In this issue of Insights, we talk with Ben Rand about his life and career. As president of Insyte, Ben has long been dedicated to strengthening the local manufacturing industry. Here, he discusses how his family’s roots in Buffalo manufacturing and business led him from New England to Western New York.
You were not born in Buffalo, but your family has a long history here. Tell us about that.
I was raised in New Haven, but I visited Buffalo often as a kid because my father was born and raised in North Tonawanda, as were his father, and his father, and his father. My great-grandfather, Benjamin Long Rand, whom I’m named after, was one of the original trustees of Old Fort Niagara and helped save it. There’s a plaque with [our] name on it there. He became mayor of North Tonawanda during the First World War, and then worked in industry there for years. But he originally worked in banking and brought his brothers into banking. James started the Rand Company to make ledgers and of ce supplies for bankers; that company later became Remington Rand, then Sperry Rand, and then Unisys. His youngest brother, George, helped start Marine Midland Bank.
How did your career begin?
It really began in New York City, where I worked in the nancial district. Then I went to Philadelphia to get an MBA, and joined a consulting company for ve years before going to work at US Filter, a capital equipment and ltration company that was based outside of Boston. Eventually I was recruited to come to Buffalo. I was kind of an East Coast guy—Philadelphia, New York, Boston, New Haven.
Was manufacturing always an interest?
When I got out of college, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I had very consciously been a history major so I worked gratis for a while on the Benjamin Franklin papers at Yale, but I decided history was not a smart career choice. I thought,
“Let me try something brand new.” So I went to Japan and taught English. I lived at a school on the slopes of Mount Fuji with Japanese executives who were going on overseas assignments and who learned English the way we would learn Latin. Our job was to live with them in a dorm setting all week long and basically teach them conversational English. It was a lot of fun. Very different.
I came back from Japan and got a job as a securities paralegal in New York, but the lawyers in the rm all advised me against law. So I ended up on Wall Street when the stock market crashed in 1987. I was cheap labor, so I survived the rings that followed, but it was the rst time I realized it’s not enough to think about how good a job you’re doing personally; you have to think about how your department, division, company and even
your industry are doing. You have to look at the bigger picture. That is when I decided to leave Wall Street and go back to business school for an MBA. From there, I went into consulting and then into management with U.S. Filter and Sefar Filtration here in Depew, and now I’m back consulting with manufacturers again with Insyte.
Do you like being a leader?
Absolutely! This is a great organization with great people, which I found out rsthand when I hired Insyte to do some work at Sefar. But there was a potential downside in coming to Insyte. My predecessor Bob Martin had done a great job and Insyte already had a wonderful reputation. Everyone I met invariably said, “You have big shoes to ll.” I didn’t want to screw it up! It was a privilege to come here nine years ago and become part of this team. I’ve really enjoyed that and I hope I haven’t screwed it up.
Knowing what you knew of your great-grandfather’s sense of business, what would he say about your career here in Buffalo?
I hope he’d be happy that there are still Rands in Buffalo who are active in the business community and doing our best to help Buffalo and Western New York succeed.