It is a stunning moment as I prepare to celebrate my 50th year with Bud Industries later this month. (Full disclosure, the clock on this milestone started when I began to work at Bud during summers and vacations while I went to college and then got my MBA.) From my first job supporting our director of engineering as he designed new electronic enclosures to today in my role of CEO, it has been an amazing journey so far and I am struck by so many different thoughts as I ponder this milestone.
The first is the opportunity I have had to know some incredible people. I joined the company early enough to know some of our industry’s early founders (some I knew as a child when I would join my parents at industry events). I also worked closely with many of the next generations from the leaders of our many distributors to fellow manufacturers and the great reps of that era. If I start to name them, I will leave too many out but so many stick in my mind. They were from all industry segments who took time to mentor me as I came into the industry. I got to know most of them as our industry had so many more opportunities for networking and business development. There were regional DMR’s (distributor, manufacturer and rep) meetings, normally in wonderful places such as Boca, Boulder, San Diego and even San Juan, where our spouses would join us and we would have brief (15 minute?) meetings with our distributors and there would be golf or tennis and various dinners. There were also individual trade association meetings (at the time the manufacturers were part of EIA, the Electronic Industries Association, that had the added benefit of including consumer, telecomm and even semi companies). Our meetings brought in nationally recognized leaders that I could not believe I got to chat with and befriend. The association was very well connected in DC so we also would sometimes have the president or key leaders join our dinners so I met Bill Clinton and Bob Dole at different dinners. And of course, EDS which I had not only the privilege of chairing in 1992, but I was also the first son of a former chair to lead the show as my father chaired the show in 1977. The people in our industry represent some of the brightest people in the country, clever innovators, dedicated professionals, and visionary leaders. They are the reason that our industry continues to thrive today.
I have also had the opportunity to watch our industry evolve in ways that no one could have imagined 50 years ago. Early in my career I worked at a distributorship that we owned at the time and I remember the shelves filled with their biggest selling product, tubes. I have watched the technology revolution in components as products shrink to board level, as technology has moved beyond consumer products and the labs into all aspects and all industrial markets. I have seen company’s move from local to regional to global. I have seen industry giants gobbled up by larger firms from both within and without our industry. I remember the challenges that our industry grappled with from whether to allow foreign suppliers (typically Asian) be distributed by the existing channel. It was called “shelf sharing” and manufacturers would cut off their distributors if they added certain lines. Hard to imagine in today’s world. We had big issues over whether distributors would provide POS data, whether manufacturers would commission based on it, whether to allow stock adjustments, ship and debit, the list goes on and on.
The wonderful people that I have known professionally within our company have also made this career so fascinating. I had the incredible experience of working with my father (sometimes not so smoothly) for almost half of my career. He was also a visionary who led us through many evolutions of both products, production techniques, and marketing. I have enjoyed working with 2 of my brothers for much of my life at Bud. Often in family businesses the company is reduced to squabbles and dissolution by the third generation. We worked hard to maintain our professionalism which has allowed us to now bring in the 4th generation of leadership. It has been a true honor to work with my son Josiah for the last 16 years. I think we have taught each other a great deal in this time. I have also worked with some wonderful people on my management team and throughout our office staff. I have been so impressed by the dedication and skills of many of our hourly production staff. There are so many at all levels who treat the company as their own. In our sales service team, the “newbie” just hit 30 years of service. We have several employees in the office who are “right behind” me with service levels in the upper 40 year range. In the shop, about 25% have been with us for more than 25 years including a welder who is almost at 49, several others in the over 40 range. We have grown up together, shared family joys and tragedies. We have a number of children of retired employees who are with us, and some current families as well as some over the years who met their spouses at work.
On a personal level, my career has allowed me to raise our 4 sons through college, allowed my wife and me to travel to wonderful places through the US, Europe and Asia to make industry connections and meet such talented and, yes, kind and interesting people. It has allowed me to grow in ways that I never could have anticipated and keep my outlook towards the future.
I am often asked when I will retire as many of my friends already have. I joke that I am Josiah’s nightmare with no specific plans. In reality, when the right time comes, we will know. Right now, as I look back over the last few years and see the opportunities and challenges we have faced, I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be in the industry. From the explosion of technology in fields ranging from agriculture to security to IoT, to automotives and beyond; from dealing with tariffs, covid, labor shortages, remote work, supply chain disruptions and now inflation, no one can say that it is dull.
As I continue to evolve with the times, I have been advised by our marketing team that this will be my last blog. They would like me to move to a vlog or even short form “ask Bud” videos. I have done these before and hope you will follow me as we make this transition.
To all of you with whom I have worked over the last 50 years, thank you for making it a career that has been beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you for your friendship and advice. Thank you for welcoming me into this unique industry and I look forward to updating this piece for my 60th (sorry Josiah).