A Conversation with Joe McChesney, Kyzen

The global product line manager for solvents at Kyzen has more than 39 years of experience with solvent and aqueous cleaning processes, and has served on the EPA/Clean Air Advisory Board.


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Joe McChesney is as straight a shooter as they come, literally and figuratively. The global product line manager for solvents at Kyzen has more than 39 years of experience with solvent and aqueous cleaning processes from conceptual design through field operation, and has served on the EPA/Clean Air Advisory Board, among others.

He is also in the Kentucky Trapshooting Hall of Fame, among his other feats.

Q: With all the regulations in place, how tough is it to clean parts effectively?

A: It really is not that difficult to obtain desired cleanliness levels. However, what is difficult is to do so at current cost of operations. New equipment and chemistry are typically more expensive than older generation processes. Throughput may be slower as well.

Q: Do end users fully understand the importance of having clean parts before finishing?

A: In today’s world, yes. Everyone must clean to a determined level to meet end-user criteria for quality, performance, reliability and acceptance.

Q: What does the future hold for further regulations?

A: The future of cleaning will be greatly affected by environmental, health and safety concerns. The environmental impact is now. VOC emissions, global warming, personnel exposure limits, stack emissions and waste disposal are paramount to any operation.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you were given?

A: “Maintain your personal integrity through honesty with your associates. They may not want to hear the actual facts, but you can always try to assist them once established.” This was instilled in me by Robert Clark, vice president of Detrex and my professional mentor.

Q: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

A: Working at a gas station during the summer pumping gas for 25 cents per hour in 1965. I learned to appreciate the few dollars pay each week, as I now had money for personal items I wanted to buy. This taught me to be self-sufficient and that, if I wanted to get ahead, I had to work hard for it.

Q: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?

A: Shriner’s Children Hospital, for all the good work they do.

Q: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?

A: First car was a 1955 Buick Century given to me by my older sister when she moved to California. I loved having a set of wheels when I was 15 years old. My dream car is a new model mid-engine Corvette.

Q: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?

A: I was fortunate to work at Detrex for 29 years where the managers were all quality professionals. I watched and sometimes participated with them in handling situations where environmental emergencies existed, business decisions were made on ethics and integrity, and customer service was the focus point for company existence. It’s a great company to work for.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I wanted to be an astronaut who flew to the moon and beyond.

Q: Night owl or early bird?

A: Night owl, definitely.

Q: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?

A: My hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Simple, clean, friendly and southern tradition.

Q: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?

A: Rock River Arms, with Chuck Larson as owner.

Q: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?

A: Snake hunter in Florida Everglades.

Q: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?

A: First, washing and cleaning my wife’s car, then a casual lunch, then do my car.

Q: Best way to keep competitive edge?

A: Stay hungry. Learn your competition, learn what the market wants and go after it.

Q: Personal heroes?

A: My eight uncles. When my Dad died when I was 6 years old, my uncles all took turns and filled in for him by making sure I had a fatherly presence in my life. I spent a lot of time with each one. I loved it and loved them. I’m forever grateful.

Q: How do you motivate people?

A: I try to mentor each person with what I learned in life. Establish the priorities of being professional, keeping one’s word, and showing up when called upon. Be true to yourself and you will not fail others.

Q: How do you motivate yourself?

A: I look at my place in life and ask if I am happy with what I see. If not, I try to change for the better. If I am content with my opinion, I tell myself to keep up the good work for as long as it takes.

Q: Three greatest passions?

A: Fellowship with my friends, hunting with my grandsons, and looking for respect from my fellow workers for a job well done.

Q: Most unique office décor?

A: My Kentucky Trapshooting Hall of Fame award.

Q: Best business decision?

A: Asking Kyzen management for a job.

Q: Worst business decision?

A: Investing in a get-rich-quick scheme with my sister. We both lost money.

Q: Biggest management myth?

A: You don’t have to work hard to be successful.

Q: What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

A: Look harder for the silver lining in my chosen profession. Don’t settle for just being average.

Q: Words that best describes you?

A: Average Joe.