Since receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indiana Manufacturers Association in October, Mike Lunsford, a Zionsville resident and retired CEO of Dart Controls, has had time to reflect on his career.
Lunsford said he was shocked he received the award, and it took a couple weeks for him to fully comprehend its significance.
“I told my brother about it, and he said something like, ‘Humility isn’t necessarily denigrating your skill set. The true humility is coming to grips with who you are,’ and I thought that was pretty profound,” Lunsford said. “Ultimately, I came around to the fact that it was quite an honor for me, and there was no way no way around it.”
Lunsford said his interest in manufacturing began during his college years at Purdue University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in management with a minor in industrial engineering. He participated in an internship program with a company called the Federal Paperboard Company, which promptly hired him following his graduation.
Since that time, he worked for Honeywell and for Cynergy, which eventually became Duke Energy. Lunsford said he earned his MBA while working at Cynergy.
Many years later, in 1997, Lunsford was hired as president of Dart Controls, a manufacturing company based in Zionsville, before moving on to become its CEO in the years leading up to his retirement in June.
Lunsford said at his core, he has always been a salesman and enjoyed that aspect of the job.
“I’ve always totally enjoyed interacting with customers, trying to persuade and educate those people who might be in a position to buy the product, whatever it was at the time. I found that energizing, challenging and rewarding,” Lunsford said.
Lunsford said his experiences during his manufacturing career have made clear to him how important the industry is.
“I truly believe manufacturing provides so many good jobs and has plenty of applications for technology,” he said. “Manufacturing in general is just so good for society and creates a plethora of opportunities.”
Christine McKay, director of finance and accounting at Dart Controls, said she has known Lunsford for three years and said he made every day of work something to look forward to.
“When one measures a company, it is most often by its people,” McKay said. “Dart is like a family, and Mike’s retirement left an empty chair. However, he carefully planned his departure and made sure he left Dart better than he found it.”
Besides the fond memories, Lunsford said he is most grateful for the people he worked with and is honored to have been trusted to run the company.
“Leadership is all about supporting the team that you’re responsible for,” Lunsford said. “It’s not telling people what to do, it’s all about empowering them and making sure they understand you believe in their skill set.
“What a wonderful, long tenure I had. I am grateful to have worked with so many wonderful, very, very smart people.”