Insights from Mike Rocher
After spending more than 40 years in machine service for Bona, Mike Rocher retired in November 2021. He was one of three people that helped establish Bona in the United States in the 1980s, and was known as the “MacGyver” of machines. Hardwood Floors connected with Rocher to learn more about his career and share some of his knowledge as he exits the industry.
Tell us about your experience with being part of Bona as a start-up in the U.S. When we started importing Bona finishes into Los Angeles in the early 1980s (when I worked for Galleher and Devco Finishes), I’m not sure that anyone could foresee where this all might end up some 40 years later. Just like paints were changing from oil-based to latex at that time, Bona saw the need and the opportunity to get contractors to switch from oil-modified poly, acid-curing, and moisture-cured finishes to safer and healthier waterborne products in the North American market.
In the same light, Bona’s push for dust containment equipment came about from Leanne Reynolds, who was a Bona U.S. employee. We often used the wood floors at her home as our test floors, and she hated the amount of dust that got all over the walls, furniture, and cupboards. We realized that these were the two biggest homeowner concerns about getting their hardwood floors sanded and refinished – the dust and the strong smells from solvent-based products. We knew that Bona had the answer to both!
What is the most memorable repair you made during your career? It’s hard to narrow it down to one, but it may be the contractor who kept burning up switches on his sander and claiming that the parts were faulty. After about the fourth switch, I asked him to send in the whole machine. When it arrived, we discovered that he had wired a big contactor onto his motor, which was much larger than needed and posed an overheating/fire danger on its own. The motor was so packed with dust (because he never blew it out between jobs) that I couldn’t believe that it had never caught fire. It was packed so tight that we needed a hammer and chisel to break it out of there. The dust was insulating the wiring so much that it was causing it to pull extra amps to start and run. It was a ticking time bomb, but that’s the norm when we see people messing with their machines without any electrical or mechanical knowledge or training. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but sometimes those are the things that ruin machines and get people hurt (or worse).
So, the lesson is to not wait until your machines breaks to have them looked at and tuned-up by a qualified mechanic. It’s just like maintaining your vehicle, but maybe even more important because your machines are your livelihood.
What will you miss about being in the industry?
“My ‘family’ of Bona colleagues and great customers that I had the pleasure to meet and serve over the years! We always prided ourselves on being the ‘Shell Answer Man’ of the hardwood flooring industry. If someone called up and we didn’t know the answer, we’d do our best to do the groundwork for them and hopefully find them some answers or options. When you’re helping people out, to make a living and take care of their own families, it’s always gratifying.”
— Mike Rocher
Are there any tips you would give regarding caring for machines? Keep them tuned up at least annually. Don’t wait for them to break. Practice regular preventative maintenance and blow your machines off/out daily during usage. Calculate how many square feet you’re putting on each machine yearly – every cut of every job, and it adds up quickly. Just like changing the oil in your car or truck every 5,000 miles, if you don’t keep it up-to-date, the miles (or square feet) can get away from you.
Also, especially if part of your promise to your customers is dust containment, your machines (all of them and not just the DCS vacuums) should be clean and in great shape; not all dirty and dusty. It doesn’t send a great message if the customer thought they were getting dust containment and you roll in all these dirty, dusty, banged-up machines and vacuums.
You need to set their minds at ease that they chose the right company, and it starts with that first impression.
Lastly, I guess the one thing that is probably overlooked the most is the condition of power cords and plugs. If someone brings in their machine, we always ask to see the cable, cord, plugs, and pigtails that they use when running it and check those out first. A lot of times, when someone is having an overheating or wear issue with their machine, it ends up that their cord (power supply) is the culprit and not necessarily something on the physical machine.
What advice would you give to wood flooring professionals that you wish you had known 40 years ago? Continue to educate yourself on your craft – on the job and outside the job. Go get some training to learn the details on the products and processes. Keep an open mind and remember that you never know it all. Things are always changing in our industry, and you need to continually change with it or risk falling too far behind modern methods and products, although sometimes it’s the “old methods” that end up being new again and getting you out of a jam.
How will you spend your time now that you are retired? First, it will take some time to get settled into our new place in Oklahoma. Once that happens, and I get my shop built, I finally plan to finish my hot rod – a 1960 Morris Minor that I’ve had since 1977. I’ve done quite a bit to it over the years, like rigging it up to shoot flames out of some old edger pipes that we had laying around at Bona (fed by a 20 lb. propane tank), but I’m really looking forward to finishing it and having it as a showpiece. I’ve also got a number of old antique farm engines that I love to tinker around with and figure out fun things to make with them. There also are lots of new hunting and fishing opportunities out here to expand on what I did in Colorado, but mainly we’re looking forward to spending time with our kids and grandkids – they’re all growing up so fast; we have to take advantage of our time with them while we can!