CONTINUING THE PUSH FOR MEMBERS
BY GENILEE PARENTE
VMA’s new chairman Bruce Broxterman is an excellent example of what last year’s chairman Max Mitchell
referred to as a strength for the valve industry: Broxterman,
chairman and majority shareholder of Richards Industries Valve
Group, has a very long career in the industry. What’s more,
most of the 30 years he’s been in manufacturing have been with
Richards—he left for seven years to run another company but
returned in 2005 as the top executive and with three other managers, eventually bought his long-time employer.
“Like a lot of young executives at a point in their careers, I
made a list in the 1980s of the top things I wanted to do in my
life. On it was the goal of someday owning my own business,”
Broxterman intends to use his background and expertise
seeing that the work of Mitchell, the VMA board and the VMA
staff continues along a path designed to widen and broaden the
FOLLOWING A MENTOR
Although his career with valves is a long one, his first job had
nothing to do with the industry. After getting a liberal arts
degree from Kenyon College in northeastern Ohio, he spent
several years as an English teacher and baseball/football
coach in a small school in that state.
“I quickly ascertained, however, I was not on a good career
path for supporting a family,” Broxterman says. So he
answered an ad in a newspaper and wound up in an inside
sales job at Richards. From there he began a steady climb
towards the top, learning the business as he went.
One of the most significant stepping stones occurred in the
80s in tandem with a major move by Richards Industries:
The company decided to spread its global wings. Broxterman
moved to international sales and was put in charge of setting
up an international distribution system. He was picked for that
spot by his lifetime mentor Gil Richards, previous owner of the
Broxterman, who obtained a Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana Wesleyan University after Gil
Richards lured him back to the company in 2005, says his
“first MBA” came from being on the job.
“I learned the business end of this industry through Gil and
this company. He taught me the nuts and bolts, the technical
side, as well as the management and operations sides. But
more importantly, he taught me how to approach managing
people. He created a culture within Richards of getting to
know who you work with each day,” Broxterman explains.
The Wesleyan MBA then “put some form and figure to
what I learned in the school of hard knocks and gave me the
financial analysis skills I needed to head up a company,”
THE INDUSTRY AND ITS ASSOCIATION
Broxterman says the most significant change he’s seen in the
world of valves in his many years is also the one that creates
the most imposing challenges for both the industry’s companies and the association: globalization.
“Although there are still many local opportunities, the business is no longer concentric. Our industry has become world-based rather than U.S.-based,” he says.
The largest challenge that creates is “we have to learn the
cultures and norms of doing business in other countries. Most
have very different business parameters. Some markets are
very price sensitive. Others are looking for value-added services. It varies depending on where you are in the world,” he
The association can both help with that endeavor by participating in international events and sharing what it learns with
members, and benefit from it by looking for opportunities to
establish an international presence, Broxterman says.
Broxterman says he has no intentions of reinventing the wheel
as he takes over the reins at VMA. He wants to continue a
major effort begun by the last chairman as well as the board
itself and the VMA staff: expanding the membership base.
“We only have a year in this position and I hope to use
mine to increase both participation and the number of mem-
bers,” he says. “Those are the two main arteries that key into
what VMA has to do going forward.”
The improved economy should help, but more importantly is
getting the core groups in the industry to reach out to others,
“Clearly there are many companies that we can get reinvolved, but there are also many new vendor opportunities for
us, as well as the opportunity to expand our reach within North
America and beyond the U.S. or Canadian borders,” he says.
Accomplishing that goal will take finding ways to market
the reason people join an association: value.
“We have to get our own members involved in telling the
story of this association. The most influential contacts we have
are our own established members. We have to let potential
members—both friends and competitors—know how important our organization is to the health of the valve industry,”
he says. VM
GENILEE PARENTE is managing editor of Valve Magazine. Reach her at