A Conversation with Rick Gehman, Keystone Koating

Rick Gehman is president of Keystone Koating in Lititz, Pennsylvania, which has been a Products Finishing Top Shop numerous times.


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Rick Gehman is president of Keystone Koating in Lititz, Pennsylvania, which has been a Products Finishing Top Shop numerous times. He is also president of parent company PBZ LLC, a metal manufacturing business. He started in the company as a powder coating production line worker and advanced until he was managing the production lines, batch systems and a blast room, and finally became president.

PF: How did you get your start in the finishing industry?
RG: I started on the coating line 11 years ago when I lost my job in construction right before the housing bubble burst. Working on the powder coating line was one of the few jobs I could find that paid close to what I was getting. I became addicted to the daily challenges and found a home at Keystone.

PF: How challenging is it to run such a large operation?
RG: Because we have a great team to lead our organization, the challenges are exciting and the possibilities are many. I enjoy working with many personalities and strengths to accomplish common goals. Working with a strong, trusting team eliminates the daily stress and pressures.

PF: Yours has been a PF Top Shop for several years. What is the key to running a great finishing operation?
RG: Putting others first. It is important to invest in the employees; if they can succeed, the business will succeed.

PF: What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
RG: My father told me from a very young age to always receive correction. I have made a lifelong commitment to always be learning something new, and always willing to receive advice or counsel from anyone.

PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
RG: I started working on my grandfather’s dairy farm when I was 9. I learned the importance of hard work and getting dirty.

PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?
RG: Be coachable, always receive correction, be tenaciously curious, put others first (servant leadership).

PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
RG: A farmer; it is all I knew at the time.

PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?
RG: Where I live now, because our back porch has a view of farmlands in hills.

PF: Who would you trade jobs with for a day?
RG: An air traffic controller or airline pilot

PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
RG: Riding a bicycle, hiking or walking.

PF: Best way to keep a competitive edge?
RG: Learn something new every day.

PF: Personal heroes?
RG: My father and brother, because their personalities are opposite to mine and provide a welcomed perspective.

PF: How do you motivate people?
RG: By trusting them.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?
RG: Wake up. I am naturally motivated. I am inspired by simple things in everyday life to make the world a better place.

PF: Best business decision?
RG: Hiring the general manager for our Lititz facility.

PF: Worst business decision?
RG: Waiting too long to address a difficult employee.

PF: Biggest management myth? 
RG: Management by numbers gets great results.

PF: What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
RG: Identify and enhance the strengths in others.

PF: Word that best describes you?
RG: Nonconformist.