2020 is a milestone year for GAWDA. It is the year we celebrate our 75th Anniversary. The association has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 1945. And while we celebrate our storied history, GAWDA continues to look forward to ensure that the next 75 years are as successful and prosperous as the first.
Much of that success begins with the GAWDA Board of Directors. These association leaders are on the front lines of the industry and are able to take the issues facing our industry and help to craft an effective strategy for the association. Members of the Board of Directors are here to serve the membership. The next few pages provide an opportunity for members to get to know the member-based leadership team. We thank the 2020-2021 GAWDA Board for their help in putting this together and for their service on the Board.
What was your inspiration to serve on the GAWDA Board of Directors? Is there a previous board member who has acted as a mentor for you?
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Can you give an example of a business relationship that you have formed that originated at a GAWDA event?
Abydee Butler Moore, Butler Gas Products
1. Inspiration: Giving back and volunteering your time is part of being involved in any not-for-profit organization. Butler Gas has been a member of GAWDA since 1960, and I was raised to appreciate this Association that has given so much to our family, business, and colleagues. Serving on the Board of Directors was a natural progression from serving on the Committees, and it has been an honor to get involved.
2. Advice: Our company’s core values were instilled in me by my parents, Jack and Elissa Butler, and in them by our founders, my grandparents Jack and Millie Butler: that safety is always first. Then the company takes care of its people, then its people take care of its customers, and that’s the only way to make money. This hierarchy, in that particular order – safety, people, customers, profit – is the best business practice I have ever been taught.
3. Relationship: Melissa Perkins is one of my best friends in the industry and she and I met at GAWDA in New York, her first meeting! For our company, nearly every intra-industry supplier we have, we know from GAWDA.
Bob Ewing, Red Ball Oxygen Company Inc.
1. Inspiration: This is a fantastic industry, but we are much stronger working together. There are issues that impact us all that we can only address effectively as an industry. Going it alone is possible I suppose, but very, very risky. There are a ton of GAWDA mentors that hammered that message home to me over the years. I’m thinking of Wally Brandt and Jack Butler in particular, but, really, there are too many to name that have set a great example in this regard. We are blessed with many servant leaders who want to give back to the industry that has given them so much, and their example definitely inspires me to get more involved. The biggest perk of working on the board is watching and learning and interacting with all the great business people that are also serving. They’ve made our business and me a lot better.
2. Advice: The man who recruited me into this industry, and led me and mentored me for 20 years, was Gary Kennedy. I could fill a book with the nuggets of blunt advice he gave me, which we call “Garyisms” at Red Ball. I’ll offer this, because it’s a great way to think about the relationships we form at GAWDA: “You can’t make a bad deal with good people.”
3. Relationship: Too many to count! The opportunity to meet with the principal decision makers at all of our key suppliers is just priceless, and those relationships are not just meaningful professionally – they can become very personal. Maybe the most gratifying experiences are when someone is just breaking into the industry with a new product or service, and we get to come alongside them and support them. We’ve had a few of those, and believe me, that’s a two-way street because they’ve contributed more to our business than I could ever hope.
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
Gary Halter, Indiana Oxygen Company
1. Inspiration: I have been active in GAWDA on and off since 2004. It is a wonderful organization that has been very good to me and to our company, Indiana Oxygen. It is time to give back when and where I can. I have had many great mentors and people who have influenced me within the GAWDA Organization: Ned Pontius, Mark Raimy, Ned Lane, Craig Wood, Wally Brant and Brad Peterson, just to name a few.
2. Advice: Clients do not come first, employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients.”
The customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.
3. Relationship: There have been a couple of supplier relationships that were formed, but more than anything our relationships with our supply partners are significantly strengthened through the GAWDA events.
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
Robert Anders, Holston Gases, Inc.
1. Inspiration: This industry has been a blessing for my family and me. It’s not a glamorous business, but it is comprised of some of the most genuinely good men and women you could ever meet. This is my chance to “give back” to an organization that has given so much to all of us.
Bill Higley and Terry Hall took me under their wings early in my career and emphasized to me the importance of building and nurturing the relationships you make through GAWDA
2. Advice: When I came to work at Holston Gases, our owner, Bill Baxter, gave me a copy of Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich. The principles stressed in that book were very impactful and provided me with a set of tools to focus my energies towards my personal set of goals and objectives.
3. Relationship: Most of my vendor relationships didn’t originate at a GAWDA event but they definitely have been strengthened through the contact booth program and the opportunity to have casual conversations getting to know them on a personal basis.
FIRST PAST PRESIDENT
Brad Peterson, Mississippi Welders Supply Company, Inc.
