John Stanik uses experience to help changes go down at Ampco-Pittsburgh

Stanik — who enjoys instituting change because he likes helping people identify situations that could be improved — believes a CEO needs to stay in touch and have a deep affection for his or her employees, which is then communicated and believed.

“If the CEO isn’t in the forest, and isn’t in the battle or in the trenches with the people, it becomes, I think, a hollow and unbelievable exercise,” he says.

People first

An ability to care for your people and show it also helps instill a strong culture.

“If a team culture can be established — one of collaboration, one of communication — then a corporation can move together as one, much more quickly than a fractionated organization or a siloed organization that doesn’t communicate and doesn’t cooperate,” Stanik says. “That’s a top down thing that starts with the CEO and the executive team.”

Stanik says the culture at Calgon Carbon when he was leading it and Ampco are exactly the same, which supports his theory that culture starts at the top.

Once people understand what’s going on and get on the same page for what needs to be accomplished, he says they can deal with the problems and find innovative solutions.

For example, he has been amazed at how enthusiastic the employees of Ampco have been to make changes. The labor union also willingly worked with the company to create a forward-looking agreement.

Stanik believes that cultures can be altered and integrated quickly, because in the end everybody wants to do a good job and win.

The definition of winning is to have a long-standing, profitable, growing company, Stanik says. Winning is keeping your job and getting on a career development path.

“Everybody wants that, and if you can show people a path how to get there, you won’t find very many people who don’t want to work with you,” he says. “But you have to get the people convinced that you want that for them.”

Yes, public companies need to have stock price increases and happy shareholders, but it all comes back to the employees, Stanik says. You have to care about them and their future. If you do, then you can change any culture.

“That’s my opinion,” he says. “It’s only worked twice. Well, I shouldn’t assume it worked the second time yet, but I think it will.”



  • There are no shortcuts to strategic planning.
  • Manage by keeping your employees as the focus.
  • A clear, cohesive strategy makes change go down easier.


The Stanik File:

Name: John Stanik
Title: CEO
Company: Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp.

Born: Harwick, Pennsylvania
Education: Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I was a stock boy at a little general store when I was 12 years old and I earned 80 cents an hour. I learned that if you worked hard, did your job and were nice to customers that you would be regarded highly and be valued, no matter how small your job was.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? Always leave things better than you found them. My dad told me that.

If you weren’t a CEO, is there another job that you’d like to try? I wanted to be a teacher.

What happened to that plan? In high school chemistry, math and the sciences really drew my interest, and as I applied to college, I applied to the technical schools within colleges. Being accepted at CMU and having my education essentially paid for in scholarships, I choose that career path.

The engineering curriculum is really flexible. It could get me to virtually anything — sales, manufacturing, management.

As I started to go through that program I learned that an engineer is possibly one of the best problem solvers. The training for becoming an engineer teaches you to be able to solve problems, and I really liked that part.

Do you still use your engineering training today? Yes. It’s very important to being a leader — to be able to cut to the essential information, analyze it and come up with solutions and then, of course, the discipline to follow through and make sure that they happen.