A Conversation With ... Kevin Coursin, President of Engineered Finishing Systems

Kevin Coursin is president of Engineered Finishing Systems, a Chicago-area company that engineers, designs and builds paint and porcelain enamel finishing systems.
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Kevin Coursin is president of Engineered Finishing Systems. The Chicago-area company engineers, designs and builds paint and porcelain enamel finishing systems, and Coursin has grown the company since he joined. He was recently named president of the Chemical Coaters Association International, and we spoke with him about his travels in the finishing industry and his goals for CCAI.


PF: You started your career as a senior plant engineer at General Motors for six years. Tell us what you learned about that experience?
During my time at GM I really learned how to apply my engineering degree to “real world” problems. Besides working as a plant engineer, I also was a maintenance supervisor for the paint shop for two years. I learned about paint operations and how the equipment such as washers, ecoat, ovens and conveyors work and how to supervise others. I transferred to a new plant and was the project engineer in charge of designing and installing a new paint shop. This is where I learned how to coordinate and schedule multiple suppliers and vendors to achieve the end result of a new paint shop.

Q: How hard was it to step in as a new president and CEO having come from the outside?
It is always difficult to take over the president’s position from the original founder of the company. He had all the institutional knowledge of what had transpired over the years and all of the employees respected and loved working for him. Since I did not have this, I had to set up various processes within the company to be able to get information to me to make decisions. I also had to prove myself to the existing employees that I brought knowledge and organizational experience with me in order to gain their respect.

PF: You have been on the board of the Powder Coating Institute, the Chemical Coaters Association International, and the Porcelain Enamel Institute. How do you balance each group’s goals?
The fact that all these organizations are within the finishing industry and that they all are trying to educate and help it grow and prosper makes it much easier to work within each one individually. There are similar issues that all the organizations have, which allows me to sort of cross over between them. I also am able to bring a different perspective to each as I understand what is similar or what is different about each.

PF: You’re an avid golfer. How are you playing these days,
and what have you learned about yourself over the years playing golf?
The good news is that business has been very good over the past couple of years. The bad news is that this does not allow enough time to play golf regularly, so the golf game suffers. I have learned from the game of golf to be humble and to not take it so seriously. Since the game is really me against the course and weather, I have come to enjoy just trying to do the best I can and to enjoy the other golfers with me.

PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
The first was advice my dad gave to me while I was in college. He said when he would look to hire a new graduate that he would look to make sure he was well-rounded with involvement in activities versus just having a 4.0 grade point as a bookworm. I took this to heart maybe too much and was involved in many activities at school. But I did learn to work well with others and took on many leadership roles, which helped me later. The other advice was from a former boss. One time when working on a big project I had a vacation that was coming up. I asked him if I should cancel it because we were so busy. He told me that I should go ahead and take it as there will always be something else that comes up. I try to remember this now as I am the leader of the company.  

PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
I would split it up giving some to the American Cancer Society in honor of my dad and sister, and to the Catholic Charities for all their good work in helping the poor.

PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
While in college, I bought my grandfather’s 1967 Rambler, which was over 10 years old with a 3-speed manual transmission on the steering wheel. It was great. My dream car would be a two-seat convertible sports car.