A Conversation with Paul Skelton, biganodes

Paul Skelton is a hard guy to miss. The CEO of biganodes arguably has the best beard in the business, is the NASF Palmetto chapter president and will celebrate his 30th year in finishing in 2019.

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Paul Skelton is a hard guy to miss. The CEO of biganodes arguably has the best beard in the business. His company is a full-service metal finishing provider specializing in sales, distribution, consulting and technical support to plating, anodizing die-casting and wet process systems. He also is president of the National Association for Surface Finishing’s Palmetto chapter and will celebrate his 30th year in finishing in 2019. Visit biganodes.com.

PF: You started your finishing career working in a lab. What kept you in this industry?

PS: I was young, interested in chemistry and fell in love with the processes in the manufacturing of electroplating and the end products they were complementing. From the lab, I graduated on to supervising and managing all aspects of a metal finishing job shop. It was the best education anyone finding an interest in metal finishing could have, and I got paid to grow and learn from it, and met some of the most interesting people along the way.

PF: How did you settle on biganodes as a company name?

PS: I was VP of sales and operations for a foundry that made and sold zinc ball anodes and other zinc and non-ferrous anodes and products that shutdown in 2007. “Biganodes.com” was the URL or domain name, which included my email addresses, etc., so I was kind of known throughout the industry as the “biganodes” guy. I guess I was savvy enough to grab the domain name and determined it was a catchy enough name to name the company.

PF: What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?

PS: My mom said “Hard work never hurt anyone.”

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

PS: My best friend landed me a job as a lab tech in a printed circuit board shop. I learned all about chemistry, electrochemistry, troubleshooting, maintenance, equipment and waste treatment. It’s all stayed with me all these years.

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

PS: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest non-profit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer. Dedicated to my mom, my wife and all the other women who have battled or are battling breast cancer.

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

PS: First car was a 1966 Ford Mustang. My dream car is a Porsche 911 Carrera, Targa, Turbo or Cabriolet—just pick one.

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

PS: Motivation, coaching, accountability, creativity and thinking outside the box, and the ability to think on my feet.

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

PS: An engineer.

PF: Night owl or early bird?

PS: Night owl.

PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?

PS: North Carolina: less than an hour into the mountains and just a few hours to the closest beach. But a shout-out to my friends and family back in Oklahoma is necessary!

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

PS: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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

PS: Ken Grossman, owner of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Having a brewery on both coasts, the reputation and core values of the company, the enormous number of beers brewed and tasted over the decades and now—it all sounds really good to me about right now.

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

PS: Football or baseball games, golf course, or a brewery or tap house.

PF: Best way to keep a competitive edge?

PS: Galvanizing relationships with my customers, as well as the notable manufacturers and suppliers I work with in the metal finishing industry. It helps me remain competitive and relevant in the industry. Reading Products Finishing magazine doesn’t hurt either.

PF: Personal heroes?

PS: All patriots, veterans and first responders.

PF: How do you motivate people?

PS: Empowering people with encouragement and promoting their strengths; positive coaching is the best way to motivate people and achieve a successful outcome.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?

PS: Work hard, play hard. I just wish I had more time to play.

PF: Three greatest passions?

PS: Family, watching sports and craft beer.

PF: Most unique office décor?

PS: My kegerator. Right now, I have a nice IPA from Asheville, North Carolina, on tap.

PF: Best business decision?

PS: Building and managing a small company with big, but modest ambitions; there’s no better threat of accountability than to employ yourself and be the only one to blame for success or failure.

PF: Worst business decision?

PS: I don’t know of any I may have made, but a lot of great lessons learned along the way.

PF: Biggest management myth?

PS: Management is the path to the big bucks. If anything, it’s just a path; where it leads is up to us.

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

PS: Less is more, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

PF: Words that best describes you?

PS: Big and humble.