January 25, 2023
Childhood interests don’t often fuel “grown-up” careers. Lucky, then, is the owner or employee of a distributorship, where opportunities to tinker and create extend from the warehouse to the C-suite. Edward Boss, founder and CEO of Riteks, Inc., a chemical distributor in Houston, parlayed his passion for chemistry into lucrative corporate positions and, eventually, a string of successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Jason chats with Ed about the influence mentors have made throughout his career, the benefits of association membership, and the importance of encouraging the next generation of distribution leaders to explore STEM-related studies.
“I’m in the 40th year of my career, and to this day, I wonder how did this all happen?” All kidding aside, Ed’s career trajectory is quite easy to understand. As a boy, he liked math and science, tinkering with chemistry sets that could seriously damage the kitchen table if not the kitchen itself. Chemical engineering seemed to fit the bill until Ed realized he didn’t much like the idea of a typical industry career. “Instead, my passion fell more into selling things,” he says.
After college, Ed landed enviable sales positions with Union Carbide and then Air Products, jobs that allowed him to use his degree and talents beyond the confines of a lab. “In a lot of ways, it's almost a teaching job versus a sales job,” he says. Corporate life also gave him access to excellent training and owners of chemical distributorships––an entrepreneurial avenue he didn’t realize existed until that point. Soon after, Ed and his wife left their corporate positions and started their first company in 1989, operating from a single desk inside their home.
Fast-forward 30 years. Riteks is now a leading industrial chemical supplier for specialty applications. Customer loyalty is a happy byproduct of the company’s solutions-based process. “We've never charged for our lab services or technical advice,” Ed says. “We make money by selling the products we recommend. That's our whole business model.” Outside of Riteks, Ed’s lending his expertise and love of STEM-related distribution careers via his involvement with Chemical Education Foundation and as chairman of the National Association of Chemical Distributors. “At this stage of my career, it is––I use the word quite entertaining––for me to spend time with the next generation, convincing them that that is a path to actually consider.”
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
Chemical Educational Foundation
National Association Of Chemical Distributors - NACD
“I don't care what your business plan is; it’s always gonna take longer than what you think. It just does.”
“Our company's done a super job at hiring way smarter people than I ever was. But it started with me being creative and thinking out of the box on a chemical basis, and that's part of my background.”
“That's what I learned in my Union Carbide and Air Products years is how to truly be an expert on a particular line, that kind of thing. But the reality is, the real fun part of that is when you're actually helping your customer base be successful with their customer base.”
“To this day, I'd say that's probably the biggest value of that association is to be able to learn from all the other members.”
“How we run our culture of Riteks, a lot of it is evolved because of being involved with NACD, the association.”
“I've influenced multiple people along the way that you can just see that they are future leaders of the association, of their own company, of the industry. And that's the fun part.”
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: Profit2, helping distributors charge the right price.