Brian Hershman doesn't like to relax.
"Relaxing is stressful for me! People who know me know I am always on the move," he said.
Hershman is vice president of operations at Gentry Plastics Inc., an injection molder and mold maker in Gastonia, N.C.
"My relaxation is reading, going for a run or polishing Gentry Plastic's strategic plan for success. I would say I average 15-20 minutes a day of what most people would call 'relaxing.'"
Hershman has a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Dayton. He interned at an extruder and injection molder when he was in college and was "immediately hooked" by the "organized chaos" on the factory floor.
Hershman joined Gentry, a small, family-owned injection molding company, out of college. He left in 2015 to become a product engineer at Newell Rubbermaid, then returned a year later. In his new role, he's improved employee retention significantly while doubling the number of full-time employees.
Biggest failure and what it taught you? I almost completely burnt out. I felt so much responsibility for the results that I wanted to control everything my way. I learned that trying to do it all is foolish. You will get stuck on the ground level fighting fires for eternity. You have to establish systems, hire the right people and lean on your team.
What is your current challenge at work? Efficient scaling. Being a part of a growing manufacturing business is exciting, but it is also relentless. I ask myself, "Should I hire someone new to handle this, or will we be OK with the resources we have" every day. It is easy to get too cheap and overwork yourself and your team.
What emerging technology or market most interests you? New advances in metal replacement polymers.
What is the best advice you have ever received? I used to play soccer as a kid, and my father used to tell me "Shoot, score, win. If you don't shoot, you can't score, and if you can't score, you can't win." It sounded so simple, but any time I find myself falling short of a goal, it's because I haven't shot enough.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry? Regardless of what is in mainstream media, plastics is the future. You can be anything you want to be in the plastics industry if you start now. With time, people will see that plastic makes our world a better place.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first? I would shake each employee's hand individually, thank them for their hard work and dedication, tell them our goal is to achieve excellence with integrity ... and let them know that they're in for a heck of a ride!
What job do you really want to have in the future? One day I would like to be a college professor to teach the sport of business and pass along lessons I learned in the plastics industry along the way.