Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Leadership Profile - Charles Kane, President, Busch LLC.

Busch Virgina Beach

Busch USA in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


Blower & Vacuum Best Practices (BVBP) Magazine is featuring a series of interview articles profiling leaders in the blower and vacuum industry.


Charlie KaneCharles Kane, President, Busch LLC.

BVBP: Good morning. Thank you for taking the time. To start things off, where did you grow up?

Kane: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and lived in a number of areas growing up. Maybe it’s a coincidence (chuckle), but wherever we lived, football excellence existed! Lived in Pittsburgh as a youngster in the late 1970s. We enjoyed watching Tony Dorsett at Pitt and three of the four Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl victories. We even met Mean Joe Greene, Franco Harris and Willie Stargell one evening-wish I’d kept the autographs we got! High school in Minnesota included watching the “Purple People Eaters” facing, guess who, the Steelers in the Super Bowl. High school was also spent in Norman, Oklahoma, during the Barry Switzer and Billy Sims championship years and the Sooners are still my favorite team.


BVBP: Wow, cities should recruit your family! Why was your family moving so often?

Kane: Dad was an executive with Westinghouse and Mom a traditional homemaker. As you can see, we always found a way to enjoy the place we lived. Dad was a pioneer in the Quality field and a fellow in the American Society for Quality Control, now known as the American Society for Quality (ASQ). He had a long, and successful career at Westinghouse wich led to a number of relocations.


BVBP: What is your favorite business management book?

Kane: Three management books have influenced me. One I’ve taken to heart is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. He lists a set of leadership characteristics matching my personal beliefs.

One characteristic, for example, of what Collins calls a Level 5 leader, is they are highly capable but very humble.  An example is a leader who still drives a twenty-year-old Honda Civic!  More seriously, my interpretation of this characteristic is having a management style and philosophy dedicated not to the individual, but rather to the long-term benefit of owners, employees, customers, community and even our vendors.

This characteristic says it’s not about managing for the benefit of only the manager(s) themselves - or any one of the stakeholders. How often do you run into CEO/Presidents with huge egos and disproportionate compensation programs tied to stock values? What happens when labor demands grow too strong? I’ve worked for and seen in large public and private companies, where there can be too much focus on shareholder value. It can sometimes be hard for leaders to balance competing interests - this is where a long-term focus is so important.

One thing I really appreciate about Busch is that we are a privately held company whose leadership team has always embraced this characteristic.


BVBP: Any examples you can share from one of the other books?

Kane: Sure. The second book is titled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” written by Robert Fulghum. We as humans complicate things unnecessarily. Life and work really is all about doing some of the basic things well.


BVBP: In your own opinion, what are the most important traits of a leader?

Kane: Leaders shouid possess an element of wanting to do good for others, and not just further their own interests. Good leaders require a unique combination of ego and empathy. Ego is a strong confidence and belief in yourself. The most successful leaders aren’t always the smartest, but they do have a strong will. There’s a difference between arrogance and confidence. The difference is manifested by how much they value others and always respecting other people-even when you disagree. Arrogance is simply thinking you are better than other people.

I really do appreciate other people and the diversity of their backgrounds and skill sets. I’m an engineer by trade, yet I really value people with skills different than my own.

Empathy is the ability to see things through the perspective of others. I’m always asking myself, if I were a customer or employee, how would I see this? Taking different viewpoints into account helps leaders make good decisions.


BVBP: What leaders have inspired you and why?

Kane: I was very fortunate, early in my career, to work for two leaders at General Electric. I benefited from simply watching and learning from them. The first leader was a General Manager for a significant division at GE named Lorrie Norrington. She was the first woman I had ever reported to. I appreciated and respected her as a person and manager. She was tough, very tough, and was able to lead people towards strong results. Yet she balanced it with compassion. This was an important leadership lesson for me on how to treat people with balance.

The second leader was Lloyd Trotter, who was CEO of the GE Consumer and industrial business at that time. He led 12,000 employees and was responsible for $14 billion in revenue. At the time, he was one of the most powerful African American executives in the U.S. Trotter grew up in inner city Cleveland and was raised by a single parent. What impressed me was he never played the victim. Conversely, he only spoke of the opportunities he’d been given. He taught me to play your hand and play it well. He started an affinity network at GE, still active today, called the African American Forum (AAF). The AAF follows his belief in investing in “hand-ups” and not “hand-outs.” The AAF’s Lloyd Trotter Scholarship program today helps make college a reality for many deserving minority students.


Busch Team

Busch team members at the Busch Virginia Beach headquarters.


BVBP: What traits do you look for in Busch team members as leaders?