1. Inspiration: My inspirations have been my upbringing and my experience. I was raised to give back. And my experience with GAWDA over 28 years of membership showed me how much the organization does for my business. Those two dynamics led to my stepping forward, and I want to remind our members that we should each give back to all the organizations and communities that we’re a part of and benefit from. Many previous Board members have been inspirational to me, as they are a great constellation of industry leadership. In particular, the most recent presidents were very helpful in showing me the ropes…Bill Visintainer, Mark Raimy and Ned Lane.
2. Advice: A great piece from my father: he who owns the gold makes the rules. Or, put another way, “Whoever owns more than 50% of the business is driving the bus.” This applies to our own businesses as well as to those of our customers. If you want to know what’s going on with a customer, talk to the person with his/her hands on the wheel.
3. Relationship: There are so many it’s hard to pick, but I’ll give one example. This particular individual took me to dinner at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago after an SMC. We talked about our backgrounds in the industry over a cheap cheeseburger and fries and formed a lasting connection. Those opportunities are a very important part of the social fabric of the organization and can only happen when we meet in person.
SECOND PAST PRESIDENT
Ned Lane, Cee Kay Supply, Inc.
1. Inspiration: I have been in the industry since 1984. I had seen many people give back their time for the better good of the industry. I felt it was time for me to give back to an industry that had been so good to Cee Kay and my family.
2. Advice: Reach out to other GAWDA members. There are very few issues or challenges that you have that another member has not experienced. In return, be willing to share your experiences with other members when they seek advice.
3. Relationship: The relationship that we had with Tom Chromy and Chart Industries was prosperous for both companies. It grew over the years through GAWDA dinners, meetings and events. Many times, a brainstorming discussion resulted in solutions and new product ideas.
Brad Armstrong, General Air Service & Supply Co.
1. Inspiration : This past year, Abydee Butler Moore asked me to serve on the planning committee for the 2020 SMC. After our planning meeting in May, I became more interested in understanding the inner workings of this great organization with the hope that I could add value to both the organization and my business.
Without question, my greatest mentor has been and continues to be my father. My dad, Gary Armstrong, served on the Board for NWSA and was a western zone VP in 2003. In addition, Jack Butler, Wally Brant and Ned Lane have demonstrated industry best practices to successfully run a gas and welding supply business for multiple decades.
2. Advice: A satisfied customer will tell three of their friends about their experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell 15 – 20 in person and literally hundreds with the advent of online reviews. With this in mind, do whatever it takes to make sure your customers leave feeling heard, valued and well served.
3. Relationship: We first met AGP at a GAWDA event a couple years ago.
Evan Bennear, Dale Oxygen
1. Inspiration: GAWDA has been extremely beneficial to my career over the past several years. The Regionals, Annual, and SMC events have provided invaluable opportunities to network with industry peers which has helped my company run a stronger business. I feel it is important to give back to GAWDA to help ensure its longevity and the value it brings to the industry. Serving on the GAWDA Board has been a great experience.
2. Advice: To truly understand and support the people who make your business successful. I consider Dale Oxygen’s employees, customers, and suppliers all to be invested partners in the success of our organization. With the right people, tools, and technology in place, you have a far greater probability of success.
3. Relationship: All GAWDA events are beneficial to strengthen and maintain existing supplier relationships, but I have also been fortunate to establish new key vendor partners for Dale Oxygen. One example is the growth of our company’s bulk business. There are a number of GAWDA suppliers (both old and new) that really have helped our team grow.
Joshua Haun, Haun Welding Supply, Inc.
1. Inspiration: I have been involved with GAWDA ever since I got back into the industry, about 10 years ago. First with the Young Professionals committee, which I eventually co-chaired with Eric Laubach, and now with the Safety Committee. I do see it as an opportunity to give back, but it is a great way to learn the industry and strengthen industry relationships. Volunteering with GAWDA has helped me grow professionally and personally, along with helping us improve the way we run our company. I was flattered to be nominated for the GAWDA Board and hope to bring as much to the table as I get out of it.
2. Advice: The best piece of business advice that I have received is from my father. He has instilled my family with the belief that we are in a position to serve our company, our employees, and our customers. A business is only viable if you are profitable, but profits alone cannot sustain a business. An attitude of serving to lead can set up a business for long-term success in addition to providing personal fulfillment.
3. Relationship: I have formed many relationships with suppliers and other distributers during my time with GAWDA. The first supplier that I remember connecting with at a GAWDA event was during my first Annual Convention in NYC. It was a Young Professionals scavenger hunt where I met the guys from Direct Wire. This quickly led to my first experience working on a GAWDA committee. Some of those guys have since moved on to other companies within the industry, but our relationships continue to grow. These are the types of relationships that keep me excited about the time I spend at GAWDA events and with GAWDA members. It is really encouraging to see the interactions and support within the GAWDA community.
