A Conversation With...Matt Kirchner
Products Finishing readers know well our Never Finished columnist Matt Kirchner. A talented writer, management expert and all-around dynamic presence in the industry, Matt most recently served as president and CEO of ABCQ Corp., a contract metal finishing operation in Milwaukee. And now he’s taken on a new challenge as CEO of American Finishing Resources, a Wisconsin-based coating removal company. Matt has also agreed to take his column monthly—meaning you’ll receive his wisdom on topics like industry networking and lean manufacturing in every issue of Products Finishing.
Tell us about your new position.
MK: I took a position as CEO of a company called American Finishing Resources, with locations in Chilton, WI; Eldridge, IA; and Shelbyville, IN. The company does coating removal from things like paint hook fixtures and racks, as well as fabrication and engineering of fixtures and racks for the paint and powder coating industries. Another part of the business is surface cleaning of production parts for coaters. I’ll work out of the Chilton facility where it’s headquartered, and my time will be spent with customers and developing new opportunities, which is what I’m passionate about, so I’ll be traveling a lot.
What made this the right move for you?
MK: One of the things that was really attractive to me was the opportunity for an equity position in the company. The segment I’m managing is plating and surface finishing, so I will service the same industries and a lot of the same customers, but at a different level.
That was important to me. I wanted to stay in the finishing industry because I’ve built up a lot of contacts, I have a lot of passion for the topics, and there are a lot of great people in the industry. And there’s a great team of people already at American Finishing. Obviously, people are everything in a business, and knowing they had real quality people was a huge draw.
I also have a commitment to growth, and I think American Finishing is in a segment of our market that will grow. As they focus more on lean manufacturing, more companies will leave the non-core tasks to outside providers. Something like coating removal, I view as non-core element of an OEM’s business. Alas, companies leave the types of things we do to the experts. I’m really bullish about this industry. I think there’s a huge value we can add to the global economy.
One of your talents is networking. Any secrets you can share?
MK: Number one when I network is thinking: How can I help the other person in their business? That may mean inviting them along to an NASF meeting, paying their way to a convention or bringing them to a breakfast with a speaker that has a topic of interest. People, myself included, like to network with people that can make them better. I ask, how can I help that person, with no strings attached? People will remember that, and they’ll remember you, and when there is an opportunity for them to help you, they’ll come back and do that.
There’s a rumor that you have 95 ideas for your Never Finished column.
MK: I keep a list of potential topics in my Blackberry, and working in the industry you constantly get ideas from people—things that come out of conversations—and I was up to 95 in the Blackberry. At this rate, I’ll be an old man before there’s any chance I’ll run out of topics.