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Leadership Columbus: Chuck Corbin

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Chuck Corbin, of Dunlap, in Columbus, Indiana (Boris Ladwig | The Republic)
Chuck Corbin, of Dunlap, in Columbus, Indiana (Boris Ladwig | The Republic)

Date of birth: Aug. 24, 1946.

Place of birth: Madison, Ind.

Has lived in Columbus since: 1962.

Job title: Vice President of Dunlap & Co. Previously worked more than 11 years at Arvin and 17 years in real estate for Breeden.

Job duties: Administration, sales, marketing, public relations and human resources.

Education: Attended classes at IU. All of my classes were at night while working at Arvin (where I was a district sales manager when I left, covering the northern part of Indiana, Ohio and all of Michigan).

Family: Wife, June; two adult daughters; and three grandchildren.

Hobbies: Travel (especially cruising). Woodworking, especially furniture. With children and grandchildren there’s always dressers, chests of drawers and armoires to make. My former boss at Arvin was a master woodworker, and he got me started. When he moved to Florida, I bought all of his tools. My woodworking shop is almost as big as my house now.

Community involvement: Past president of the Rotary Club, active in United Way, Love Chapel, Columbus Plan Commission, Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Q: What was your first job?

A: When I was 10, I had three paper routes at the same time, delivering the Madison Courier, Cincinnati Post and the Grit, a weekly out of Williamsport, Pa.

Q: What primary lessons did you learn from that job?

A: It’s all about keeping your customer happy. The harder you worked the more money you could make. I started with 55 houses. Two years later I had 125.

Q: How do you describe what you do?

A: We build commercial, institutional and industrial structures. A big part of my job is helping the customer determine what they need while staying within budget.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: Training and bringing new people along. I found a long time ago that it’s a lot easier to lead people than to push them. I enjoy helping people help themselves. Also, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for almost 30 years with local economic development officials. I’ve taken about 25 trips to Europe and Asia to foster foreign investments in Columbus.

Q: What do you like least about your job?

A: Terminating people. You try and try and try not to, but sometimes, as the last option, you have to do it. But even letting someone go who has had numerous warnings and refuses to change is not a pleasant task.

Q: What are the toughest challenges your business is facing today?

A: We use union labor, so we have a good supply of qualified people, generally, though even that deteriorated because we were so busy right after the flood. During the recession, our profit margin has been squeezed because when we bid on major projects, such as a school or jail, we had to compete with contractors from much farther away than normal. Some came from as far as Chicago, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

Q: How did you adjust to the increasing competition?

A: We were fortunate because a large percentage of our business comes from Cummins and Japanese companies in Columbus with which we’ve had long-term relationships. We have had some people working smaller jobs with some companies for 30 years.

Q: What primary lessons have you learned from being in leadership positions?

A: No two employees are the same. Rarely will two of them take on a challenge the same way. Each person takes a little bit different leading. If I had known that when I started, I probably would have studied more of the human side than the business side.

Q: What’s the No. 1 thing you expect from your employees?

A: Honesty, not only with themselves, their co-workers and the company, but more importantly with our customers. Don’t promise something that you can’t deliver.

Q: What do they absolutely have to avoid?

A: Conflict. Nothing is gained by conflict. If there’s a conflict internally or with a customer, you have to resolve it before it becomes a major problem.

Q: What advice can you give people who are just now starting out in the workforce?

A: Some of the best opportunities in life are opportunities you create for yourself. Many times people will allow an opportunity to go by them because it’s not something they necessarily want to do at the time. Sometimes you have to take a detour.

Q: What are your major goals for the next year?

A: To get everything in order here so that I can retire.

Q: What’s your favorite city to visit?

A: Tokyo. Great people, entertainment, arts and lots of history. And the food is unbelievable.

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