A Conversation with Ron Lum, Coral Chemical

Ron Lum is a sales manager at Coral Chemical and president of the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI) and its Southern California chapter.

Ron Lum is a sales manager at Coral Chemical Co. and president of the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI), having served on its board for several years. He also is president of the CCAI chapter in Southern California, where he lives with his family. We caught up with Ron soon after the CCAI annual meeting in New Mexico earlier this year.

PF: What goals have you set for CCAI?
RL: 1) Student initiatives: Introduce young individuals to industrial finishing and explain what it is, what the career opportunities are and what qualifications are needed. 2) Membership: we are focused on helping our existing chapters. CCAI’s membership is currently at its highest point in more than 16 years. 3) Peer groups: we launched our Peer Group Program in conjunction with the Powder Coating Institute and have recently held our first group meetings. 4) Internship/mentorship/apprentice program development: we are working with our members to help begin programs that can bring young talent together with the workforce needs of our members. 5) Training videos: we are working to expand our video library and are working on a series of short training videos. 6) Increased Manufacturing Day participation. 

PF: Why should coaters join a CCAI chapter?
RL: Participating in CCAI gives you a chance to learn and teach something new. We all have skills that we can help others with. The networking in our industry is invaluable, and it is also a great local forum to discuss issues and find solutions.

PF: How did you get your start in the finishing industry?
RL: My first job out of college as a manufacturing engineer was to support the powder coating department at a large company. At that time, it had two of the largest automatic powder coating booths on the West Coast.

PF: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you joined?
RL: Unfortunately, our industry is aging. Many great friends and colleagues have left or retired, leaving gaps of knowledge and support. Part of our push at CCAI is to renew the interest in the schools to start filling the pipeline again.

PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
RL: My first manager told me, “Deal with the facts; it’s much harder to argue with you if you only discuss facts.” I have used this time and again, and it’s true.

PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
RL: At a movie theater, and I learned don’t ever eat the butter flavoring. If you knew what it looked like, you would not eat it.

PF: What charity would you give $100,000?
RL: Half to cancer research because I have had too many friends and family have to deal with cancer, the other half to Toys for Tots, because you can put a lot of smiles on children’s faces with that kind of money.

PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
RL: My first car was a white Ford Pinto runabout with vinyl seats and no AC. My dream car would be a white BMW M6.

PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
RL: I grew up in a typical Asian family when it came to careers: I was pretty much expected to go to college and pursue either science, engineering or medicine. At 10, I would have told you an engineer; I always enjoyed mechanical things like Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and building sets, so even without parental encouragement, I naturally followed that direction anyways.

PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?
RL: Focus, patience and open-mindedness.

PF: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?
RL: CCAI. I wouldn't volunteer or spend the amount of time I do with the organization if I didn't believe in it.

PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?
RL: Probably anyone in the armed forces, police or fire. They protect, help and put themselves in harm’s way. I don't believe we have enough of an appreciation for what they do and go through to allow us to have the lives we have.

PF: Best way to keep a competitive edge?
RL: Always keep things in perspective and stay grounded. I really try to live through the mantra by Lokai, which sells an inexpensive bracelet that has clear beads with one black and one white. The black bead has mud from the dead seas and the white has water from Mt Everest. Their mantra is, “When you’re at your lowest (black bead) be hopeful, when you’re at your highest (white head) be humble.”

PF: Personal heroes?
RL: My mom. With the passing of my father and her personal battle with cancer, she still manages to live on her own and continue being a strong and positive influence on her siblings, children and grandchildren.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?
RL: My family is my greatest motivator to do my best.

PF: Three greatest passions?
RL: Family, friends and fun. Life is too short not to have fun with the people who mean the most to you.

PF: Most unique office décor?
RL: I have a shadow box of my 40th birthday. My boss and co-workers surprised me with a day of golf, dinner, an all-access passes to see Edwin McCain and a guitar. One of the best birthdays ever.

PF: Biggest management myth?
RL: “It’s not what you know, it's who you know.” I really believe if you just work hard, you will achieve what you want.

PF: What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
RL: Spend more time with your children; time goes by way too quick.

PF: Night owl or early bird?
RL: Seems like both; sleep is overrated.

PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?
RL: Mercer Island, Washington. As a child, I remember living there to be one great, big adventure. We lived at the end of a cul-de-sac in a house surrounded by evergreens with a small creek behind the house.

PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
RL: Hopefully at home with the family, but more likely in an airport or plane on my way home.

PF: Word that best describes you?
RL: Genuine.