 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 6 of 6

That passion for fragrance embraces the growing interest in natural materials, too. Many of the company’s candle fragrances contain natural fragrance oils or extract, including the World Collection line. Additionally, the company offers three authentic Aromatherapy candle lines containing essential oils—including Yankee Candle Aromatherapy SPA, Illuminations Pure Aromatherapy and the all-natural Aroma Naturals line. In addition, the company has launched a new line of home fragrance oils that are warmed in an oil warmer using an unscented tea light, and the company continues to seek ways to improve fragrance experiences wherever a consumer chooses to enjoy them—at home, at work, in the car, or at play.

The natural product lines work well in a world that seems to be focusing on wellness more than ever before. In a press release for Yankee Candle’s “Light a Candle for Your Heart” program, which supports the American Heart Association’s efforts to promote the awareness of heart disease in women, Ruffolo is quoted as saying, “Each of us can make important lifestyle decisions to improve our heart health, such as incorporating regular exercise, eating right and even relaxing.” So, how does a guy with a triple-header title, weeks filled with meetings and decision-making, and five children relax?

As much as he would like to say that he vacations in Italy for several weeks each year, Ruffolo instead finds relaxation in sports—not so much as a player these days, he laments, but as a coach, helping train his children’s soccer and basketball teams. He finds many parallels between that coaching and his professional role as a coach and boss. In both cases, he finds the challenge is not just doing the work but finding ways to identify and develop talents and teaching and motivating the players to perform both as individuals and in collaboration with others.

In this coaching role, Ruffolo speaks at various colleges and, again, gets his inspiration from his number one role model—his father. Yet, it is most likely the thrill of the new, the eureka moment, that keeps Ruffolo going. The latest news from Yankee Candle, which went public in 1999, is the February 2007 completion of a merger with an affiliate of Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC, a private equity firm, and the delisting of its common stock from the New York Stock Exchange. For Ruffolo and his team, the change simply means business as usual. “We will continue to pursue an aggressive growth agenda for the company, and innovation will continue to play a critical role in making this happen.” Whatever the agenda, the company relies on its Idea Czar to bring its passion for fragrance to consumers.