Mentored For Success: With Honesty And Integrity

Posted on Thursday, December 1, 2011

Edited By Sharon Spielman

Although just over two years old, Great Lakes Powder Coating (GLPC) began its business with powder coating only in mind. It didn’t take long, though, for the job shop to incorporate CNC fabrication, welding, and pickup and delivery as well. Dewain Diacono, president of GLPC, is a 50-year-old go-getter who learned early on that doing business with honesty and integrity was the way he wanted to live.

When he was just 12 years old, Diacono crossed paths with a man named Ray Cochran. Cochran ran the service station in Diacono’s home town of Redford, Mich. “Ray was a very honest man with lots of integrity,” Diacono remembers. “Back in the early 1970s it was very hard to find any income for a 12 year old, other than a newspaper route.” Diacono considers himself very fortunate that Cochran allowed him to hang out at the service station. “Soon I was pumping gas, washing windows, checking air in the tires, and of course checking oil for customers.” Diacono says that Cochran went the extra mile and sometimes looked outside the box to keep his customer’s happy and returning. It wasn’t long before Diacono was running the night shift. “Granted, back then the labor laws really were not enforced,” Diacono laughs, “but soon I was on payroll and helping my family put food on our table.”

Diacono’s second business was actually the first one he started. Under the guidance of Cochran, he went on to become a metal model maker by trade. Diacono prototyped convertible tops, rocker panels and other mechanisms.

“Ray would always say I had a gift,” Diacono says. “He showed me how to create, build, and design. He would say, ‘Do what your heart says and then you will be able to sleep at night.’”

Diacono’s entrepreneurial heart eventually led him to Accurate Collision, a shop he still owns nearby in Livonia, Mich.

“When the collision industry got really slow in Michigan, it was at the suggestion of a fellow powder coater for me to enter the industry,” Diacono says.

Ed Kopacz from Kopacz Painting, a family friend of his and fellow PCI member, told Diacono, “Dewain, I’ll give you my big stuff.” So Diacono purchased new wash tanks, a powder booth, and an oven at the collision shop, and it started there.

“I thought I would just do one- to three-thousand in sales a month, but soon I was doing 10 times that amount. Business was doing better each month; my clientele was getting larger and larger.”

That is when Diacono decided to open a second location where he runs both batch coating and a conveyor line in 11,000 sq. ft. of space.

Because Diacono is a certified body and paint technician in the aftermarket collision industry, he also has performed a lot of welding on ferrous and nonferrous metals, along with metal model of prototyping vehicles or components working at major manufacturers. “After talking to my [powder coating] customers, it seemed that they were in need for fabrication work along with the powder coating, so that is when I incorporated CNC fabrication and welding as well as pickup and delivery to GLPC’s offerings.”

Diacono comes in on weekends when all employees are off. While overseeing every job, he thinks about his mentor’s advice and is always looking for better ways to provide customers with a better quality part.

“Becoming a business owner is hard work,” he observes. “It just doesn’t turn off after hours. You are always thinking of your business, looking for new, creative ways to do it.” Diacono does not take that for granted. “I was given a chance to succeed,” he says. “I had to put myself forward to do it, but I know I was fortunate to have been given that chance.”

As for Ray Cochran, Diacono and he remained close for 38 years until Ray’s passing this past autumn. “I truly feel Ray impacted my life in a great way. To this day, I run both of my businesses the same way he taught me—with honesty and integrity.”

Soaring On High

Like so many boys, Diacono used to dream of being able to fly like Superman. Just as his mentor advised, Diacono followed his heart and became a pilot. Because he attributes his success to having a mentor who taught him about honesty, integrity, and how to treat others, Diacono found it very natural to get involved with Angel Flights. He is a volunteer pilot who transports patients to distant facilities for specialized treatments or sometimes transporting organs for transplants.

“Angel Flights are on call for emergency response within a fourhour service radius,” Diacono explains. “My service area goes from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and from the Upper Peninsula to Lower Ohio.”

Angel Flight pilots are volunteers who absorb all of the expenses (usually $500 to $1,500 per mission and for the maintenance, fuel, insurance liability, etc.) plus their time. Some years, Diacono has flown up to 10 missions.

“It’s my way of showing my gratitude for all that has been given to me. It’s my way to give back to my community,” Diacono says.

You can visit Great Lakes Powder Coating online at www.glpowdercoating.com. Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated Tough magazine. She can be reached at 847-302-2648 or via email at sspielman@powdercoating.org.