I’ll be the first to admit that I love to complain. That should come as no surprise to those of you who read this column on a regular basis, for I’ve spent much time on this page complaining about things both related and unrelated to the finishing industry. But this month, as we approach Valentines Day—and the unrelenting wave of greeting cards, flowers and heart-shaped sugar candies —I thought I’d take this opportunity to set the complaints aside and instead share a few things that I love about our industry.
Having only worked in a handful of industries, I cannot say definitively that the sense of community that I have observed in this industry does not exist elsewhere. But my gut feeling is that we’ve got something truly special in our little corner of the world. I’ve observed as supplier companies have taken the time to help out finishers solve a problem, even when it didn’t hold thepromise of a sale. I’ve had finishers spend hours with me on the phone or at a plant visit in order to help me understand a process or technology better. I’ve seen competitors work together in trade organizations for the sake of furthering our industry as a whole. I’m hard pressed to believe that this spirit of cooperation exists in too many other places.
As someone who enjoys frequent contact with finishers and suppliers, I can tell you that many in the industry are not afraid to be straightforward. That’s true when somebody wants to offer praise, but also true—albeit sometimes a little hard to digest—when somebody has a complaint. I’ve received my share of phone calls and emails from readers who weren’t afraid to tell me that they thought I was completely off-target about something that I wrote, and I appreciate those calls every bit as much as the ones offering praise. But I’ve also watched as readers have corresponded with the writers of our Clinics, never afraid to disagree with a writer’s analysis, offer new ideas or suggest a better way for tackling an obstacle.
The key to weathering a storm lies in one’s sense of humor. And Lord knows, this industry has seen more than its share of storms in the last few years. Whether it’s the economy, the threat of overly restrictive environmental regulations or the perils of overseas labor, many people in our industry have demonstrated an ability to keep smiling. I think it is our collective sense of humor that has kept many of us going.
I’m always amazed at how passionate people in our industry are about their jobs and finishing technologies in general. If you’re like me, you’ve probably had at least one instance where you described your excitement about a new coating technology to friends or family, only to be met with a blank stare or false enthusiasm. The fact is, many people outside of the industry cannot understand how it is that we can be so excited about finishing, or what drives us to want to make the technologies better. Perhaps it is because our industry is something that grows on you over time. Or maybe it's because many “outsiders” haven’t enjoyed the community, honesty and humor that we’ve experienced in our world.