Donald Friese owned and served as chief executive officer of glass products manufacturer and distributor C.R. Laurence (CRL) in Los Angeles. As CEO, he grew the company into the largest glazing industry supplier in the US, with 40 locations and $570 million in annual sales. Over nearly 60 years with CRL, Donald Friese was known for his commonsense business philosophy and commitment to his customers and employees.
Typically working six days a week, Mr. Friese maintained a steadfast focus on his customers. He led by example to ensure CRL shipped “every order, every day” so that customers could have the products and tools they needed to complete jobs. He expanded CRL through acquisitions and organic growth, not only for profit, but to provide better service for customers.
As CEO, Donald Friese also prioritized his employees. During the sale of CRL to Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope (OBE) in 2015, he made sure the transaction maintained CRL’s personnel and organizational structure. Moreover, Mr. Friese sent thank you notes to those who had been employees of CRL for at least a year—with accompanying bonuses totaling $86 million. He gave two longtime warehouse managers bonuses of $1 million to thank them for their dedication to the company. Throughout his career, Mr. Friese enjoyed encouraging, nurturing, and promoting the people around him.
Mr. Friese’s career is the classic American success story. He joined CRL in 1961, working an entry-level warehouse job for $2.50 an hour. He spent his early years with the small company eagerly learning all aspects of the business, from customer service to inventory. Eventually, owner Bernie Harris sold him a 10 percent stake in CRL. Over the years, Mr. Friese invested more money in the business and eventually purchased Mr. Harris’ shares when he retired in the late 1990s. By then, Mr. Friese had become the company’s CEO. In 2018, three years after the sale to OBE, he announced his retirement.