A Conversation With Ross Scott, Maui Powder Works

Ross Scott discovered powder coating while living in Hawaii, and built Maui Powder Works from the ground up along with his wife, Kim.


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Back in 2004, Ross Scott was living in Hawaii and frustrated with painting liquid paint on metal air conditioning registers for a local resort. Then he discovered powder coating, and built Maui Powder Works from the ground up along with his wife, Kim. They have a vibrant business, and just started an online training course for coaters. We caught up with him as the sun settled on a lazy Hawaiian afternoon.

PF: How’s business for a coating shop in Hawaii?

RS: It’s good and growing fast. I believe we’ve actually expanded the market here with customer education, word-of-mouth and having a top blog in powder coating. But, just like any business in Hawaii, all costs revolve around high rents, shipping and wages.

PF: Tell us about the online courses you offer.

RS: My courses will show seasoned powder coaters how to create artistic and architectural finishes without buying more equipment, so that they can expand their offerings to include products that were once only available to the liquid and chemical coatings market. This all happened by chance when a local welder needed to produce a more durable, less caustic application than his chemically induced effect could create on a large scale gate project. He challenged me to try and create it. The sample passed the architect’s sniff test, then we proceeded to get to work on systemizing the process. It’s aging without the waiting.

PF: How did you get your start in the industry?

RS: At the time, I was painting and refinishing furniture for vacation rental owners and resorts with my wife, Kim. We got a call from an owner to look at his patio set. We discussed painting, but he didn't want that. He wanted powder coating. I was stunned because I thought I knew everything about painting, but had never heard of powder coating before. That night, I searched the internet and hung out in forums to learn more. When I realized you could put finished pieces into service the same day without waiting for the paint to dry, I was hooked.

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

RS: You’re only as good as your last job, from a friend who taught me the value of taking pride in my work when I first started painting and restoring things.

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

RS: Working as a busboy for a popular restaurant. Taxes suck.

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

RS: Habitat for Humanity because homes are so expensive here and it’s even harder when you live and work at the poverty line.

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

RS: First car was a 1976 Audi Fox that cost $900. Dream car is a Porsche 918 Spyder.

PF: What leadership traits have helped you?

RS: I would say problem-solution, as in reducing a problem to its lowest common denominator. Once you do, the solution can been revealed.

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

RS: Race car driver. My family lived in Alaska and my dad used to ice race every weekend. It’s a thing there.

PF: Night owl or early bird?

RS: When I was young, a night owl. Now at 50, early bird.

PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?

RS: Maui, duh.

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

RS: My father’s helicopter tour company, Sunshine Helicopters. I helped start it when I was 18 and right out of high school. Back then, I learned to wear many hats — sales, operations — and the importance of maintenance.

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

RS: Valentino Rossi, Moto GP rider and nine-time Grand Prix world champ.

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

RS: My garage getting ready for my Sunday ride on my new 2019 Kawasaki Ninja XR-10r.

PF: Best way to keep competitive edge?

RS: Late afternoon walks, thinking about the business and my next move.

PF: Personal heroes?

RS: Any American patriot.

PF: What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?

RS: Extremely empathic.

PF: How do you motivate people?

RS: I internalize the situation for them as if I was the one needing the motivation. Once I see the picture of where they are coming from, I can visualize the best way to motivate them.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?

RS: Meditate.

PF: Three greatest passions?

RS: Riding bikes on Sundays, skiing in the winter and finishing a job.

PF: If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?

RS: Electrician.

PF: What was the first thing you bought with your own money?

RS: Schwinn bicycle for my newspaper route.

PF: Most unique office décor?

RS: A poster-sized front cover of our patina powder-coat gate that got featured in a magazine. It was an unexpected surprise from the publisher.

PF: Best business decision?

RS: Taking small steps every day to accomplish the larger goal.

PF: Worst business decision?

RS: When I tried to match my competition’s pricing, then realized his business model was not mine.

PF: Biggest management myth?

RS: That you don’t need a degree to master business.

PF: What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

RS: Go see an accountant.

PF: Word that best describes you?

RS: Reliable.