Wayne R. Sanders, Kimberly Clark

For most of his 25 years at Kimberly-Clark Corp. (KMB), Wayne R. Sanders, 53, has watched his company operate in the shadow of consumer-products rival Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), which has three times the revenues. But these days, it's Kimberly-Clark that's in the spotlight. "We're out-growing and out-innovating our competition," boasts Sanders. Over the past five quarters, Kimberly-Clark's net income has soared by an average of nearly 30%, while the stock has risen 3% in the past year's down market, to about $66. That's quite a comeback from the tough times of just three years ago.

Yet trying to beat the odds is nothing new for Sanders, who owns eight thoroughbred horses. After coming to Kimberly-Clark's infant-care unit in 1987, the lanky former Illinois Institute of Technology basketball player scored big by helping develop what is now one of the company's best-selling products, Huggies Pull-Ups. He became CEO in 1991, chairman in 1992, and oversaw a major restructuring while digesting the $9.4 billion acquisition of Scott Paper Co.

Performance suffered during that time, but Sanders turned the situation around by focusing on just three categories: tissues, personal care, and health care. And Kimberly-Clark has managed to up its market share in those fields, despite difficulties posed by a weak euro and rising oil and pulp prices. "Our competitors have not done well in this environment," says Sanders. "We view this as an opportunity to continue to take market share." And, perhaps, become as big as P&G.