Melissa Perkins, Electronic Fluorocarbons
1. Inspiration: My inspiration to serve on the GAWDA Board of Directors comes from the people who belong to the organization and the industry it supports. Being a part of this organization is important to me because GAWDA continually strives to keep up with current industry standards while at the same time keeping the core values it has been built on. The people who belong to this organization are dedicated business professionals who not only want to support their own business, but also support the businesses that make up the GAWDA membership. As a member of the Board of directors, we can facilitate some of the changes that need to occur to keep GAWDA current in the industry, while still protecting the roots of the organization. I also want to help facilitate the value-added resources that GAWDA has to offer to its existing members and help promote them to new and potential members.
2. Advice: Some of the best business advice I have received is to never give up and always strive to do better, and, most importantly, to be passionate about what you are doing. I think this is important in any business organization because we will all face failure at some point that gives us the opportunity to grow and make changes for the better. In a world where everything is constantly evolving, it is much easier to work as a group instead of an individual entity. I am very thankful to be part of GAWDA and I am looking forward to see what the New Year has to offer.
3. Relationship: In addition to the resources GAWDA provides, the membership itself is an immeasurable asset that provides amazing networking potential and business relationships. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful the people are that make up this organization.
Bill Proctor, NexAir
1. Inspiration : My participation on the GBD resulted after a conversation with our association’s past president, Bill Visintainer. I’ve known Bill for a number of years and have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the way he operates his business. I knew Bill’s involvement in GAWDA had been extensive leading up to and including his presidency and required a certain time commitment. He quickly pointed out whatever time he had invested over the years had been more than paid back by GAWDA’s value to him and his business. He suggested I should consider filling one of the soon-to-be open Board seats. After considering the value the association brings nexAir and the quality of the other Board members I would have the opportunity to work beside, I accepted the invitation. GAWDA has been a great way to expose more of our people to the industry thru the SMCs, network with key decision makers, and utilize our excellent consulting base. I saw it as an opportunity to be more involved in an association that has been very important to our company.
2. Advice: Culture trumps strategy. Some decisions are best made after a night of sleep
3. Relationship: The Annual Convention is an efficient networking opportunity. It gives members an opportunity to meet many of their peers as well as strategic suppliers to their business in one location over a few days.
George Ratermann, Ratermann Manufacturing, Inc.
1. Inspiration: I was honored when I was asked to join the GAWDA Board of Directors. I was excited for the opportunity to serve on the Board for several reasons. GAWDA is such a dynamic organization filled with dedicated members; the combination of the two allows us to achieve countless growth opportunities along with new and creative resources and solutions for GAWDA members. The people I get to work with on the GAWDA Board are open-minded, focused and looking for new ideas for the future development of GAWDA. GAWDA has so much to offer and I am very thrilled to serve on the Board!
2. Advice: Do the right thing, especially when it’s hard to do.
3. Relationship: My first time going to a GAWDA Convention, or as originally called NWSA, was back in 1979. Since then, I have attended as many GAWDA events as I have been able to and have met great people along the way. Over the years, the people I have met at GAWDA have turned into personal friends as well as great business associates. Both my business and myself have been sculpted by the meetings I’ve attended and conversations I’ve had at GAWDA. I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to meet GAWDA members over the years and be a part of the GAWDA association.
Stephen Rosenthal, Economy Welding and Industrial Supply, LLC
1. Inspiration: I have previously served on the Board and as President of The AIWD, as well as Vice Chair of our Local AWS board. I feel that it is an important part of being in the industry, particularly as a distributor, to be a part of these communities. While I have been on the membership committee for a few years and find it very rewarding, joining the Board of Directors will be a wonderful complement.
2. Advice: Buy Low, Sell High! Honestly, the best advice I got when I started in this industry 16 years ago was always acknowledge to the customer if you do not know the answer, but then tell them you will get the answer for them. Never lie to a customer; they always know.
3. Relationship: I’ve met so many suppliers over the years at events held by GAWDA that it is hard to pick one out. I’ve found that all of the smaller vendors look forward to catching up with you and that they are always happy to get any information you need. These events are great for “starting” the conversation that may lead to a lifetime of professional and personal relationships.
Eric Wood, O.E. Meyer Company
1. InspirationP: Our company and our previous leaders have been involved in GAWDA and previously the NWSA for decades. My father, Craig, was a long time Board member and GAWDA President from 2012-2013.
2. Advice: To not be afraid to tell a customer, “I don’t know, but I’ll get the answers you need.” If you’re truthful, and respond in a timely manner, you’ve gained their trust and built a long-lasting relationship.
3. Relationship: Many strong relationships have formed with vendors because of our GAWDA affiliation. I feel the most rewarding and valuable relationships from GAWDA have been formed with other distributor partners. The networking, data sharing, and best practice discussions have awarded me with a tremendous amount of knowledge as I grow in our business.