Kirby’s Way

How Kirby and Caroline Risk Built Their Company
Kitchen-Table Values


Can people today live like Kirby and Caroline did, giving genuinely to those with whom they work, worship, and play, building relationships along the way? My hope is, that after reading Kirby’s Way, more people may experience the occasional “light-bulb Kirby Risk moment.” Angie Klink, author of Kirby’s Way

There is so much to appreciate in “Kirby’s Way,” stories that will be enjoyable to the family and friends of Mr. Risk, and inspiring for those who never met him. Caroline, his wife, said it best, “There’s nobody else in the world like him.”—Brian Lamb, founder of C-SPAN

There was a businessman who came to town, and he was looking for people to model his business after. He heard about Kirby. Somebody said to him, “Who is Kirby Risk?” The businessman said, “Well, Kirby is the guy that, if he took a bucket of purple paint and went out here on Main Street and started to paint that center line, nobody would even ask him why.”

Roger Swindle, sixty-year employee of Kirby Risk Corporation

Roger Kirby

Kirby’s Way, published by Purdue University Press, is a biography of J. Kirby Risk II, founder of Kirby Risk Corporation—today, a multimillion-dollar Midwest electrical products and services industry, headquartered in Lafayette, Indiana. In 1926, Kirby began his company in a former blacksmith’s shop with $500 borrowed from his father.

Kirby called himself “a small-town businessman from the banks of the Wabash.” The fastidious, dapper man exuded philanthropy and free enterprise. Like a border collie, he worked the flock, rounded up strays, darted to key places to close up stragglers, and nudge everyone toward a goal.

Kirby’s Way is a handbook on how to build a company and a remarkable life through generosity and altruism. The book is filled with stories of industrialists, men in fedoras who built relationships over a martini or a home-cooked meal—compliments of his steadfast wife.

Kirby noticed people. He made them feel important, and they loved him. In turn, people wanted to help Kirby. Jack Scott, former publisher of the Lafayette Journal and Courier and retired chairman of the Gannett Foundation, said, “Kirby’s got more compassion per corpuscle than any person I’ve ever known.”

Unless otherwise noted, all images are courtesy of the Risk family.