A Conversation With
VMA’s new chairman for 2012-13, Mark Cordell, first attended VMA’s annual meeting in the year the association was celebrating its 50th anniversary. It is perhaps fitting, then, that Cordell, who is president of Distributed Valves for Cameron Valves & Measurement, is taking over the reins during another momentous occasion: the 75th anniversary of VMA’s founding.
“It’s amazing to think that 74 years ago a group of people got together to begin the process of figuring out what our industry needs. Those needs have changed tremendously over the years, but the association has remained a vital factor,” Cordell says.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the association’s value as a source of networking, which Cordell says is one of VMA’s greatest strengths.
“I think when you’re coming up through the ranks, you’re very focused on your competition and in your mind, they are the foes. But what I saw from the beginning is that we are all human beings trying to accomplish the same things, and we are much stronger as a group than individuals,” he says.
FROM SALES TO LEADERSHIP
Cordell is an example of the many people in the valve industry who start with a strong background in sales, then work into other areas while working on their own professional skills and eventually running a major division or company.
Cordell, who graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1974 with a business degree, went to work out of college for Dover Corporation. He was hired for the Norris Butterfly Valves division in sales, then moved up the ranks until he was in charge of the whole division’s sales efforts. In 1991, he moved to Bettis Corporation, where he started as the U.S. sales manager and where he stayed many years, eventually becoming a senior vice president. In 1998, while at Bettis, Cordell got his Harvard Advanced Management Program degree. In 2004, Cordell went to work for Cameron Valves & Measurement group starting in sales, but eventually entering the operations arena for Cameron and now serving as president of the Distributed Valves Division for Cameron Valves & Measurement.
Now Cordell will use his extensive experience with the industry as well as his many years of association experience to help VMA meet the changes that have occurred since his first meeting.
THE INDUSTRY EVOLVES
Cordell says the two most momentous changes that have occurred are the geographic spread of business and the increased demands from end users for products that can do more.
As far as going global, “I think as Americans, we tend to have this idea that everyone should conduct business the way we do, but that is simply not true. We have a lot to learn from what happens in China, in France, in Nigeria, in Romania, to name just a few. Each place has a different way of looking at specifications, needs, the ability to market products and to deliver those products,” he says.
One way VMA can help is to continue to build strong links with other international valve associations such as the British Valve & Actuator Association.
“It’s important for us to attend their meetings and for them to attend ours so we can swap notes about what they are seeing and what we see here,” he says.
As far as end-user changes, Cordell says that “the technological innovations we’ve seen as a result of end-user industries giving us more and more challenges are staggering; however, our industry has kept pace. VMA keeps us informed and gives us an opportunity to exchange ideas on what we know.”
Besides addressing globalization issues and reporting on technological innovations, Cordell says VMA has a couple of additional major challenges ahead.
The first is to find a way to deepen the membership.
“BVAA recently opened its membership to distributors, and I’ve proposed that we do the same here in the U.S. The distribution network has become a key part of this industry, and they are truly on the front line with our products—they see what the end users around the world are demanding as each area has different needs, different situations, even different purchasing methods,” Cordell says.
The second is to find a way to address another of the big changes he’s seen since the 50th: the graying of the industry.
“We need to appeal to the youth of our business because if we don’t, no one will be there to take over as we retire,” he says. For this reason, VMA’s educational efforts, including the Valve Basics courses, have become a key part of what the association offers.
“A lot of VMA board members now recognize how vital it is for us to find ways to bring new blood into the group. That can include new reaches such as suppliers and distributors, but it also must include the young people who are the future of this association,” he says.