A Conversation with Korey Bell, Westside Finishing
Korey Bell was recently promoted from operations manager to president of Westside Finishing, following the spring retirement of Korey’s father and company founder Brian Bell.
It’s not a surprise that Korey Bell pursues excellence both on and off the shop floor. As operations manager and now president of a five-time Products Finishing Top Shop, he has been heavily involved in many changes over the course of the company's history to help it maintain its high level of productivity and quality. Off the shop floor, he’s also just as intense as he strives to be the best at whatever he’s doing, including his passions for mountain biking and skiing.
Korey Bell and his son Blais
PF: What is the biggest change in going from operations manager to president?
KB: I’m now responsible for overseeing our quoting/pricing process.
PF: You all have been recognized for your revenue growth. What markets are you going after and how do you win jobs?
KB: Up until 3rd quarter of 2019 our marketing budget was $0 per year. Our sales grew through mainly through referrals. We really didn’t have a target market and have simply done our best to serve anyone who calls on us.
PF: Westside Finishing has been named a Top Shop for five years. How do you keep that level of efficiency going?
KB: We’re constantly evaluating our processes and trying to be more efficient. We’ve also spent a great deal of time working with outside consultants on Lean manufacturing and implementing those principles into our business.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
KB: My father always said, “Take care of your customers and they will take care of you.”
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
KB: My first job at WSF was to rack small nuts we were coating at the time. It gave me my first insight into how jobs were run on the floor. Over the years I’ve held virtually every position in the shop for at least a summer break or longer. It gave me firsthand experience throughout the shop before transitioning to a role as our purchasing agent when I started college.
PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
KB: I’d find a charity that supports our military veterans in need.
PF: What was your first car and what is your dream car?
KB: I had a 1996 Honda Accord as my first car. If I had to choose one dream car it would probably be a Ferrari F40. Always loved the lines on those cars.
PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?
KB: I have a strong Type A personality. It really doesn’t matter what the task or challenge in front of me is. I keep at it until I find away to achieve the result I’m looking for.
PF: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
KB: At 10 I wanted to be a Naval aviator. I have probably seen “Top Gun” 100 times.
PF: Night owl or early bird?
KB: Early bird. I’m at the shop by 5:30 a.m.
PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?
KB: South Hadley, Massachusetts
PF: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?
KB: I’ve always been impressed by companies that grow to be names we all recognize. Microsoft is a great example of company that was started in a garage and now is one of the most widely known businesses on the planet.
PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?
KB: It’d be nice to see firsthand the life of a professional athlete. What they go through daily to keep their bodies and minds ready to compete at an elite level.
PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
KB: If it’s warm enough, I’ll be out on my boat with the family. In colder months, I like to be out mountain biking or skiing.
PF: Best way to keep competitive edge?
KB: Always be open to new ideas. Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way.
PF: Personal heroes?
KB: I’ve always admired entrepreneurs who were able to take their idea and build companies so large and powerful that they become a household name. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos for example. I’m not sure I’d call them my heroes per se, but their accomplishments in business are something I’m in awe of.
PF: What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?
KB: I can produce some interesting voices. Normally, they are reserved for when I’m playing with my young children.
PF: How do you motivate people?
KB: Treat people with respect and show them how they contribute to the ultimate success of the company.
PF: How do you motivate yourself?
KB: I always strive to be the best at whatever I’m doing. Work/practice/train/improve. It’s the only way I know how to go about my day.
PF: Three greatest passions?
KB: My family, boating and mountain biking.
PF: If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
KB: Without a doubt it would be patience. That is a struggle for me sometimes.
PF: What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
KB: I saved for six months to buy a Sega Genesis game console when they first came out.
PF: Most unique office décor?
KB: Signed photo from Dick and Rick Hoyt. The father son team that has run more marathons than I can count together.
PF: Best business decision?
KB: Implementing Lean Manufacturing principles into our business.
PF: Worst business decision?
KB: Not doing our due diligence prior to purchasing some expensive equipment from a manufacturer who I will not name.
PF: Biggest management myth?
KB: “The customer is always right.” Sorry, sometimes they are not. It’s how you go about telling them and how well you work with them to resolve the problem at hand and prevent it from happening again in the future.
PF: Do you collect anything?
KB: I like to collect firearms with military history.
PF: What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
KB: Don’t react when you’re upset or frustrated. Take the time to cool down before you move forward.
PF: Word that best describes you:
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