A Conversation With … Bill Stock, President of Microfinish
Bill Stock is the quintessential “Jack of all trades,” running a plating, e-coat and powder coating operation out of four locations in the St. Louis area. What started out as a summer job for Bill turned into a career and has made him a fixture at all the industry trade shows and events. We caught up with Bill shortly after he finished an 18,000-sq-ft expansion of his powder coating facility to talk about his career and family.
How did you get into the finishing industry?
BS: I worked in a job shop as a summer job to pay for my college tuition. My mom died suddenly, and I thought I would sit out of school for a year. The company I worked for was going to shut down, and I was asked if I wanted to try running it. So after nearly 32 years, I am still working at my “summer” job.
Microfinish has so many different types of finishing processes: plating, powder coating, e-coating and more. How do you keep on top of the new developments in each specific process?
BS: Several of us in management positions are active in NASF, SME, and Starcoaters/20 Group activities. We invest time and money attending SUR/FIN, and e-coat and powder coat shows, as well as IMTS. We actively work to stay in touch with emerging technology for both chemistry and equipment.
You have more than 220,000 sq ft in four separate locations. How do you manage your time at each one?
BS: I have excellent managers and supervisors that do an outstanding job, so physically being at each facility is not always necessary for me. I try to call each manager every day, whether there is a particular issue or not. There are times I may be at a location four times in one week and then not have time to be there for three weeks. The managers take a lot of pressure off of me.
Your company has just under 400 customers. How does an organization manage that many?
BS: Again, it comes down to our people. Our managers have very close working relationships with most of our customers and manage most of the existing accounts themselves, which allows our sales force to expand our business. I was taught the only bad customers are the ones that do not pay their bills, or are not willing to pay you fairly for the services you supply. Thankfully, we have not experienced many “bad” customers. Most of the customers we work with are the reasons I enjoy what I do.
You supply coatings to five different automotive companies. What does that sector look like in the next five to 10 years as alternative coatings are going to be required in some areas?
BS: I have taken the posture that looking out five to 10 years is nearly impossible. While we monitor new technology, we work on a timeline of about two years. With many of the substantial changes we have made, the opportunities had not presented themselves to us more than six months in advance. I believe remaining flexible and open-minded are the keys. Having said that, I suspect greener products will replace chromates over zinc plating, and new products are on the horizon to replace iron and zinc phosphate for pretreatment in powder and e-coat.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given, personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
BS: I have had a number of mentors and been given fantastic advice over my career. When I was trying to decide to stay in school or take the job offer to resuscitate a dying business, I went to talk with my then-future father-in-law. Dad Eatherton told me, “I don’t think taking the wrong job is the worst mistake a man can make.” Those words encouraged me to take chances; failing in my work life was not important. I knew Dad was warning me of the real failures in life as he saw it. Failures of faith, morals and character are the real mistakes one can make. N
Get to know Bill:
Family: Wife of 32 years, Karen; daughter Lisa and son Tim; son-in-law Matt; and two grandchildren, Noah and Anna.
Favorite hobby: Walking, bike riding, fishing, St. Louis Cardinals.
Favorite movie: “Fargo.”
Favorite book: I don’t care to take time to read books. I spend so much time reading the Wall Street Journal and work-related periodicals on finishing and business that when I get through them, I want to spend time on one of my other hobbies.
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and anything country.
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