A Conversation with Joe Starc, Coventya

Joe Starc is the technical service manager for Coventya and was named one of Products Finishing’s 40-Under-40 to watch in 2017. 

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Joe Starc is the technical service manager for Coventya and was named one of Products Finishing’s 40-Under-40 to watch in 2017. He completed his Certified Electroplater-Finisher certification and is enrolled in the MBA program at Cleveland State University. Outside of work, Joe is an active member of his community, serving on the board of the local Kiwanis club and involved with Big Brothers, the Refugee Response program and a local food bank.

PF: What does your job entail?
JS: I manage the lab that analyzes our customers’ samples for critical components of the plating solutions, make recommendations on how to optimize the bath, and I help troubleshoot when problems arise. 

PF: What do you like best about what you do?
JS: It is rewarding to help someone to solve their problem. The best days are when I have solved a customer issue, or helped a colleague work through an issue.

PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?
JS: The Coventya Values, which were determined by a survey of all employees, include accountability, empowerment, teamwork, innovation, expertise, excellence, integrity, empathy, and respect. While I try to embody all of these values, empathy and integrity are especially important in a leadership position.

PF: How have you seen things change in eight years in the industry?
JS: I started during the recession, so I have seen a lot of growth. Our customers have added new lines and employees. That type of capital and personnel investment was not happening when I started. Coventya has also grown a lot; we have completely renovated the lab, added instruments, and added office space to make room for all of the new hires.

PF: Tell us about earning your CEF a few years back.
JS: I learned from some of Coventya’s most experienced technical people. One was Karen Mathis; she was a wonderful person. Without my CEF training, I would not have had much opportunity to interact with her. Several years later, I still recall her emphasizing that diatomaceous earth is used as a filter aid.  

PF: What motivates you to volunteer and give back?
JS: I have been very fortunate my entire life, and I have an altruistic worldview. I started working with the Refugee Response this past year because I was disheartened to see how the current environment has so negatively impacted a very vulnerable group of people. Kiwanis provides an opportunity to volunteer in the community to which I recently moved. Food banks are a critical source of food for those in poverty.

PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
JS: It would be difficult to choose. Emily’s List is a group that encourages women to run for office. Give Directly is one of the top rated and most efficient charities. Local food banks could always use the assistance. The Refugee Response and BBBS are excellent programs. I would try to help as many as I could.

PF: What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
JS: I have had several great mentors at Coventya. More than one has stressed the importance of preparing employees for the next step of their careers, even if it is not in your department or even with the company. Personally, my parents always stressed the importance of financial responsibility. I had to divide my allowance between three jars: one for saving, one for giving and one for spending, which got the smallest percentage. I hated those jars, but the lesson stuck.

PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
JS: I spent a few summers working at the company where my father worked. I learned I did not enjoy filing or sitting at a desk all day.

PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
JS: I learned to drive in a Dodge Caravan, and much to my fiancée’s chagrin, I keep telling her I want to buy a minivan.

PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
JS: A doctor.

PF: Night owl or early bird?
JS: Neither. I need my eight hours of sleep.

PF: Who would you trade jobs with for a day?
JS: Maybe a movie critic. I enjoyed a film class I took in college, and my favorite podcast is about bad movies.

PF: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?
JS: The Akron Food Bank is very impressive. They feed over 250,000 people a year through around 500 different food pantries, with mostly volunteer labor.

PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
JS: On the weekend, I will normally play basketball, go for a walk/run in the park if it is nice out, and work around the house/do homework.

PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?
JS: I am very happy with where I am now. Living with my fiancé has been a wonderful experience. We are close to our family and all the things we like to do.

PF: Personal heroes?
JS: My parents have always supported me and set a great example. I admire all that they have done for me. My sister is brilliant—don’t tell her I said that—and always pushed me in school. She is now a professor of health care economics, and I still look up to her.

PF: What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
JS: Just work hard, and don’t worry about the future. Everything will work out.

PF: Best way to keep competitive edge?
JS: I am competitive when playing sports or games, but I don’t feel as though I am competing with anyone in my professional life. Everyone I work with is either a customer who I want to see succeed or a colleague who I want to see succeed.

PF: How do you motivate people?

JS: Buy-In is crucial. I try to make sure everyone knows how their role contributes to both the success of our customers and the success of the company. I also try to provide the autonomy to affect positive change.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?
JS: I try to be better today than I was yesterday.

PF: What are your three greatest passions?
JS: I try to be passionate about whatever I am doing, but my family is most important.

PF: Most unique office décor?
JS: An Easter Island Moai tissue dispenser.

PF: Best business decision?
JS: Accepting my current position despite the risks.

PF: Worst business decision?
JS: I didn’t like chocolate as a kid and would trade all of my chocolate halloween candy to my sister for her non-chocolate candy.

PF: What is the biggest management myth?
JS: You have to be an expert in all facets of your job. I learn something new every day, and I am surrounded by great people and resources. Expertise takes time, and no one starts an expert.

PF: What word best describes you?
JS: It would not be self-aware, so I polled some people. My favorite response was either compassionate or effective.