Kane: There are quite a few! We begin with three main ones: competency (skill sets and training), intellectual aptitude, and work ethic (internal drive). These elements play a big role in determining whether they can meet their commitments to customers and colleagues. We also take a particular look at whether or not they have a customer focus-do they have the empathy required to put themselves in the customer’s shoes?

Maturity is another trait we look for. It’s highlighted in Stephen Covey’s popular book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Maturity determines things like, can you manage yourself and others? Can you constantly improve yourself? Can you figure out when it’s time to focus on the garden and not on the plant? Leaders have to balance this. Too much focus on an individual plant can neglect the health of the garden.


BVBP: What role does the business you lead play in the community of Virginia Beach?

Kane: Busch has a very active community service group. Volunteer employees evaluate and select areas and charities they are passionate about. The Company then supports that effort. These efforts provide the benefit of raising money for deserving causes while supporting the passions of the employees. My personal passion, and what I feel is the biggest thing I can do, is to increase employment levels here. Since I’ve been here, and this is what I’m most proud of, our employment has increased three-fold!

As you know, the Busch USA headquarters has been in Virginia Beach for a long time. Virginia Beach is a military hub hosting most notably the Norfolk Naval Shipyards, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek and Langley Air Force Base. Busch is an active member of the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program. V3 program members are committed to trying to help veterans transition to civilian life. As V3 program members, we have committed to making veterans a certain percentage of our new hires. We’ve been successful in meeting these goals and are very proud to count veterans as part of our work force. We have veterans on staff who help us understand how to coach veterans and help them transition to the private business world.


BVBP: How is the U.S. industrial vacuum market doing? What trends are impacting it?

Kane: The market health is moderate. 2017 was a better year than 2016, which saw a slight decline. With that said, 2017 will be a good year for us. One major trend impacting the industrial vacuum market is industry consolidation. Busch employees, and clients, benefit against this dynamic market environment, from the strength and stability of our family-owned business - a business with over 3,000 employees in over 60 subsidiaries worldwide. The average tenure, for a subsidiary General Manager, is twelve years. This allows us to stay focused on managing for the long term benefit of customers and employees.

Another dynamic is the trend of customers getting more sophisticated in their use and knowledge of the vacuum systems they operate. They are now, more than ever, looking at Total Cost of Ownership including metrics such as reliability, first costs and energy consumption over a 10-year period. We now receive requests for Busch vacuum auditing services where we look at uptime, performance, piping and technology selection.

Busch Mink

Busch Mink Dry Claw Vacuum Pump.


BVBP: What are the biggest opportunities for Energy Conservation Measures (ECM’s) with industrial vacuum systems?

Kane: Centralization of vacuum systems is one of the biggest opportunities. The installed horsepower of individual vacuum pumps is relatively small compared to other equipment in the plant. When you add them all up, however, the aggregate horsepower can now be worth looking into. It’s application specific. In plants using vacuum in the same way and at the same vacuum level, centralization makes sense. In plants with different vacuum uses and different vacuum specifications, centralization gets much more complex and isn’t always the right solution.

The most important thing is vacuum system design. Designs need to include piping buffers and strategies to manage varying flows and pressures in the system. How one manages leaks is also critical. The magnitude is amplified. A leak-tight system allows you to get into the right technology. This can be much more important than a VFD. Don’t put drag racing tires on a Model T car.

Energy savings is increasing in importance, but with many of our applications, the energy savings are dwarfed by production uptime and output. We always need to be mindful not to jeopardize output for modest energy savings.


BVBP: Which markets have the greatest opportunities for system improvement?

Kane: Market segments like food and pharmaceutical packaging, furniture routing and semiconductor manufacturing are leading the way. Applications where the pumped gas is relatively clean and a common pressure is used across many applications. We see, for example, many packaging machines with vacuum venturi type devices using significant volumes of compressed air to generate vacuum. Here a centralized vacuum system can generate huge savings over the compressed air system. 


BVBP: What new technologies are impacting the vacuum market?

Kane: The primary trend is the use of dry vacuum pump technologies over wet. Vacuum pumps which are oil-flooded, oil-filled or liquid-ring require energy to overcome the liquid. Advancements in dry technologies are making this possible-without sacrificing reliability.

Energy saving technologies like variable frequency drives (VFDs) are also presenting great opportunities. Our dry screw and claw vacuum pumps often use VFD technology. Like everything in vacuum, each system requires a unique assessment to take care of each unique situation. You need skills and knowledge to know how to do it and have the tools to solve it. It’s key to not ever compromise quality and reliability. At Busch, we have one of the broadest product lines and deepest experience levels to help clients come up with the right solutions.


BVBP: Thank you very much for your insights and time.


For more information on Busch Vacuum Pumps and Systems please visit or contact: 1-800-USA-PUMP.

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