Born: Dearborn, Mich.
Education: Bachelor of science degree, metallurgical engineering, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Mich.
What was your very first job?
I had a paper route for the Detroit News. The paper [was] delivered to your house [and it] would cost about 90 cents. Of that 90 cents, I would make about a dime. If I was really polite to people and put the paper where they wanted it, when I went to collect, they would give me a dollar bill and I would get a dime tip. I would reach in my pocket to give them the dime, and some people waited for me to hand them the dime. I must not have done those folks as well as the others.
Who has been the biggest influence on you?
My father, James Cowan. He helped me understand that I was no better than anyone else. The only thing I can do is work hard and keep my nose to the grindstone. If I had an advantage that others didn’t, like going to college, which he never did, he taught me to take all the advantages and make something of them.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
You have to understand business is a four-legged stool that’s made up of the owners and shareholders, customers, suppliers and employees. If any one of those gets out of balance, the company is not going to work. If the owner thinks it’s all about him or her and everybody else is dog meat, it’s not going to work.