A Conversation with … Blair Vandivier, President and CEO, Asterion
Blair Vandivier is a lawyer, a pilot and a former college golfer, as well as a board member of the NASF. Several years ago, Vandivier merged his successful Benchmark Products with Roger Sowinski’s New Surface Technologies to form Asterion, a surface technology company that provides specialty chemical finishing products for pretreatment, powder coating and plating. We were lucky to score a round of golf with Vandivier at his exclusive Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indianapolis, Indiana, where we also met his personal friend, legendary golf course designer Pete Dye.
PF: How did an accomplished attorney find his way into the electroplating business?
BV: While I found law incredibly challenging and intellectually stimulating, the practice I had developed was not very compatible with beginning a family. When Betty and I started our family, my priorities changed. I noticed that many of my clients enjoyed a more balanced work/family life. When the opportunity to join Benchmark presented itself, it made sense to make a change. I hoped to combine my business education with my legal background. Benchmark provided the opportunity to build more than just a personal law practice, but to grow with a dynamic organization in a fascinating field and with some really great people.
PF: How did the merger of Benchmark Products and New Surface Technologies into Asterion change the way the company did business?
BV: Benchmark and NST had a long-standing relationship. We knew each other well before the merger, so the risk that the cultures would be incompatible was small. Bringing Roger Sowinski, their technology and their relationships together with the Benchmark team has really “supercharged” the new Asterion. Our customers have truly benefited from incrementally better technical support for existing products, as well as some really advanced products that neither company could have developed on its own. Products such as our trivalent passivate Technicoat 360 Ultra are an example of the high-performing, cost-effective products we are developing. And our growth has not stopped with the merger, bringing Southeastern Chemical into our team in September shows our continued commitment to building our business. Asterion is in the metal finishing industry for the long haul. We believe our customers are the ultimate beneficiaries of services we provide and the products we are developing.
PF: You have been actively involved in many PGA Tour events that have come through Indianapolis, including the BMW Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. Are those volunteer tasks that you take on a labor of love?
BV: Golf has played an important role in my life. I am privileged to be a member of Crooked Stick Golf Club here in Indianapolis. One of the guiding principles of Crooked Stick is our belief that is important to give back to golf. Hosting the events, those that are both highly visible like the ones you mention and those less visible, like many of the amateur championships, are equally rewarding. We have recently been awarded not only the 2016 BMW Championship, but the 2020 Western Open, a highly prestigious amateur event. The involvement of our members in the organization and administration of all of the championships is part of that commitment to give back to golf. This commitment is similar to Asterion’s commitment to our industry through our dedication of time, treasure and talent to the NASF.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
BV: Early on, I was told by one of my partners that once you have made a decision, you should not look back. You can only look forward. I find that advice to be sage. Unfortunately, this advice is oftentimes hard to follow!
PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
BV: I wanted to be a pilot and race car driver. I hold a private pilot certificate and have driven a few race cars.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
BV: As a sophomore in high school, I held my first real job as a grocery store bag boy. I learned the importance of being honest with your customers. Everyone makes mistakes; if you are honest and admit your mistakes, most people will be appreciative and forgive you.
Get to know Blair
Family: Married to Elizabeth; children Jessica, an attorney, and Jennifer, an accountant.
Favorite hobby: Golf
Favorite movie: “Major League”
Favorite book: “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: OAR, Sirius Watercolors, Sirius Blend
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