A Conversation with David Gasparovich, MacDermid Enthone

David Gasparovich describes his job as “solving OEM coatings challenges,” and he happens to be very good at it. 


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David Gasparovich describes his job as “solving OEM coatings challenges,” and he happens to be very good at it. He is the business development manager for the Americas for MacDermid Enthone Industrial Solutions and is based in Chicago, where he is also studying for his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. David also currently is vice president of the Chicago Surface Finishing Foundation, having served as its president for the previous three years.

PF: What’s the biggest difference between your role as business development manager and when you were in sales?

DG: In sales, we support platers. In business development, we support the customers of the platers. OEMs and Tiers have had to rely on random, disjointed coatings resources, if anyone, to become educated about surface finishing, validate root causes for quality issues and determine suitable applicators for new programs.

PF: What challenges do you see most often with commercial vehicles, heavy equipment and agricultural equipment?

DG: The two biggest issues we see are global coatings consistency and increased demand for zinc nickel. Supplier quality teams are challenged with monitoring quality from each region of the world, doing their best to achieve consistency in coatings performance (and friction characteristics for fasteners). The demand for zinc nickel is increasing more than anything else due to heightened performance expectations of new programs and ever-increasing warranty terms.

PF: How do you balance a successful career, family and the time needed to earn your MBA?

DG: Managing a full life isn’t about trying to do a million things at once, but rather never doing nothing. Stress can creep up on me every so often, but it helps that I enjoy whatever I’m doing, whether I’m presenting at a customer, grilling steaks or reading a case study.

PF: What’s the best advice you were given?

DG: A mentor of mine once passed along some advice I will never forget: “Stop selling and help someone.” I have built many meaningful relationships in this business.

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

DG: Dairy Queen when I was 15. It was the first time I learned the importance of customers, the importance of showing up on time and my hidden talents for decorating ice cream cakes.

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

DG: I drove a Jeep Wrangler in high school and college. Traffic is not so bad when you have the top down on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, enjoying the sun, listening to music. I will own one again someday. I guess you would say my first car is my dream car.

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

DG: The best leaders are those who work to enable their teams and lead alongside. The traits I’ve adopted from my favorite managers are things I’ve watched them do, not things I’ve heard them say.

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

DG: I wanted to be a pro golfer. I thought I had the same swing as Colin Montgomerie.

PF: Night owl or early bird?

DG: When I have the luxury of deciding, I am an early bird. Nothing beats that first sip of coffee.

PF: What is your favorite place to have lived?

DG: In 2007, I lived in the Swabia region of Germany. It was historical and beautiful, and the people were wonderful. 

PF: What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?

DG: Slow down. Stop talking. Listen. 

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

DG: On Saturdays, I practically live at the University of Chicago, working on my MBA. When school is over, I’m looking forward to sleeping, watching college football and playing golf again.

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

DG: The First Tee is a charity that introduces the game of golf to children, many of whom are from struggling communities. In addition to learning the game, they are coached in golf’s values and in sportsmanship. I admire this foundation greatly.

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

DG: Under Armour has always fascinated me. Out of nowhere, they successfully entered a mature sports apparel market, and then emerged as the pacesetter for wearable technologies.

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

DG: I would have a blast as an anchor on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The original guys had so many more catchphrases than those today do.

PF: What’s the best way to keep a competitive edge?

DG: Always re-evaluate your game plan. Never be satisfied.

PF: Who are you personal heroes?

DG: People who have served our country are the greatest Americans and will always be my heroes.

PF: How do you motivate people?

DG: The best way to motivate people is to lead by action. If you put your head down and work, others will take the cue. If you sit back and do nothing, you will influence your team. Whether leading or part of a pack, this is still true.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?

DG: I never want to let anybody down. Whether it’s a customer, my manager or a project group, every task has a customer. Being my own toughest critic, I also try hard not to let myself down.

PF: What are your three greatest passions?

DG: Making my niece laugh, Michigan State University sports and cooking.

PF: What’s the most unique décor item in your office?

DG: I have a sleeve of chrome-colored golf balls on my desk. So far, I have resisted the urge to play with them.

PF: What was your best business decision?

DG: Deciding to earn my MBA. The real world is the best classroom, but I needed the formal finance training. I will also earn concentrations in strategic management and marketing management.

PF: Worst business decision?

DG: In 2008, I bought Ford Motor Co. stock at $2. I sold all of it at $3.

PF: What do you consider the biggest management myth?

DG: Goals do not equal strategy. Targets are fine, but what exactly will you do, when, with whom and how?

PF: What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?

DG: Slow down. Stop talking. Listen.

PF: What word that best describes you?

DG: Ready.