It's a balancing act, but Diane Adams likes working the line between sales and marketing.

Earlier this year, the Hatfield manufacturer of construction toys, K'nex Industries, promoted Adams, 46, of Chalfont, to senior vice president, global sales and marketing. She formerly handled sales and marketing for the United States and Canada.

"I've worked in large companies and small companies," said Adams, who has been a licensing vice president at crayon-maker Binney & Smith in Easton and held sales and marketing positions at 3M/Lanier Business Systems and Avery Dennison.

"Managing both the sales and marketing side keeps you sane. It's the excitement of being able to take something, and see it grow and thrive, and become quite a significant player in this market."

Adams, who joined K'nex in 2002, takes on her new role as K'nex celebrates its 15th anniversary with what she describes as a "relaunch of K'nex."

For 2007, Adams said, K'nex is standardizing its parts while boosting the number of pieces in each set, and also revamping its packaging and branding. In January, K'nex introduced a new Bricks line designed by founder Joel Glickman to work with the original K'nex parts.

"Ultimately, the kids can build whatever they imagine by combining the bricks and sticks," Adams said, adding that Glickman - who came out of retirement in December 2005 to return as K'nex chief executive officer - is essentially bringing the company "back to its roots."

In addition to its own lines, K'nex Industries distributes Lincoln Logs and Brio trains. Its sister company is the injection-molding manufacturer the Rodon Group, also based in Hatfield.

K'nex's goal, said Adams, is to capture 20 percent of the construction-toy category globally over the next five years. Currently, K'nex's share is about 11 percent globally and 12 percent in the United States.

With annual sales of about $100 million, K'nex is the third-largest construction-toy manufacturer, behind market leader the Lego Group and Mega Brands Inc., the maker of Mega Bloks. NPD Group Inc., a market research firm, estimated the U.S. construction-toy market at $670.8 million in 2006.

Yet Adams has no fear of being the underdog seeking to gain market share.

"We have the passion and enthusiasm," she said. "We really see the opportunity to be a much bigger category in the toy-construction business."

Originally from North Wales, Adams holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and communications from Pennsylvania State University. She and her husband, Craig, have two daughters, ages 19 and 16.

What toys did she play with as a child? "I was a Barbie kid, definitely a Barbie kid," Adams said. "I still have a lot of my Barbies." - Janet Pinkerton

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